No GEF-funded summer camp in Glades County this summer

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
PALMDALE — A group of the Glades County summer camp attendees went to Gatorama for a field trip in 2018.

MOORE HAVEN — The novel coronavirus pandemic has resulted in cancellation of yet another community activity: There will be no summer camp this year for Glades County students. For the past two summers, they’ve been able to enjoy weeks-long ones during June, July and into August.

The popular 2019 sessions financed by the Glades Education Foundation and facilitated with help from Glades County School District transportation and educational staff were longer than those in 2018, when they restarted. And they included several field trips.

But during this summer of accelerating COVID-19 infections even while businesses are reopening nationwide, Glades County officials could conceive of no way to keep the teachers, bus drivers, counselors and the school children themselves, meanwhile, safe from the possibility of virus transmission.

Glades Education Foundation (GEF) co-founder and President Laura Perry said their board recently had a joint meeting with the Glades County School Board and the result was the cancellation.

“Everyone agreed that we did not have enough guidance to keep the campers and counselors safe during this time of social distancing, and so we have decided to cancel camp for this summer,” she stated. “We were incredibly disappointed to cancel camp because we knew that the children and the parents were both looking forward to some enriching activities for the summer, so we were very, very sad to have to reach that decision.”

During the past two years, Ms. Perry and the foundation have drummed up quite a bit of community support by appearing before local governing boards and civic organizations. So just because this year’s activities were canceled due to COVID-19, they don’t plan to let that stop them.

“We definitely are planning ahead for next summer, and so we’ll begin planning right after the holidays for next summer’s camp. And any donations that were made to the camp (program) for 2020 will just be held for next year’s camp. It’s something that we’re devoted to continuing. This summer, it’s just been very, very difficult to make any plans where children are involved. We just feel very responsible for their safety.”

Parents should be grateful for that, even while they’ll have to make other plans — or maybe their very own plans — to enrich their children’s summertime growth.

The GEF, Ms. Perry said, still has several other programs that help enhance the school year for students. It’s just that they will present “a planning challenge in terms of how we’ll have to structure our school days, our field trips, our AVID programs, our college preparatory assistance.”

These are a few of the other projects GEF sustains from year to year, with brief descriptions from the GEF website (gladeseducationfoundation.org):
• “The Leading Literacy project utilizes matching grant funds to assist in maintaining the Florida Reading Association (FRA) Children’s Book Award program (K-2); Sunshine State Young Reader’s Award (SSYRA) Program (3-8); and Florida Teens Read program (FTR) (9-12) in Glades County schools.
• “AVID, which stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination, is a research-based program that brings strategies and curriculum to classrooms and to prepare students in grades 6-12 for success in middle and high school.
• “The Glades Education Foundation is requesting funding for a continuing program titled, ‘Glades Grants for Great Ideas.’ Glades Grants for Great Ideas (GGGI), also referred to as Classroom Grants, provides $500 grants to teachers or $1,500 for a team of teachers to buy equipment, provide enrichment activities to their students, or fund field trips. The classroom grants will be available to teachers in grades K-12, in all of the schools in Glades County: Moore Haven Elementary School, West Glades School, Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School, and Moore Haven Middle-High School.”

Visit the foundation’s website to learn more about these programs, or to make donations, pledges or bequests in support of its goals. Formed in August 2013, it aims to harness state financing plus “state-matching dollars, corporate and private donations to enrich the schools of Glades County in many ways.”

The GEF’s “Vision Statement” is apt and plaintive: “Excellence in Education.”

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