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"Grow like crazy": Summer camps in the Boseman area expand to meet growing needs | Education

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As summer gets hotter towards the Gallatin Valley, the school empties the children and becomes quieter as the sun shines longer.

For many children, summer is a time of camping, arts and crafts, sports, pool days, new friends, music and theater, rafting, fly fishing and hiking.

For Boseman and the growing family around him who are trying to enroll their children in the summer camp, they are navigating the enrollment that fills up earlier than the previous year and the competition for the remaining spots. Is intensifying.

As of mid-May, MOSS, which offers a variety of camps for K-9 grade children, enrolled more than 1,060 children from about 850 campers last summer.

“It’s a pretty big jump. Member-only registration began in February and was 80% full on the first day of members-only,” Gitch said.

Recognizing the need, Gitch looked at the schedule and added a few more camp choices. This required hiring more instructors and renting another 15-seater van.

Still, there were about 280 more children on the waiting list for MOSS adventures and nature-centric camps.

“We are doing our best to meet Boseman’s childcare needs. It’s growing like crazy,” Gitch said.

MOSS is not a valley outlier.

“Boseman’s camp is very novel,” Gitch said.

Whether it’s nighttime, day camps, sports, or adventure-style camps, the demand for summer care is rising with home prices and the influx of people, as providers are working to expand services and maintain affordability. Family members are supposed to register early.

According to providers, as the need for summer camps in the region grows, competition for available slots is intensifying.

Sara Peterson, Family Engagement Coordinator at Child Care Connections, said: “(Registered spot) goes really fast. It’s really competitive and in high demand.”

Child Care Connections continues to offer summer care grants this year. Funding from the Federal Government’s COVID-19 bailout was open to families through the application process on May 20.

Prior to the start of the scholarship application, Peterson said there was “massive” interest in grants. She said she was likely to run out of money on a first-come, first-served basis.

“Parents really need help to fund their summer childcare. That’s one of those costs sneaking up on you and may be a bit unexpected,” Peterson said.

The scholarship ($ 1,500 or $ 2,500) is flexible and allows families to apply it to licensed child care providers, summer camps, babysitters or nannies.

Peterson said he is still looking for summer care and knows some families who are having a hard time finding it. She said they were late for the search if they hadn’t started looking for it by April or earlier.

“The number of young families is increasing across the Gallatin region and Montana. We are really aware of the population growth and more children need care,” Peterson said. ..

According to US census data, Boseman increased by a total of 3,753 between April 2020 and July 2021. Most of them were new residents who emigrated to Boseman, after which the natural population increased.

As the population grows and competition intensifies, camps have also reported registrations, and the waiting list after that is filling up earlier than the previous year.

“It was almost sold out in February, but not 27 years ago,” said Katie Goodman, director of Camp Equinox, a theater camp for grades 1-8 students. ..

The spots were filled so quickly that Goodman said she worked to open some additional spots.

Goodman said he saw another reason to rush to enroll the children in the summer camp. After several years of camp capacity reduction due to COVID-19, most camps in the area returned to capacity this summer. However, the impact of small camps may still remain.

“We sold out at a low level during the pandemic and people were previously panicked —” I need to get a spot for kids because many camps were full of small sizes. , They are afraid to miss, “Goodman said.

By March 1, the Gallatin Valley YMCA had begun summer camp enrollment for its members, according to Leah Weaver, Camp and Family Program Director at the Gallatin Valley YMCA.

The Gallatin Valley YMCA camp has grown so much in the last few years that we decided to expand to a new location in Belgrade this year.

Weaver, who grew up in Boseman, said he had more camping options than he did when he was a kid.

“I didn’t have the option to go camping. This is great because I now have a lot of families and I need to have fun and educational things with my kids,” says Weaver.

Most summer care providers are expanding their camp offerings to meet their growing childcare needs, so more staff is needed.

According to Weaver, it took longer than before to hire a Gallatin Valley YMCA instructor this year.

“Fortunately, I recently hired a few people. To be honest, I was worried that I couldn’t open the site,” he said.

Weavers and site coordinators could have had to fill out for instructors on holidays.

Some camps, such as MOSS and Equinox, have not experienced so many challenges in attracting staff.

According to Gitch, MOSS can draw word-of-mouth referrals from past camper wells and past instructors. The summer program has 21 instructors on staff, about half of whom come from outside the state.

“We had to be specially aware of home prices. We worked really hard as a team to ensure that people who moved to the town could stay at an affordable price. “Gitch said. “We are very aware of the cost of living and are trying to do what we can to help people.”

“Over the last few years, staffing has certainly been a challenge and has influenced what we can offer,” said Jamie Sita, recreation manager in the park and recreation sector.

The city of Bozeman recently announced a salary increase from $ 15 to $ 21 per hour for some positions, including camp instructors. Some employees also receive a $ 500 contract.

The recreation sector is now fully deployed for summer camps, Saitta said, allowing salaries to be raised by making a difference.

“We’re lucky that we didn’t have to raise the price. We keep the program affordable to ensure access to everyone,” she said.

Nationally, the American Camping Association estimated that last month’s inflation set summer camp prices to increase by 10% to 15% from the previous summer.

Almost all summer care providers said inflation is likely to impact overhead costs, including supply and gas bills, Boseman said. However, they promised to absorb it as much as possible and continue to provide scholarships to ensure that people receive care.

Some programs, such as Camp Equinox, have noticed rising prices for materials such as art supplies. Goodman said the camp is steadily raising prices little by little each year and does not expect it to be higher than originally planned.

According to Weaver, the gas budget needs to be larger than the Gallatin Valley YMCA’s plans to regularly transport people going camping around the area, including Bozeman and Livingston.

“I think it’s probably difficult to keep the budget in some way based on inflation,” Weaver said, adding that he promised to continue the camp as originally planned.

Alpengart camp director Alyssa Farley said he expects rising inflation prices to have more impact on camps, especially gas and grocery costs, than last year.

With a staff of 15 people, Alpengirl offers adventure camps for pre-teens and teenage girls. A trip is planned for 180 campers from 11 to 16 years old from all over the country.

According to Farley, this year’s demand has increased compared to last summer, with waiting lists ranging from a few campers to 15 on some trips.

At MOSS, Mr Gitch said inflation was in their heads, but it wasn’t what kept them at night.

“We have budget flexibility and can plan for these unforeseen circumstances. It definitely doesn’t stop us from taking Kid to Yellowstone. It’s us. It means writing more grants for you, “Gitch said.

One of the symptoms of COVID-19 times that affected MOSS is the availability of a 15-seater van. The organization has money on the budget to buy a new van, but couldn’t find one in stock. Instead, Gitch and his colleagues traveled to Salt Lake City and received two rental vans. There are no rentals near Boseman.

For summer care providers who have spoken to Chronicles, the goal remains the same, connecting with children, providing creative inspiration and fun. Ice lolly sticks and everything to help them enjoy the sweet effervescent summer.

“The environment, it’s fun, stupid and playful, and we all really need it now, especially now. Connections are very important,” Goodman said.

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