PHOENIX — Cars lined up a full hour before Eagle College Preparatory School in Maryvale opened its doors to 125 summer camp enrollees.
A 6-year-old anxiously waiting on the clock in the backseat of her grandmother's car, was asked if she was glad to be back in school. Her response was quick and to the point, "Yes!" she said.
Eagle Prep is one of 890 sites across the state hosting the AZ On Track Summer Camp Program. Governor Ducey is using as much as $100 million in federal COVID relief money to give children who suffered learning loss during COVID, the chance to build up their academic and social skills.
This summer 114,000 school children signed up for camps. "I think it's important for her. More opportunities and activities for the kids," said Maria Monarvin, a grandmother who was dropping her granddaughter off at the school.
The camps provide parents and grandparents a much better summer alternative for their children and grandchildren who risk following further behind in school. "I feel they should still be at school, better than being at home doing nothing, watching T.V.," said Adriana Herrara, who brought her two children to the summer camp at Eagle Prep.
The pandemic and remote learning had a profound effect on students. According to a State Board of Education Report to the governor, in 2020-2021, only 38% of Arizona's public school students passed the statewide English language arts test. Just 31% of public school students passed mathematics.
"In addition to trying to access education in a way they've never done before, they were also dealing with all the distractions at home," said Lisa Fantasia, the Executive Director of Schools at Eagle College Prep.
In this camp, it's all about problem solving and teamwork.
On day one, a group of third, fourth, and fifth graders worked on a design project called the marshmallow challenge, building a structure with spaghetti sticks, string, tape, and a marshmallow, which must be on top.
"It encourages students to use critical thinking and problem solving and they have to work together," said Fantasia. The teacher also snuck some math, reading, and writing into the project. Part of the grand plan is to fill in the learning gaps and equip children with new skills when they head back to school in the fall.