A student in a fall camp. (City of Evanston photo)

With elementary school children in Evanston facing another seven weeks of remote learning at home, the city is extending a series of “fall camps” so parents, especially those who are essential workers, can have a place for their children to both take their e-classes and have fun.

The sessions began as regular camp over the summer, were extended when School District 65 went to remote learning for the start of school and are now being extended again, through mid-November. Distinct 65 has pushed the opening of in-person school from Sept. 29 to Nov. 16.

“It’s providing a safe space for kids who have working parents,” says Karen Hawk, the city’s assistant director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services. The children can also “get out of the house for enrichment and physical activities.”

There are both full and part-day options for youngsters in kindergarten through eighth grade, depending on the building.

Children are expected to bring their own computers and log in for remote schoolwork, just as if they were at home. However, at camp, there will be other children (up to fifteen in a “pod,” the amount permitted by the state Health Department), socially distanced, of course. There are protocols in case children need to be quarantined due to potential COVID-19, but so far that has not happened.

A camp supervisor makes sure the kids wash their hands, keep their masks on and stay the appropriate distance from each other. The supervisors are not teachers. This is not school. But the children will have to finish their remote classes and assignments before taking part in any sports, arts and crafts, or other activities (again, with social distancing as the rule).

“Kids can do their e-learning, other activities and socialize as well,” says Hawk.

She says everybody, parents and children, are tired of spending most of their time at home. “The kids want to be out of the house,” she adds.

The camps are at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Center, Robert Crown Center, two city parks (recreation only), the Noyes Cultural Arts Center and the Ecology Center. There are 110 slots combined in the various programs. Costs vary per location, but at Fleetwood-Jordain, for example, which has both e-learning time and activities, the price is $160 per week. Scholarships can cut that in half for qualifying Evanston families, and sign-up is by the week. You don’t have to go for the entire time school is on remote learning.

To find out more, and to sign up, go to cityofevanston.org/register.

Another child care plus learning option should be available soon. District 65 is working with a community group to provide free services to a limited number of children in the 2nd and 5th wards and in south Evanston. The District is also trying to come up with something similar for children in special education.

It’s unknown yet how many children could be in such programs. But the City says if District 65 extends remote learning again … fall camps could become winter camps. “As long as there’s a need for it we’ll extend the programs in some form,” Hawk says.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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