The School Board of Alachua County (SBAC) voted unanimously Tuesday to increase tuition for its summer camp and raise the pay for its counselors.
The vote came nearly a month after the SBAC held a workshop to discuss feedback from the board, community and camp staff regarding the necessary changes that must be made for the summer camp.
“We have had an incredible amount of discussion related to Camp Crystal dating back to almost a year and a half,” Chief of Finance Alex Rella said. “Today is the culmination of that work as we prepare for summer camp in 2023.”
With the new proposal, summer rates for Camp Crystal increase from $545 to $600 for the one-week program and from $1,090 to $1,440 for the two-week program. The out-of-county fee increased from $75 to $100 per camper.
“These changes are necessary for several reasons,” said Tina Certain, the SBAC chairwoman. “The cost of doing business has increased, as well as the audit of our books by an external auditor. Sometimes we must make decisions and move forward with things. This has been a long time coming.”
The SBAC also increased pay for new and returning counselors.
The proposal offers a year-one counselor a $200 pay increase from $200 a week to $400 a week. Experienced counselors will also get a $200 increase plus an additional $25 a week per year of experience. For example, someone with three years of experience will earn $450 a week.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Alachua County Public School’s (ACPS) Chief of Teaching and Learning Jennie Wise presented the draft for the summer camp handbook, which thoroughly lays out the fees, scholarship program, camp activities, and the application process.
According to the camp’s website, the priority deadline for summer camp 2023 was Jan. 6. Applications submitted by that date enter the weighted lottery. Any applications received after Jan. 6 will be added to the waiting list in the order they were received.
Board member Kay Abbitt raised concern over approaching deadlines for the Extended Day Enrichment Program (EDEP) and the need for camper placement notification.
“Several parents brought to my attention that EDEP registration is due soon, and they need to know their placement in the summer camp to know what to register for in EDEP,” Abbitt said.
Camp Crystal Lake employee Landon Strack said he and his colleagues have been waiting for direction from the board.
“Campers can’t be placed without the price, but now that we have a price and it has been voted on, the next step will be getting campers their placements,” Strack said.
Residents of Alachua County will receive priority placement before any out-of-county campers.
Certain said the change not to prioritize out-of-county campers was necessitated because the taxpayers of Alachua County subsidize the camp.
“In my and my colleagues’ view, we feel that campers within the county should get a seat before we offer seats to residents who don’t pay taxes in our county,” Certain said.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the SBAC heard public input on lowering education requirements for some job openings and new student fees and fines policy.
The SBAC voted two weeks ago to lower the base education requirement for transportation (bus driver, bus attendant) and maintenance (painter, plumber, technician) jobs and instead made high school diplomas and GEDs preferred qualifications.
The student fees and fines policy highlight that the board can waive fees assessed only for students whose parent or guardian cannot afford them. Those eligible for a waiver include students under the School Free Lunch Act, students experiencing homelessness, and students whose families suffered significant income losses. Foster care children automatically qualify for free or reduced lunch.
Nobody from the public spoke on the matter.
The SBAC will take a final vote on these proposals at its Feb. 21 meeting.
Is there any provision for spaces allocated for poor children whose parents can;t afford these prices?