Waterbury Recreation continues its summer camp for school-age students through Aug. 28. The Waterbury Recreation Department will offer a new program, Waterbury Rec Academy, for students in grades K-5 on remote learning days when school begins next month. Photo by Gordon Miller.

By Lisa Scagliotti

The Waterbury Recreation Department has launched a weekday camp for approximately 15 students in grades K-5 to help families navigate remote learning days. 

Recreation director Nick Nadeau said the program will be called Waterbury Rec Academy and it will meet at the Recreation Building at Anderson Park. 

The select board approved the new program in mid-August, the idea for which grew in recent weeks as school officials began publicly discussing plans for the new school year which starts September 8.

The Harwood Unified Union School District’s hybrid plan calls for preK-12 students attending in person one day per week. Students learn remotely on the four days they are not in school with some live online instruction time with their teachers on those days,

The goals for the new program are to offer needed child care and assist youngsters with remote learning. Harwood Union’s administration is emphasizing a gradual return with a goal of full-time in-person learning again but it will begin with a conservative hybrid model. The plan for students to attend school one day per week sparked concerns across the district. Some are concerned about returning to school and risking a new wave of the virus; others, particularly parents who cannot work from home, are scrambling to make plans for the days their children will be learning remotely.

Nadeau said the new recreation program is designed to serve that niche. The camp will meet from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and Nadeau said he and two of the summer recreation camp counselors will staff it.

The recreation building has air conditioning and heat, bathrooms, a small kitchen, internet access and it’s located at a park with playground equipment, a field, basketball and tennis courts.

Recreation programs have state guidelines to follow that are similar to those that will be used in school involving group size, distancing and wearing masks. Children also would need to clear a temperature check and answer some questions upon arrival, Nadeau said. And kids will need to pack a lunch, snack and the electronic device they need for their school work.

Nadeau said he recently polled families of the 100 or so children in the summer recreation program on their interest in a program once school begins and all but about 10 said they were interested or wanted more information.

Last month select board members asked Nadeau, about the camp’s small size. Nadeau said he would have preferred to offer a program for more students but the key limitation was physical space. The group size was determined based on meeting state public health guidelines using the recreation building space, Nadeau said.

Registration will be done online on the recreation department website. The fee will be $25 per day paid in advance.

The board unanimously approved the proposal.

For now, Nadeau said he and his staff are prepared to offer the camp for 14 weeks into mid-December, but they will remain flexible should the school district’s plans change and students end up in school for more days sooner. “We would offer a refund,” Nadeau said.

Registration started August 24 on a first-come, first-served basis, Nadeau said.

Here is the link to register: https://waterburyvt.myrec.com/info/activities/program_details.aspx?ProgramID=29965

Printed courtesy of the Waterbury Roundabout.