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With school out for extreme cold, parents find relief in last-minute camps for kids

Daylong nature, yoga camps fill in as cancellations continue

Kids paint pictures of animals with glue and glitter at Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019. The nature center held a pop-up day camp in an effort to alleviate the pressure on parents and kids as a result of the days off from school. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Kids paint pictures of animals with glue and glitter at Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019. The nature center held a pop-up day camp in an effort to alleviate the pressure on parents and kids as a result of the days off from school. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Having her three kids home from school during a string of snow days has been chaotic, said Amanda Staebler-Kuehl, a software trainer in Cedar Rapids.

Schools have been closed for the better part of two weeks, thanks to the weather system known as the polar vortex that sent temperatures into the negative 20s Wednesday.

“It makes things really difficult,” Staebler-Kuehl said, adding that she works with clientele across the country. “I have had to either move calls, or I’m pre-warning my clients there might be children in the background.”

She found some relief Wednesday — the seventh school day in a row her kids’ classes were at least partially canceled — when she dropped her 5-year-old son off at a pop-up kids camp at Indian Creek Nature Center.

There, Maddeux joined about 20 other children in activities like sand art and making animal tracks.

“We know when school is canceled families are really struggling to find appropriate child care and activities,” said Kelli Kennon-Lane, director of education. “Parents often still have their routine and have to go to work and fulfill their responsibilities.”

In an effort to help families juggle stir-crazy children and their other responsibilities, the nature center organized the camp in a matter of days.

The Downward Dog yoga studio in Coralville similarly put together a yoga camp for out-of-class students this week.

“It’s a great opportunity for kids to get out of the house and learn and stretch their legs,” owner Kelli Slocum said. “This is the first time we’ve put this together in a day.”

Spaces were filled at both camps in less than 24 hours.

“They’re really happy to get them out of the house,” Slocum said Wednesday. “Especially by tomorrow, they’re probably even more thrilled. It gives parents a couple hours on their own.”

Classes have been canceled Thursday in the Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, College Community, Linn-Mar, Marion Independent, Clear Creek Amana, Solon, Mount Vernon and Xavier Catholic school districts.

Matt Mitchell said so many days away from school have left his son, 5-year-old Warner, a little discombobulated. Warner joined Maddeux at the Indian Creek Nature Center camp Wednesday.

“He’s a little out of sorts,” Mitchell said. “Warner mentioned something about missing his friends yesterday.”

Having a day camp to turn to helped them both find some normalcy — as the vice president of sales at Meta Communications, this week’s school cancellations have led to a lot of rescheduled meetings, Mitchell said.

At the very least, the camps provided a break in the chaos for working families, Staebler-Kuehl said.

“It’ll be one less person, when I get on my conference call, who I’ll have to worry about interrupting me,” the software trainer said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

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