Harwich Summer Campers Coming To Chatham

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Monomoy Regional School District , Education

Monomoy Cooperative Learning Program summer campers on a field trip. COURTESY PHOTO

HARWICH In Chatham, there will be a lot of happy campers this summer – even if some of their parents aren't.

After more than 20 years operating from Harwich Elementary School, Monomoy Cooperative Learning Program (MCLP) will be temporarily relocating its summer program to the Monomoy Middle School in Chatham while the elementary school undergoes cleaning and renovation. It means a longer drive for parents accessing the child care program.

“We don't supply transportation,” MCLP Director Ann Emerson said. The program is open to children from any community, but most of the 100 or so youngsters are from Harwich. “Hopefully it won't have a great impact” on participation, Emerson said.

MCLP is part of the Monomoy Regional School System. It is not affiliated with Monomoy Community Services, which also operates a summer program for children at its building across from Chatham Elementary School.

The Monomoy Middle School has more than enough space for MCLP's summer program, which accepts children from kindergarten through seventh grade. During normal years at Harwich Elementary, the program accommodates a large number of students by breaking them into age groups and using different spaces, like the school's cafeteria, the activity room and the art room. The middle school has nearly everything the MCLP needs, with one key exception.

“The playground. That's the big thing, and that's what my parents are all worried about,” Emerson said. The middle school has two large gymnasiums and athletic fields, but younger children won't have swings and slides to explore, unless the program finds a way to transport them to another playground, like the one at Veterans Field.

“We could use it. The only problem is busing,” Emerson said. Though the Old Colony Rail Trail runs between the middle school and the playground, it could pose a safety risk having young children hiking the bike path, part of which runs along the road, she said.

The change is necessitated by the installation of a new floor in the Harwich Elementary cafeteria this summer and a planned deep-cleaning of the facility after that, Emerson said.

The summer program operates weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. during school vacation. Last year, the families of 110 youngsters relied on MCLP for child care, but there's another reason the program is important. Fees from the summer session help subsidize MCLP's after school care during the remainder of the year, keeping rates low for year-round working families. It's possible that a decline in enrollment this summer could cause financial ripples later.

“I'm hoping not,” Emerson said. “The good thing about our program is that we do take everyone,” including kids from Brewster, Orleans and beyond, including a few children of summer visitors, she said.

Kids in the summer program also don't spend all of their time at the school. One of the reasons for MCLP's popularity is the range of optional field trips they offer. In the past, children have spent the day on whale watch trips, at a water park in Wareham, at Fenway Park or at the zip lines at Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich.

“We go to Edaville Railroad,” Emerson added. “They're fun trips.” Though they don't count as field trips, which require an extra fee, children are also regularly brought to the beach to spend the day.

There will be plenty of children in Chatham this summer. In addition to Monomoy Community Services' summer program, the Mass. Audubon Society holds a popular natural history day camp at Chatham Elementary. But for the middle school on Crowell Road, which is usually fairly quiet in the summer, it will be a marked change.

“We'll be having children everywhere,” Emerson said. The middle school is also home to the district's central office.

“I don't think the superintendent knows how many children there are going to be around there,” Emerson said with a laugh.