By Jennie Mull, contributing writer
As kids come home for the summer and vaccinations bring workers back to their jobs, summer programs around the Mad River Valley are getting underway.
Child care programs from churches to the children’s centers have camps, education and mental health programming available.
Programs taking place from June through August are now accepting applicants.
“There's not enough child care year-round and definitely not enough summer care when school's out,” said Rebecca Baruzzi, the program manager at the Mad River Valley Community Fund.
Vacation Bible School at the Waitsfield United Church of Christ offers free programing July 26-30 from 9 to 11:30 a.m. The program is run by Jeneve Joslin, director of the Christian education program in Burlington. The camp’s theme is “Our Big Neighborhood.”
Each day focuses on a country and children make crafts, recipes, play games and learn about a culture through storybooks.
“The point is to kind of expand our awareness of what our neighborhood is and what it means to love others,” said Joslin.
Funded by the bottles and cans program where community members donate recyclable bottles and cans, the camp has about five open spaces.
“I have young children and I was looking at the camps, and they're all waitlisted. And so, I thought you know I think we need to offer a camp because there's just nothing available and they're all pretty expensive,” said Joslin.
The Children’s Center in Waitsfield provides education to infants, toddlers and preschoolers. They accept subsidized funding for eligible families, according to their website. Jenny Carlson, the executive director, said they offer summer services.
Sugarbush Resort is offering multiple summer programming options including Adventure Camp for 7- to 12-year-olds, Mini-Campers for 4- to 6-year-olds, mountain biking camps for 7- to 12- year-olds, and junior golf camp for 6- to 17-year-olds. Visit www.sugarbush.com for more information.
Eddie Merma’s Sculpture School in Fayston is offering a variety of options this summer including a Warren Fourth of July parade float camp, Plastic Bottle Boats and Fort Building. Those sessions are all currently full with waiting lists. Visit www.sculptureschoolvt.com for details.
There’s an application for Vermont subsidies that qualifying families can use for child care organizations that accept them, and the Mad River Valley Community Fund provides need-based scholarships, according to Baruzzi.
Hannah’s House, a Waitsfield nonprofit promotes mental health and provides scholarships for kids’ programs.
“Hannah's House has been providing funds for youth to attend various local enrichment programs as part of our Youth Resiliency Project,” wrote Chrissy Rivers, the executive director. They offer financial support all year round.
To locate summer programs in Washington County, Vermonters can use the Summer Program Map. Through the American Rescue Package, Vermont “will use $71 million for expanding programs for Vermont students, a tripling of funding over the next three years,” according to an article by the Burlington Free Press.
Barriers to affordable summer camps in The Valley aren’t just cost; retaining child care employees due to the affordable housing shortage is also a struggle.
“People just can't be paid enough to live in The Valley. Because it goes back to housing for sure,” said Baruzzi.
A lack of affordable housing for child care workers leads to less camps being offered. Without child care, guardians struggle to work and take care of children.
“Lack of child care means inconsistent hours to work and makes it harder to bring money in, right, it makes it harder to stay here and certainly harder to get ahead,” said Baruzzi.
Some 19.84% of students at Harwood Union High School and 25% of students at Warren Elementary School received free or reduced lunch meals in 2019-2020.
“It'd be great to see the schools collaborate with each other a little bit more to figure out how to offer summer camps. Because there are these big empty spaces, you know, that aren’t being used during the summer, with all the amenities needed,” Baruzzi said.
Editor’s note: This article was written by Jennie Mull, a student at the University of Vermont and a reporter for the Community News Service, a student-powered partnership with local community newspapers.