Tess Bogart is new to Kansas City Parks and Recreation summer camp, but the soon-to-be fourth grader had already formed some impressions during her short time at the Kansas City North Community Center.
“The snacks are pretty good,” she said, as she talked with her friend, Braden Emmett, 10, towards the end of the camp one day in July. And, Tess added, “I like that everybody cooperates together … Nobody is not included.”
Braden was happy to be able to shoot hoops in the gym.
As they talked, staff and students engaged in a spirited “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader” trivia match at the front of the multipurpose room. Topics ran the gamut from history and geography to science and math.
As the COVID-19 pandemic stretched into the summer, Parks and Recreation instituted safety precautions so it could provide summer camp as an important outlet for kids, and parents, during these most unusual times.
The Northland community center would typically have more than 50 kids enrolled, but the department capped attendance at all its centers to no more than 20 campers to ensure social distancing. Camp was also available at fewer sites this year than in year’s past.
Field trips were cancelled, but were replaced with activities like inflatable water slides, mad science presentations and visits from shaved ice vendors. That was in addition to the usual activities like art projects, sports and games.
One silver lining at the Kansas City North center was that, since it was closed to the public, campers had greater than normal access to the gym. There were no pickleball players to contend with.
The department extended camp an extra two weeks to help parents as the start of the school year was delayed due to the pandemic.
Sofia Hooper, 11, of Kansas City, Missouri, has been coming to Parks and Recreation summer camp for five years. She has made good friends through camp. The only alternative to camp, she said, would likely be spending time on her phone while bored at home.
The camp is particularly helpful to parents because it runs from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., said Sofia’s mother, Veronica Lara.
“I wasn’t sure they were going to open for the summer,” Lara said, “so when they said they could allow a limited number of students, I was very excited. They have taken all the necessary precautions to keep it safe for them, so I am comfortable with her being here.”
Braden’s father, John Emmett, was also happy to have the Parks and Recreation summer camp available. He grew up with Parks and Recreation activities, too, so there’s a comfort level for him.
“Even without COVID, It’s great to have something over the summer, that he can stay busy and not be idle,” Emmett said.
Story by Mike Sherry