Scramble for kids’ activities not too intense

Instructor Amber Leverette works with one of her charges at a special strike day camp put on by Vancouver Circus School in the River Market to give kids something to do while the teachers
Instructor Amber Leverette works with one of her charges at a special strike day camp put on by Vancouver Circus School in the River Market to give kids something to do while the teachers' labour dispute continues.

Parents appear to be hedging their bets that the labour dispute between the province and school teachers will be resolved soon, if interest in special day camps organized to occupy kids is any barometer.

Ramona Manzer, a recreation programmer for the City of New Westminster, said two summer day camps that were extended into September because of the strike had about the same number of kids on Tuesday as they did during the holidays.

“Attendance is not as high as we thought it would go,” said Manzer. “Right now the kids are happy they’re getting to do some fun stuff.”

That includes bowling at Lucky Strike Lanes, indoor rock climbing, golf and even swimming at Moody Park outdoor pool, which is open for daily afternoon swims, from noon to 4 p.m. until at least Sept. 7.

The Canada Games indoor pool, however, is closed until Sept. 9 for maintenance.

Manzer said how long the special camps will continue to run will be determined by the progress of negotiations between teachers and their employer.

She said the parks and rec department “will continue to provide some kind of programming.”

Although the longer the strike lasts, the tougher that will be.

Manzer said most of the day programming for kids is run by college and university students, many of whom are returning to their studies. Other instructors will be going back to their regular programming like providing swimming lessons.

And other scheduled programs are set to move into the spaces currently being used by the special day camps.

“We are struggling with it,” said Manzer, of the looming demand for space.

Fiona Walsh of Vancouver Circus School said demand for its strike day camps at River Market has been better than they expected, with some sessions almost fully subscribed.

She said parents have been enquiring about morning and afternoon programs, as well as the all-day camps and drop-in sessions.

“They just need something for the kids to do,” said Walsh.

Instructors were also eager to help out.

“We’re pretty lucky that we had some instructors lined up,” said Walsh. “We were preparing during the end of August.”

She said the school is looking to add even more day camp options if the schools are still closed next week.

Meantime, an arts and craft day camp for kids 5-10 years old at 100 Braid Street Studios didn’t generate enough interest to go ahead, said Susan Greig, the facility’s owner.

The daily camp was supposed to run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and give kids a chance to try their hands at various artistic media, educate them about classic and contemporary artists and set them loose in the splatter room.

Instead, said Greig, parents expressed an interest in one-day camps or workshops, perhaps to fill in the gaps to care they’ve already arranged. She said she’s trying her best to accommodate them, with two instructors lined up.

If the strike continues into next week, Greig said she’ll conduct two week-long day camps, in mixed media arts and crafts and Aboriginal arts and culture.

“A lot of people were really hoping the strike would be over by now,” said Greig.

Should schools still be closed in the third week of September, displaced kids will also be able check out the new Anvil Centre and exercise their creativity at a number of free sampler programs scheduled after the facility’s grand opening on Sept. 14.

“We’re already getting calls,” said New Westminster’s arts coordinator, Biliana Velkova.

In all cases administrators are scrambling to keep parents in the loop about what programming is available. “We’ll have to play it by ear,” said Manzer. “We getting the word out as quickly as we can.”


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