Have no fear, summer campers. The sun will shine and camp will go on after all.
With the Town of Tewksbury's Recreation Department all but eliminated after allegations of financial wrongdoings led to the firing of both of its full-time employees earlier this year, the future of the popular Livingston Street Park Summer Rec Camp has been in doubt for several months.
But all that changed last night when Tewksbury's Director of Community Services John Lyons announced that his department has developed a new summer camp program that will replace the former recreation department program at the town's recreation center on Livingston Street.
Tewksbury residents are invited to a May 10 open house at the Wynn Middle School to learn about the Office of Community Services' summer programs being offered for students from preschool age through grade nine.
"There was a real fear and a possibility that the summer program was not going to happen," Lyons said. "For somebody who's in the kid business, that's a no-go. That can't happen. Especially in the summer time."
Several weeks ago, Lyons contacted Town Manager Richard Montuori and Superintendent of Schools Dr. John O'Connor to explore the possibilities of his office taking over the former Rec Department summer program, and "within a week or so," plans were underway, according to Lyons.
The Office of Community Services will continue to run its long-standing summer camp program for children in grades one through four at the North Street School, but there will be several new programs, as well.
A pre-school-through-kindergarten program will be offered at the Heath Brook School from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on weekdays, and a new kindergarten and first grade summer reading program will be offered at the Heath Brook.
Older kids, in grades 5-through-9, will participate in an all new summer recreation camp at the Wynn School and the Livingston Street Recreation Center.
The Tewksbury School Department's Food Service Department will re-open and operate the rec center snack bar, which will be renamed "Redmen's Crossing."
Campers will be dropped off and picked up at the Wynn, and will spend their day utilizing the Middle School's computers and library, as well as the Wynn's outside fields and the playing fields and basketball and tennis courts and skate park at the rec center.
There will be summer enrichment programs offered in basketball, track and field, arts and crafts and a theatre workshop. Tewksbury High baseball coach Ron Drouin will conduct a baseball clinic while football coach Brian Aylward will run a football clinic and girls lacrosse coach Joel McKenna will direct a lacrosse clinic.
"Especially for working a families it's important that there's a place for their kids to go, be safe and have fun," Lyons said. "We're very excited about the possibility, we know we can do a good job and we're thrilled that there's going to be a summer program.
"It's important that we continue this program to the highest level we can given the circumstances," he added.
School committee members and the school superintendent voiced almost unanimous support for Lyons and his programs.
"We went to Mr. Lyons and without hesitation Mr. Lyons said 'this is a logical extension of our program,'" O'Connor said. "I'm impressed with ... their reaction to what was asking them to take on more work for no pay."
According to Lyons, the camp will not require any funding from the town as it will be self-funded by the camp tuition charged to participating families. His office will seek donations to re-open and renovate the rec center, which has been closed for several months.
"It is going to be hard, we're not adding any administrators," Lyons said. "But we will add staff as warranted by the number of kids. It's a pay as you go thing."
The May 10 open house will run from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. at the Wynn and will offer information on the registration process, tuition, employment opportunities, field trips and the daily schedule.