Parents, students finally experience a ‘real summer’

Call it historic. Call it a return to a nostalgic past. Call it confusing.

Or, like Jazelle Lampkin, just call it one great summer.

Summer 2011 marked the first time in more than 20 years that every student in the Clark County School District enjoyed a true, classic, nearly three-month-long summer vacation. It all ends Monday with the start of a new school year.

But Jazelle, 9, certainly enjoyed her long vacation. What did she like about having the entire summer off?

“Because I can do stuff that I can’t do anytime else,” she said.

The return of the classic summer vacation came with the school district’s ending, at least for the time being, year-round calendars at some of the valley’s elementary schools. With year-round calendars, students were off during a track break of only a few weeks during the summer, with additional track break vacations in the fall and spring.

The year-round schedules were designed to alleviate school overcrowding. However, declines in enrollment and cost-cutting prompted abandonment of year-round schedules.

Last summer, 55 elementary schools remained open during the summer, noted David Roddy, a school district public information specialist. When schools let out this year on June 9, every student in the district began what was, for many, their first true summer vacation.

Kids probably loved it, even if some parents greeted the new schedule with ambivalence. Take Jazelle and her sister, Olivia, also 9, who have had track-break summer vacations in previous years. Like Jazelle, Olivia enjoyed spending this entire summer out of the classroom.

“It was good,” Olivia said, “because I don’t have to go to school.”

The girls’ dad, Larry, will teach second grade this coming school year at Herron Elementary School in North Las Vegas. As a teacher, Lampkin has shared summer vacation schedules with his daughters of both the track break and, this year, the summer-long variety.

The upside, Lampkin said, was that having a full summer off made scheduling family trips — this year’s itinerary included a family reunion in Washington, D.C., and visits with relatives in California — easier.

However, Lampkin also taught summer school this year. Because his daughters were off for a few weeks when he wasn’t, Lampkin had to enroll the girls in a summer recreation program for a few weeks.

Now, having experienced both track-break and summer-long summer vacations, Lampkin’s verdict is that nearly three months is “a little bit too much time” for kids to have off.

“I think I would not like (summer vacation) to be a whole chunk, versus like three weeks here and there,” he said.

Sheila Todd enjoyed having all of this summer to spend with her daughter, Sara, 7, because “we were able to do whatever we wanted to do.”

Having an entire summer to work with made scheduling trips and activities easier, Todd said. However, she also noted that, as a stay-at-home mom, she didn’t have to find child care or activities for her daughter to do while she was at work.

“I’ve talked to other moms, and they have had to find day care,” she said.

Paul Tuttle and his son, Dominick , 9, always have enjoyed full-summer vacations and prefer it that way. A summer-long vacation is “a nice break for kids,” Tuttle said.

Tuttle once had a neighbor whose kids attended a year-round school and had only three weeks off during the summer. “It was kind of a bummer,” he recalled, “because (the kids) would have to stop their activities and be inside. They had to do homework and could not be outside playing or whatever.”

Mark Sherwood, a father of four and publisher of Parents Guide of Las Vegas, said parents told him this summer that they either liked the flexibility this year’s schedule offered or were frustrated at having to find child care options for kids who, in previous years, spent most of their summer in the classroom.

But track-break summer vacations posed their own challenges, he added. “It was tough when you have siblings involved and they’re not in the same track. So if you have two kids, and maybe one is in middle school and one is in elementary school … it’s very difficult to have a family vacation.”

For that reason, Sherwood also has talked with parents who were happy to bid track-break summers a gleeful adieu.

Signs of this year’s summer vacation switch also were seen at some valley recreational programs.

“We actually did see an increase in our summer camps,” said Kim Becker of Henderson’s parks and recreation department, which hosted an estimated 1,200 to 1,300 children per week this summer, versus about 1,000 per week last year.

“Attendance was definitely up, and most of our sites were either at capacity or nearly at capacity, which was great,” she said.

Jennifer Herzog, director of marketing and special events for Boys & Girls Clubs of Las Vegas, said the group’s eight locations saw an increase in attendance of about 10 percent this summer.

That was “pretty much what we expected” with the change from year-round to nine-month schools, she said.

Mike Lubbe, president and chief executive officer of the YMCA of Southern Nevada, said the organization saw “a modest uptick” this summer in day camp participation, with about 650 kids per week enrolled at its four locations.

He suspected the increase reflected “a little bit” of the summer vacation schedule change, but also noted that program attendance numbers may reveal just the tip of the new schedule’s effects.

“You still have a lot of people who are out of work,” Lubbe said. “And, in a lot of cases, everybody has, maybe, an aunt or brother or sister or grandparent, and one of them isn’t working, so in some cases people will choose a family member to come over and care for them.”

As a result, many working parents may simply have opted to call upon other family members to care for their now-vacationing kids, he said.

Part of the appeal of a summer-long vacation may stem from parents’ memories of their own childhoods. But, Sherwood said, maybe nostalgia doesn’t translate well to a Las Vegas summer circa 2011.

“There are kind of nostalgic memories of playing outside at the creek until sundown until Mom calls you home to dinner or whatever,” he said. “Well, when it’s 100 degrees, really, a lot of kids are inside playing Nintendo. It’s not that romanticized summer.

“This is one of those things where everybody says — the common refrain was — ‘Let’s have a real summer vacation,’ and be careful what you wish for. You got a real summer, and now, one of the things I’ve been hearing from parents is, ‘I can’t wait for school to start again.’ “

Contact reporter John Przybys at jprzybys@ or 702-383-0280.

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