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Editorial: ABQ comes to summer rescue with youth camps

Kudos to the city of Albuquerque for moving forward – carefully – with its free summer youth recreation program while other summer programs fall by the wayside. The city’s day camp will offer some working parents a much-needed safe place to send their kids, kids get a much-needed avenue to burn off pent-up energy, and teens a much-needed way of making summer cash while giving back to their community.

The city also plans to reopen portions of the ABQ BioPark and resume some library services, expanding offerings as the state’s reopening plan progresses to new phases. Most programs will require reservations and other measures to limit the spread of coronavirus, such as lowering child-to-staff ratios, conducting daily temperature checks, grouping participants into small clusters for social distancing and cleaning, cleaning and cleaning some more.

Mayor Tim Keller says making some level of childcare available to parents is vital as the city looks to reopen its economy. He told Journal editors and reporters last week the popular summer programs offer enrichment and socializing opportunities, a safe place to access services and include a public safety component as they keep kids out of trouble.

The city’s summer youth programs are especially needed since others are a no-go. Bernalillo County announced recently it was canceling its summer community center programs and keeping its outdoor pools closed. (It is offering “virtual camps” with Zoom classes in exercise, art, music and more and will have art kits for home use.)

City officials are clear offerings are far more limited this year and hinge on public health orders. The city typically serves 30,000 to 40,000 kids each summer, but curbing large groups may mean that number only hits 10,000 this year, and then only if pools are eventually opened. And that’s OK.

The important thing is there is a safe and affordable place for many working parents who have no other options to take their kids this summer. It may be a small step toward normalcy, but one that should help put these parents’ minds at ease while giving kids a safe place for summer enrichment.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.