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Free summer camps open to hundreds of Valley students to improve pandemic learning loss

The Scottsdale Unified School District and Boys and Girls Club of the Valley are just two locations offering the no cost enhanced learning camps.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Pools, trips and barbeques—that's what most kids would associate with the summer time. 

Thanks to Gov. Doug Ducey, students in the Valley will now be able to add summer camps to that list.

The governor's office has launched hundreds of free summer camps around the state to help get kids up to speed.

The AZ OnTrack camps are being held at public school districts, public charters and non-profit organizations around the entire state. The camps are an effort to combat both pandemic and summer learning loss in Arizona.

Ducey’s office is investing $100 million into the program and said there are thousands of spots open for students across the state.

“It’s such a critical time for children to be together, to be with teachers, and start to reengage in the learning process," said Lisa Keegan, Director of the AZ OnTrack Summer Camp program.

Keegan said academics are the focus, but the camps are more than traditional summer school.

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“Math, literacy, civics, which is a really important time to teach civics in the middle of a pandemic, how do you behave as a community together in the middle of a crisis," Keegan said. "But also... outdoor activities, games, science experiments, we’ve got drone camps, we’ve got fishing camps.”

The Scottsdale Unified School District is hosting AZ OnTrack Summer Camps at two of its schools. While there are different options for all school-aged children in Arizona, the camps in Scottsdale are targeting kindergarten through second graders.

“Very few of them know what it means to last a whole year in school without it being interrupted by COVID," said Alice Spingola, ESSER Coordinator. "This is very beneficial for our students. These students more than any other grade level really need that head start.”

Scottsdale’s AZ OnTrack program will kick off in July, a couple of weeks before school starts. Scottsdale’s free program is in addition to its traditional summer school. 

The Boys and Girls Clubs of the Valley is also offering camps. Openings are for children ages 5 to 18, and run between 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. The camps will focus on academics, recreation, sports, arts and sciences. STEM, civic engagement, games and technology will be mixed in. Meals are served.

Spingola said she hopes to see these state-funded camps returning in future summers.

“This has been something that has been sorely needed for years, but the pandemic has really magnified it," Spingola said. "So we’re hoping this is a program we can take, now that we’re just creating it in its infancy, maybe it’ll grow.”

Keegan, with the governor's office, said their fingers are crossed the next governor and legislature will see value in the AZ OnTrack summer program and they plan to recommend it to Ducey's successor. 

RELATED: Arizona House panel approves total overhaul to K-12 funding

VERSIÓN EN ESPAÑOL: Campamentos de verano gratuitos abrirán para cientos de estudiantes del Valle para mejorar la pérdida de aprendizaje por la pandemia

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