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VOL. 46 | NO. 8 | Friday, February 25, 2022

Nashville-area summer camps full? Already?

First housing, now summer fun. Blame the newcomers

By Hollie Deese

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If parents thought it was stressful getting their children into the school of their choice these days in Middle Tennessee, wait until they try to sign up for camp.

More and more families are moving to the Nashville area from out of state, and parents are looking for camps as soon as they get here – if not before.

Just look at the inquiries from any neighborhood Facebook Parent Group – they are filled with posts from moms seeking advice on area camps that still have spots available.

“I would say our biggest transplant state has been California,” says Amanda Binkley, head of the lower school at Goodpasture and on campus during the summer for camp. “Nashville has a reputation for not just colleges, but also we’ve got a pretty good variety of private schools in the area. And a lot of our families want a Christian school and that’s not something that’s widely available in other parts of the country.

“So we’ve had a lot, a lot of folks seeking out, not just the educational piece, but the spiritual piece as well.”

Girls 4-17 can spend their summer learning and having fun at St. Cecilia Academy, sessions cover a variety of interests, from baking and science to Disney engineering.

-- Photo Provided By Camp St. Cecilia

And post-COVID, parents are looking for their children to interact with their peers in a healthy way. Camps are a top choice.

“We see that parents are feeling more comfortable with sending their kids back to camp this year, and a few of our summer camp sessions at Tremont have already sold out,” says Erin Rosolina, marketing manager for the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont.

“I suspect it’s an indicator of decreased anxiety about the pandemic, possibly resulting from a combination of available vaccinations, increased trust in COVID-19 precautions, and worry fatigue. While there’s never a zero-percent risk of exposure, I think parents are ready to enroll their kids in summer camp again – especially camps that focus on outdoor activities like ours.”

In fact, outdoor camps are filling quickly in many areas, from equestrian to farm life, with quite a few already putting parents on a waitlist, if they are taking a waitlist at all.

Mountain trails are a key draw for the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont.

-- Photos By David Bryant And Great Smoky Mountains Institute At Tremont

As head of lower school at Goodpasture, Binkley says enrollment season doesn’t seem to end these days, enrolling students all year long with a huge boom going into the fall.

And new families are finding the school from a few different avenues. First, they get a lot of referrals from existing families who get a discount on tuition if one of their referrals signs up. Second, their website generates a lot of traffic, and is one of the top hits if someone were to Google “Christian Schools North Nashville.”

“We seem to be picking up kids at a rapid rate, more so than a normal school year,” Binkley acknowledges. “I think that has a lot to do with COVID, and a lot to do with changes in education right now, and restrictions. Sometimes families are ready to have a little bit more control over what gets mandated on their kids. And so we’ve definitely seen that impact our enrollment in a positive way.”

And when kids are at an age where their life is driven by their activities, camp is a natural extension of that. It’s why so many schools are offering such a wide range of options that go far beyond science and soccer.

Montgomery Bell Academy offers sports and academic camps for a wide range of ages.

-- Photo Provided By Montgomery Bell

And if they do it right, they might just have found a new family to enroll for the new school year too.

“That is a great way for us to connect to the community, and we pick up a lot of students because they get introduced to us via a camp that interests their child,’’ Binkley says. “And so it not only provides our students with a lot of opportunities to still be on campus and connect with their friends, but it also gives us a really good connection to the community and allows folks to preview what our school is like, without the commitment of enrollment.”

So as long as they have the space and the teachers willing to share their special skills, schools like Goodpasture, that have given existing teachers the option to host summer camps that fit their interests, can keep adding a wider variety of options for students.

“We tripled our offerings and we’re going to do the same thing this summer,” Binkley adds, with the list of camp options posting in March, which will go out to families as well as the general public.

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