South Charlotte

Savvy parents are already checking out summer camps

Ann Clark, superintendent for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, says children should continue learning even during the summer when they’re taking a break from the classroom. Today’s summer camps list offers a wide range of academic opportunities. The children here are participating in a Lego camp.
Ann Clark, superintendent for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, says children should continue learning even during the summer when they’re taking a break from the classroom. Today’s summer camps list offers a wide range of academic opportunities. The children here are participating in a Lego camp. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

With snow still on the ground, summer seems a world away. But just a little more than 90 days from now, most schools will be out for the summer and children throughout the Piedmont will be looking for something to do.

We can help.

Today’s Community news sections of The Charlotte Observer feature a list of summer classes and camps from across the region. Each section features camps and classes from the region served by that publication.

There are more than 900 entries from more than 200 camp providers throughout the region available through the Observer’s online database: visit http://bit.ly/cltcamps, where you can search by keyword, age, month, price or several other parameters.

Whether you need full-time summer care, a week at a residential camp, soccer or football workouts or even a few half-days of Lego or American Dolls, it’s at your fingertips.

Don’t wait for warm weather to start making summer plans. Most summer camps and classes are accepting registration now, and savvy parents are checking out opportunities for their youngsters, knowing the best camps and classes fill up fast.

Before registering your child, said Tom Bartholomy, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Piedmont, there are a few things to consider. “We receive 10-15 complaints each summer that fall into two categories,” he said. “First, people cancel before the camp starts and are requesting a refund. Some cancel too late – outside the refund period – but still complain.”

Bartholomy’s advice?

Make sure to understand the refund policy before putting money down; also, check out the camp thoroughly before sending a child.

“Sometimes parents contact us after their child has returned with a negative experience,” he said. “They want a refund. It could have been the camper counselor ratio was 20-to-1 instead of 5-to-1, as promised. Or maybe their child didn’t get the experience promised in the brochure or on the website.”

Bartholomy’s advice for avoiding that experience: Google the camp or class and get all the information you can.

Don’t just rely on what the brochure states. Ask for references from parents with children who have attended that camp or class, and look at counselor-to-camper ratios, counselor ages and training, emergency medical plans, curriculum, food and other details.

Bartholomy said that with a little research – online and in person – you can find a good fit for your child.

“Fortunately, there are a lot of camps to choose from, and people in this day and time aren’t shy about sharing their experiences,” said Bartholomy.

And while summer is a time for children to get away from the classroom, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Ann Clark said that doesn’t mean learning should stop.

“The summer months are critical learning months for our CMS students. Summer camps and programs extend learning beyond the doors of the schoolhouse,” Clark said. “CMS encourages students to continue reading throughout the summer months and to participate in programs which engage students in art, music, STEM, history and foreign language activities.”

Maria Luoni and her 7-year-old daughter, Sophia, are definitely summer camp fans. This will be Sophia’s fourth year at the Harris YMCA day camp in south Charlotte; she’s already counting the days before camp begins.

“Sophia just loves the traditional day camp,” Luoni said. “She has done some specialty camps, but she keeps gravitating back to the day camp.

“She has bonded so well with the counselors and loves being a part of the camp community. Summer camp has helped her grow physically and mentally in such a safe environment.

“I can’t say enough good things about it,” Luoni said.

Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Melinda? Email her at m.johnston@carolina.rr.com.

Learn more:

▪ The American Camping Association website, www.acacamps.org, has more information about choosing summer camps.

▪ You also can contact the Better Business Bureau of Southern Piedmont, at www.bbb.org, or call 704-927-8611, to check out a camp before signing up.

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