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All LUSD students on school break: Some parents left with few options

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Posted: Monday, October 2, 2006 10:00 pm

While many Lodi children likely rolled out of bed late on Monday, eager to start a two-week break from school with TV, Internet or video games, siblings Kevin Gonzalez, 9, and Samantha Renteria, 7, both students at Beckman Elementary, packed up their toys and homework and headed over to Wal-Mart.

Their mother, Adrianna Gonzalez, is a shift manager at the McDonald's there, and her children spent the morning in the store because there were no other affordable out-of-school options.

Gonzalez said her children will be spending time at her sister's home in Woodbridge for most of the break. But McDonald's is there, just as a backup.

"It's the cost. We pay for a babysitter, $15 a day. The Boys and Girls Club costs $10 each," said Gonzalez, explaining why her children were with her at the store.

For the first time in at least 15 years, all 31,000 or so of Lodi Unified School District's students are on a two-week break.

With the "Modified Traditional" calendar, students take a 10-day break every 45 days. The district adopted a year-round schedule in 1985, which split the student population among three rotating schedules, or "tracks." Students would attend for four months then be off for two months.

Middleand high school youth may be old enough to monitor themselves safely throughout the day. Children of any age may be at the home of a relative or other trusted adult. However, working parents of elementary-aged children have few options.

"They go to a baby-sitter or they're at grandma's house making cookies," said Kathy Cassebarth, president of the five-county PTA region that includes San Joaquin.

Cassebarth said in her experience, the Lodi Boys and Girls Club, Twin Arbors Athletic Club and Lodi Parks and Recreation Department usually "pick up the slack," or parents juggle their vacation time.

Adrian Sanchez, 8, a second-grade student at Lawrence Elementary, was at Kofu Skatepark with his 19-year-old brother Sergio. Adrian said his mother wants him to study, but he'd rather skate the days away, or watch skateboarding videos at home. More than a dozen youngsters were at the skate park Monday.

Camp Hutchins, located at Hutchins Street Square, used to serve hundreds of youth during school breaks, which rotated throughout the year with little down-time. Children ages 5-12 could choose from arts and crafts, swimming, games and tutoring, all led by qualified teachers.

The camp converted into a preschool this year partly because it wasn't financially feasible to run for just two weeks at a time, said Dawn Hammons, a Camp Hutchins secretary.

School break options

The options may be few, but here are some youth activities in Lodi during the two-week break. School resumes Monday, Oct. 16. Some businesses may be closed Monday, Oct. 9 in observance of Columbus Day.

Lodi Boys and Girls Club
275 E. Poplar St. 334-2697
Sunrise program, 7 a.m. to noon. $10 per day per child. Afternoon program:
Noon-6 p.m. $35 yearly membership required. Ages 6-18. Snacks and refreshments provided. Computer lab, athletics, Homework Club, pool tables, TV and movie time, xBox 360, arcade games.

Fitness Works-Twin Arbors Athletic Club
429 W. Lockeford St. 334-6224.
Fit Kids, 3:30-4:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. Ages 5-11. Playing with balls, hula hoops, and jump ropes, kickboxing, learning to juggle. All set to music.

Lodi Public Library
201 W. Locust St. 333-5566
Toddler and preschool story time, 10:15 a.m., Wednesday and Thursday.
Spanish/bilingual story time, 7 p.m., Wednesday.
Homework help center: 3-6 p.m., Monday-Wednesday.
Closed on Monday, Oct. 9 in observance of Columbus Day.

Lodi Parks and Recreation
Playgrounds open during daylight hours. There are 13 neighborhood parks and seven sports complex parks in Lodi.

One-Eighty Teen Center
17 W. Lockeford St. 339-2308
Hours: 2:30 to 5:30 Monday-Thursday, 7-9 p.m. Friday.

About 150 children flowed through the doors of the Lodi Boys and Girls Club on Monday, taking advantage of the "Sunrise" program. For $10 per child per day plus a $35 yearly membership, parents can drop off their children from 7 a.m. to noon.

"We just manage with the normal staff," said Waqir Shah, the club's vice president. He said the club can get crowded, but he's also employing 24 staffers who work at after-school programs to come out and help during the next couple of weeks.

Youths of all ages were busy rolling billiard balls on pool tables, punching buttons on arcade games and the club's xBox 360, using computer programs, playing outdoor games or watching TV.

Lodi Unified has not recently organized recreation or playground activities during school breaks, said John Coakley, a district coordinator with assessment and academic intervention programs. He said any day programs were instead focused on bringing low-performing students up to their grade level.

"When YRE (year-round education) went away we moved away from those programs that were offered during off-track times," Coakley said.

Jacqueline Taylor's 9-year-old son is spending time with a family friend who works as an at-home adult day care provider. He'll have TV and GameBoy games during the days, and soccer, bike-riding and basketball in the evenings.

Taylor, deputy city clerk for the city of Lodi, said she is grateful for the help, but hoped her son would be able to participate in an after-school program like the one the city of Lodi operates during the year at numerous schools, or a day camp like Camp Hutchins. Instead, Taylor is paying her friend the $100 per week it would normally cost.

"I can't imagine there aren't any other parents who aren't in the same pickle," she said.

Contact reporter Kendyce Manguchei at kendycem@lodinews.com.

First published: Tuesday, October 3, 2006

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