For D.C. Youth, a Virtual Summer Awaits

The usual summer plans of the District government’s offerings for young people have changed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with recreation, employment and educational programs being conducted virtually.

While the pools and recreation centers will likely remain closed throughout the summer unless the District moves to Phase 2 of its reopening plan, the District’s Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) will offer a program, Camp-at-Home that will include arts and crafts, culinary activities, science experiments and outdoor explorations.

The Camp-at-Home program will distribute 5,000 supply kits to young people for their use. There will be limited online engagement by the DPR staff and an activity guide for campers.

DPR Director Delano Hunter said young people who have limited access to virtual tools will not be left out.

“There is a blend of activities that doesn’t rely on a virtual experience,” Hunter said. “We will give the young people all of the supplies that they need. Young people will have the chance to have a quality camp-at-home experience.”

If the District gets to Phase 2, the Fun & Sun Camp will be implemented. Activities for Fun & Sun include social-emotional exercises, arts and crafts, group games, limited aquatics and mobile recreation. Fun & Sun will take place in 27 locations with three two-week sessions and 1,080 slots per camp and has been set up to serve 3,240 campers.

Hunter said the Fun & Sun will “have a heavy focus on outdoor activities.”

While some young people will be campers, others will join the workforce as participants in the annual Mayor Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP).

“The program will start on June 22 and 10,000 participants will adjust to the new reality,” said Unique Morris-Hughes, director of D.C. Department of Employment Services. “Our participants will be able to take advantage of several virtual options and we will have an orientation session to explain the details. Ninety percent of participants will be working virtually and we have had great cooperation from our employer partners on this.”

Morris-Hughes advised participants to visit their online portals for further information. She said participants will be given a laptop, tablet or iPhone if they don’t own one.

“We have a grant from Citibank that pays for those type of devices for young people that don’t have them,” she said.

Summer school will also be available and virtual for students from June 22 to July 24, said D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee.

The chancellor said there will be kindergarten through eighth-grade enrichment courses, credit recovery classes and programming for English-language learners and those with disabilities. If the District enters Phase 2, an in-person summer bridge program focused on grades 3, 6 and 9 will begin on Aug. 10.

“With the bridge program, a student moves from one phase of learning to the next,” Ferebee said. “For example, when a student passes from second grade to the third, they go from having one teacher all day to two or three during the school day. We want to help students be ready for that transition.”

The chancellor said D.C.’s 2020-21 school year will begin on Aug. 31 and, as of now, will be mainly distance learning. Students who have completed requirements to get their high school diplomas will be recognized virtually.

“Every school will have a virtual graduation ceremony,” Ferebee said. “The high schools are finalizing plans on how that will work, with students getting their cap and gowns, senior yearbooks and other materials related to graduation soon.”

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