ODESSA, Texas — No COVID slide for students in Midland and Odessa. That's if UT Permian Basin's First 5 program has anything to do with it.
For four years, First 5's Kinder Camp, a week-long camp that helps new kindergarteners prepare for school, has been hosting Midland and Odessa students, and they weren't going to let COVID-19 stop them from doing a 5th.
After careful consideration, the program decided to move the camp online this year.
Parents drove through the UT Permian Basin parking lot today to pick up their kid's Kinder Camp bag of materials.
"We've already picked up our packet and we have amazing details and lesson plans and step by step instructions," said Jacque Hintz, a mom of a Kinder Camper and also a local kindergarten teacher.
Going virtual may not have been the ideal situation, but moving the camp online allowed them to open up 50 more spots for campers.
Last year around 75 kids were registered for the Odessa camp, and this year they're accommodating nearly 125.
"We know now more than ever our community needs it so many kids in our community lost their opportunity to finish up their preschool year," said First 5 Director, Diana Ruiz.
The free camp has adapted their lessons to give parents a idea of what school could possibly look like this coming Fall.
"Virtual learning was difficult for everybody, teachers, students and parents last semester so I think this will be helpful for parents to get an idea of what it could look like if they choose to keep their child home for distance learning," said Hintz.
The self-paced programs are designed to make it easier for parents to help their kids engage with the virtual camp.
"There isn't necessarily a required time to join at a particular time, we know time is precious and unpredictable and when you're a parent it can stressful to think I have to be on at noon, I have to be on at two," said Ruiz.
To encourage daily engagement and completion of the lessons, there will be prizes awarded to campers at the end of the week.
The kids at the end of camp also receive a backpack with all the school supplies they need for the fall and five books to start an at-home library.
Odessa camp starts Monday and is full, but there are around 20 spots available for the Midland camp. It begins in two weeks.