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Mancos starts summer camp with ESSER III funds

Mancos starts summer camp with ESSER III funds

Teacher reads at the Mancos summer camp that was made possible with ESSER III funds.

Teacher reads at the Mancos summer camp that was made possible with ESSER III funds.

A devastating tragedy rallied the small rural community of Mancos to offer a summer camp that gave students a needed outlet and teachers additional employment – thanks to $197,400 from ESSER III.

When two teenagers died by suicide in the summer of 2020 and 2021, the grief-stricken community came together with a sense of urgency for the summer months going forward. Teachers were burned out, and families didn’t have many care alternatives for their children.

 “The board came to me and said … we're missing a key element to the well-being of our students,” said Todd Cordrey, Mancos School District superintendent. “My teachers were finding themselves exhausted with meeting those needs and also meeting the academic needs.”

The Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO) grant from ESSER III enabled the district and the nonprofit Mancos United to put on the Summer Hub camp for 2023 and 2024. With the ELO grant, Mancos United and the school district partnered to provide a six-week camp that ran Monday through Thursday – from 7:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.

The program averaged 46 campers a day, ranging from incoming kindergartners to incoming eighth graders. In all 88 children participated in Summer Hub.

 “We also did a couple of other things very intentionally that are different from most other summer camps and day camps,” Codrey said. “One was we paid our staff well. The teachers made $30 an hour, which is good for this rural community. And it attracted high quality. We had certified teachers as our staff.”

The icing on the cake was the camp was free. “You would see the family's eyes just pop when they found out that this was free. That was a huge deal.”

Amid the summertime fun and field trips, staff snuck in some learning objectives. An analysis later found a strong correlation for increased academic achievement between spring and fall tests for students who participated 20 days or more

To measure how successful the camp was, participating families were asked to rate on a scale of zero to 10 how stressful the summer was with the camp. The results were the “wow factor” for McClure. “Almost everybody picked zero, 1 or 3.”

Having unstressed parents means they are “better capable to be the parents they want to be for their kids. When the kids have healthy, regulated adults in their lives, then they can better regulate and be calm and handle the daily stress in school. That means they're better able and ready to learn and be regulated and contribute to the community. This, in turn, makes it easier for teachers to do their job.

It was a good investment, Cordrey said. “If Mancos United didn't exist, this would have either been an unmet need, or it would have been something the school district would have to do, and we simply do not have the expertise or the resources to do it.”

“This program took some of that pressure off, took some of the weight off our teachers’ shoulders,” he said.