It’s impossible to find a coffee in Athens at 5:30 on a Saturday morning.
I learned this after wandering the streets on my way to the Lyndon House Arts Center several years ago, preparing to register my daughter for a couple weeks of summer camp. This year, summer camp sign-up season begins Apr. 9, when Athens-Clarke Leisure Services opens up registration, but this year something will be noticeably absent: the search for the 5:30 a.m. coffee.
That’s because—hallelujah!—camp registration is online this year, and can be done from the comfort of your couch. With a coffee from the coffee shop of your choice, because it starts at 9 a.m.
But you need to do a little bit of legwork in advance if this will be your first time on the Athens-Clarke County website. Online registration for activities actually began last fall, when Leisure Services opened registration for its sports programs online. The second round of sports registrations took place in February, so now the department feels pretty confident in the system. But if you haven’t been to the website (athensclarkecounty.com/leisure), you’ll need to register for a free account in advance, so you don’t deal with any last-minute glitches on the morning of Apr. 9.
Cathy Padgett, public information coordinator for Leisure Services, says the new online registration has had some unintended benefits. For example, as they discovered with fall and spring sports sign-ups, registration for activities was more evenly distributed among the various programs. This, she suspects, is because all the programs are listed in one place, and so all the programs end up getting equal billing.
But one thing hasn’t changed from years past: You gotta go in with a plan. Once you’ve settled onto the couch, logged into the system and noted the time, you have 15 minutes to sign up for the camps you want—otherwise, you’re going to have to start the process over. It’s kinda like when you used to go to concerts, and you’d use the Ticketmaster website to get tickets. Except without the fees.
A few other tips for registering online:
You can use a smartphone, but a computer or tablet will probably make it more efficient (and easier to check your work—be sure your name and contact info is correct!).
Google Chrome is the preferred browser.
If you applied for a scholarship after Apr. 1, you’re not guaranteed to have it processed by Apr. 9.
You only need to create one online account. It’s free, and you only need one per family (you are listed as the “adult” and then you can add other family members, applying different camps to different people).
Didn’t get into a camp you wanted? Put your child’s name on the waiting list. You never know when there will be a cancellation.
When paying, be sure your billing address matches what’s on the payment screen. Otherwise, the whole process may slow down or be rejected outright. And that would suck.
As far as camp selections go this year, there are some new topics in the mix that sound pretty interesting. For example, Memorial Park has a series of technology camps that delve into a different topic each week, such as rockets, architecture, electrical engineering and robotics (ages 6–12, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. weekly, $40). Also, the Lyndon House continues to push the boundaries with camps this year that include working with AthFest mural artist David Hale, or the power of graffiti.
If your kids are in middle or high school, there are several camps that may still interest them, including a painting and drawing class at the Lyndon House and the perennial popular Sandy Creek Nature Center camp. Leisure Services is also hiring about 100 temporary staff for the summer, and this might be a chance for your high school junior or senior to earn some cash while being a mentor for younger kids.
Also, to put it on your radar, there’s a new—free!—camp offered by the Clarke County School District and the University of Georgia College of Education. Inspired by the collaboration that takes place throughout the school year, this new Camp DIVE program takes place during the month of June and is structured to not only get kids involved in something fun—think classes in robotics, where our food comes from, or using photos and other media to tell the story of a community—but it’s also aiming to reduce the “summer slide” effect.
For details and to register (registration kicked off with a soft opening during the week of parent-teacher conferences), visit coe.uga.edu/campdive. Camp DIVE is for rising kindergarteners through eighth-graders and takes place weekdays 8 a.m.–2 p.m. All meals will be provided by the school district, and Fridays include field trips.
I’m raising my coffee mug to at least one less stressful thing as we prepare for summer vacation. Godspeed, parents!