From Christine Moore/Orange County School Board Member District 7
Summer vacation is a time for teachers to get rest and revived for a new school year. After a shorter vacation, administrators analyze data and make adjustments to programs and systems. The goal of course is always to improve achievement. Parents are busy keeping children active and must guard against the dreaded “summer slide”. It is increasingly difficult in Florida with worsening heat to keep children off social media and video games. The North Orange Library offers wonderful summer programs. My daughter and granddaughters attend the Tuesday morning pre-school time. Audra reports that generally only a dozen or two children are ever present. When you consider there are over 1,000 children enrolled at each grade level – these numbers are disappointing.
You have heard me mention last week the summer Ahapopka Explorer Badge. It will be rolled out at my “Meet the Author” session at the North Orange Branch Library this Monday, July 17th at 4 PM. Not only will I present the exciting historical material from my book, Ahapopka: The History of Apopka and its Elementary Schools but provide a FREE program for parents to consider for summer enrichment. This is yet another opportunity for families to provide educational summer fun.
Let’s talk about how the community and municipalities also play a role in offering summer programs. The City of Apopka offers basketball camps, jobs training, athletic events, etc. These are critical for helping working parents keep children busy with meaningful activities. Orange County operates Kelly Park for water, hiking and conservation activities. The State of Florida runs the Wekiva Springs State Park with similar offerings. All of these require parental engagement and a bit of financing. What about activities for our low income families with both parents working. Apopka has several school communities where this is the case for 100% of the entire student population. These are the ones for which I would like to focus the remainder of this column.
In generations past, children could roam the woods, fish, and hunt. They lived in homes on larger properties which afforded a myriad of important tasks and activities. Today, Orange County is increasingly urbanized and public transportation is lacking in the suburban/rural areas. So, that brings us to the necessity of building smaller, accessible parks with water. Pocket parks in neighborhoods with sprinklers, mini-splash pads and plenty of shade are a necessity. I’m very much in support of the City of Apopka’s plans to build a splash park in Kit Land Nelson Park. It is accessible to thousands of children via foot traffic from all directions. These are the children who need it the most. They need to work out differences, play and explore. Children should not be sitting home on a couch glued to a digital device. This is not a fertile training ground for producing healthy adults. I recently had boys offer to sell their gaming systems and devices to help pay for a skate park. I think we should take them up on their offer. Of course, I recognize this would be a drop in the bucket to pay for such a facility. However, there are organizations who donate their time and resources to this cause. Food for thought…the world is changing so rapidly and our community must be on the cutting edge of preparing the next generation to prosper and lead. Summer vacations and opportunities should be rethought.