As families look to cut expenses in tough economic times, the rite of summer camp isn’t one of them.
This is the second year Jessica Stone has enrolled her son, 6-year-old Andrew, in the 10-week summer program at the North River YMCA.
“I work, so we want him to do something where he’d be around other kids,” she said Tuesday dropping off Andrew late for the second day of camp because he had a morning doctor’s appointment. “It’s an expense, but you’ve got to do something with them,” adding the camps at $80 per week for YMCA members is cheaper than day care for her 2-year-old son.
But day camp organizers themselves are feeling the pinch of rising fuel and food costs this year as many consider cutting back on field trips.
The summer child care program for Hamilton County Schools has cut back from two to three off-campus trips a week to just one, said Jane Baker, director of School Age Child Care.
Staff Photo by Lori Yount -- North River YMCA counselor Hailey Swingle helps campers put on life vests before they jump into the pool.
Families pay extra for each field trip, with each bus costing about $175, which is split among all the students attending, a maximum of 85, she said. With rising fuel prices and cost of running buses, Ms. Baker said she didn’t think parents would want to pay as many additional fees for trips.
“Parents just don’t have the extra money right now,” Ms. Baker said. “With the downturn of the economy, I have feeling we’ll have more kids because more mothers have to work this summer,” adding numbers in the schools’ program have risen slightly.
Some schools even have waiting lists to attend the program, but the program hasn’t raised its fees of $60 a week, she said.
The North River YMCA has about the same number of campers as last year — about 150 — even with losing some who joined the Hamilton County YMCA’s camp at the new building and gaining some children from the Memorial Hospital camp, said Ryne Meredith, summer camp director. Enrollment in YMCA camps is open through the summer.
The YMCA hasn’t had to cut back on weekly field trips, Mr. Meredith said. Today the children are taking buses to the Lookouts game downtown.
As one of the only programs open 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Ms. Stone said the YMCA camp is one of the few viable options for working parents during the summer. She said she does take Andrew to shorter camps throughout the summer to provide variety.
Enrollment in more discretionary summer camps that last a week or so and not geared toward providing day care to working parents, are also up.
The Childrens Discovery Museum’s weeklong camps that cost $135 to $160 for full day activities are most all completely booked, said reservations manager Nancy McCurdy.
“What we get more than anything is how reasonable (the price) is,” she said.
According to the Tennessee Aquarium’s Web site, most of its summer camps are booked, too.