Parents can send their children to college summer camp

PHOENIX — Parents who think their kids need an academic boost can start signing up this week to send them to summer camp.

But, for the most part, it won’t be the kind of place with boating and archery. Instead, it’s designed to help them catch up on what they may have missed due to COVID.

The focus, Gov. Doug Ducey said Wednesday, will be on reading, math and American civics.

“It couldn’t come at a more pressing time,” he said.

“Last year, only 38 percent of our students passed the statewide English Language Arts test,” the governor said. “And only 31% passed the math test.”

Ducey said, however, that this eight-week program will be more than kids parked at their desks.

“It really is a camp, with activities, games, peer learning and more,” he said.

Former head of public schools Lisa Graham Keegan, who Ducey has tapped to manage the program, said some of them will be operated in public schools, with teachers being paid additionally for operations staff. But she also said the state is looking to partner with other organizations, like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, that can offer programs that include needed academics as well as something extra to keep kids interested and engaged. .

And there’s something else she said is important after all distance learning.

“Now is the time to recommit,” Keegan said.

“Our children deserve experiences that reconnect them with the joys of learning,” she continued. “And they need to be able to be with their friends as themselves and not as avatars.”

All of this will be free.

Ducey said he has set aside $100 million in federal COVID relief funds, enough for about 250,000 students to enroll in those eight-week programs. And he promised to find additional dollars if the demand is higher.

Registration begins Monday at the ontrack.az.gov website.

Keegan said parents will be presented with several options to choose from, giving them the chance to select a program they think works best for their children.

Or more than one.

Keegan said she expects some organizations to want to offer shorter, more intense training, such as a four-week course in math. This gives the option of enrolling in a second program for the remainder of the semester.

And they will be tailored to individual needs.

Enrollment is open to students as young as those entering kindergarten this year. And Keegan said even high schoolers who don’t get all the credits they need to graduate will find programs.

She also said schools and other organizations selected to deliver the programs will provide transportation.

But there is one restriction: The program is only open to students in traditional public and charter schools. Young people from private or parochial schools are not eligible.

The first step, she said, is to raise awareness. Keegan promised plenty of promotion, including working with schools to make sure their students — and their parents — are aware of the option.

There’s another problem: finding qualified teachers to mentor programs in a state where schools are struggling to fill vacancies.

“It’s the biggest problem for all of our schools,” Keegan said.

Arizona schools have faced a teacher shortage for years.

Keegan said she is looking to attract teachers at job fairs as well as visiting teacher organizations. And she said students in teacher preparatory programs could also be used.

She said, however, there will be compensation for teachers willing to give up some of their summer vacation.

Ducey said there was another benefit of the program. He said it could give parents a break, who in many cases had to stay home while schools were closed.

“For those who have the ability to work remotely, they’ve found a balance between being a full-time parent and having a full-time job,” the governor said.

In some cases, he says, they had to juggle two or three jobs.

“But not everyone has been blessed with the ability to work remotely,” Ducey said. “A lot of them have had to take time off from work, put their kids first and stay home to take care of the kids.”

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