School may be out until September, but for hundreds of children within the Buffalo Public School District, learning opportunities continue as part of a free summer camp which is opening for its second year this week.
The camps opened Tuesday and will be run weekdays until August 12. A total of 55 locations throughout the city, including churches and community centers, are serving as "camp sites." Most locations will operate from 8 a.m. until noon but some, officials noted, will host activities until 7 p.m.
The free summer camp program is open to students enrolled in Buffalo Public Schools in grades Kindergarten through six.
"It's a really enriching summer experience, full of art and music and structured recreation, and reading that's going to help you eventually go to college and access the Say Yes Scholarship," said Say Yes Buffalo executive director David Rust at a kickoff ceremony inside Mt. Olive Baptist Church, one of the 55 sites hosting the camps.
The educational elements will focus on math, English language and reading. The latter incorporates Mayor Byron Brown's "Reading Rules!" summer challenge.
At least one New York State certified teacher will be present at each camp, according to the sponsors. Among the parent advocates present for the kickoff was Larry Scott, who heads the Buffalo Parent Teacher Organization.
"I recently learned that 90 percent of our Buffalo students exhibit extraordinary needs, the highest among the big five urban school districts in New York State," Scott said. "The challenges that our students and our families face are multi-faceted. Therefore, the solutions must be multi-faceted and include strong partnerships like the one we're witnessing here today."
The program is open to nearly 1,800 students. Samuel Radford, president of the Buffalo Public School District Parent Coordinating Council, forwarded a message to parents that there's no reason their children should be left out. He also advised both parents and kids that it's not too late to sign up.
"You go home and you tell your friends to tell their parents, make sure they get into a summer camp," Radford said. "There's no reason not to be in a summer camp."
The summer camp program, which is also receiving financial support from Erie County, is currently planned through 2021.