‘Huge response’ for Arizona educational summer camps, new program’s leader says

Mar 18, 2022, 12:30 PM
(File Photo by Tasia Wells/Getty Images for Kinder Ready)...
(File Photo by Tasia Wells/Getty Images for Kinder Ready)
(File Photo by Tasia Wells/Getty Images for Kinder Ready)

PHOENIX – Interest is high in a free summer camp program to help Arizona students make up academic ground lost during the pandemic, according to the state-funded initiative’s leader.

Lisa Graham Keegan said there’s been “a huge response” since the AZ OnTrack Summer Camp started accepting applications on March 7 from schools and youth groups looking to host the camps.

“We already have applications for 629 camps that would serve about 58,000 students,” Graham Keegan told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Friday.

“This is very fast. We thought in the first weeks or so people would just be learning about it.”

Initial estimates were that 1,400 camps would be needed, she said.

On March 2, Gov. Doug Ducey unveiled plans for AZ OnTrack Summer Camp, with Graham Keegan, a former state superintendent of public instruction, as the program’s chair.

Starting in late March, parents will be able to find the list of approved camps at the AZ OnTrack Summer Camp website. The list will be updated through April as more applications are processed.

“But if you’re a school or youth group, let’s apply right now because the sooner you get up there and we get you all approved and ready to go, the sooner parents are going to see you,” Graham Keegan said.

Most of the eight-week camps will start in June. Math, literacy and civics are the primary academic areas of the program, with elements of fun and adventure to keep kids engaged, Graham Keegan said.

“Camps need to offer in at least one of those areas, or at credit recovery and learning behaviors in some students that just have sort of lost the ability to engage well in school or they’re having behavioral issues,” she said.

Schools and other hosts are being encouraged to pay teachers 20% more than their average salary to participate. The teacher response has been enthusiastic so far, Graham Keegan said.

“If anybody deserves a summer nap, man, it is Arizona teachers, and they’re not doing that, right, they’re coming back,” she said.

“They want to be with their kids, they’re teaching, and we really want to honor them with really strong salaries for this.”

The state is investing $100 million to launch the program, with more funding available if needed to meet the demand.

“We’d like to serve hundreds of thousands of kids,” Graham Keegan said. “We’d really, really like to max this program out.”

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‘Huge response’ for Arizona educational summer camps, new program’s leader says