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City creates 'Schools Out' initiative, providing programs to kids when class isn't in session

Nearly 30 local community centers are participating in the initiative, which aims to keep kids busy outside of the classroom.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A new initiative is aiming to keep Columbus students grades 6 through 12 active and engaged when school isn't in session.  

Mayor Andrew J. Ginther’s 'Schools Out' initiative provides programs and activities during Spring, Summer, and Winter breaks. 

Sophia Fifner, community relations chief for the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department, said 29 community centers throughout Columbus are participating in the initiative. 

A few centers had their activities last week due to schools in the area letting kids out at that time, but many started the week of April 5. 

The goal is to keep the kids busy while they’re off of school and give them a chance to do activities they love, safely, said Fifner. That includes joining in on dance classes, sports clinics and workshops, or arts and crafts.

It’s a way to build relationships within the community, and connect, especially with the youth, Fifner explained. 

With the city being at 51 homicides this year, and 14 of those victims ranging at 18 to 21 in age, mother and grandmother Belle Wesley, said these programs are needed. Wesley has two grandkids and three great-grandkids, and worries about them and other families.

“I try to teach them to do the right thing and be respectful, don’t start any trouble and don’t get around the violence,” Wesley said.

In hopes of the little ones in her life enjoying their youth safely, she brings her family to the Barnett Community Recreation Center. They take advantage of the dance classes, play basketball and are able to make a lot of new friends along the way.

“It gives the kids an outlet, away from home and something to do,  to utilize and burn off some of that energy they have and get into activities that they really enjoy doing and the Barnett Rec Center provides a lot of opportunities for kids,” Wesley said.

As for the initiative, the summer camp registration started a couple of weeks ago, but there are still spots that are open. More information and registration can be found here

“I often find that our community centers are embedded within the fabric of our neighborhoods and communities, and so for parents, I think it’s encouraging and they know that they can have their kids at a safe location, where they’re getting activities that add to their quality of life, that add to their mental health and also their physical health,” Fifner said.