MASON, Ohio -- Unexpected breaks from school might top youths' winter wish lists, but snow days can pose challenges for parents. Mason Community Center offers snow day camp as a solution for parents needing child care when schools close for inclement weather.
"Parents still have to take their kids to somewhere because they still have to go to work," said Mason Parks and Recreation Director Chrissy Avery.
The community center introduced the program about five years ago. Each snow day camp runs 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. and features activities including crafts, sports, games, swimming and movies.
"We have snow days already pre-planned because you never know when it's going to happen," said Lisa Ahr, program manager for Mason Community Center.
Registration is open to children ages 6 to 12 any time Mason City Schools announce a cancellation.
"We just try to have a really good take on what's going on so that we're flexible," Avery said.
The community center also offers a day camp for scheduled school closures and spring break.
Parents can register their kids for snow day camp online, over the phone or in person once a school closure is announced. The camp is only offered when Mason schools close but is open to children from any district.
Although the camp frees up parents to work, it comes with a cost. Registration ranges from $37 to $66, with different pricing tiers for community center members, Mason residents and non-residents.
Financial assistance is available for low-income families through the community center's scholarship program. Families in need can request assistance through the program, or in some cases may be referred to the community center by Mason City Schools.
In the event of high-level snow emergencies, the camp may not be offered. The community center is operated by the city, however, so it's rare for it to close.
"We're trying to provide a safe opportunity for people to go to," Ahr said.
The decision to cancel school is influenced by more than just road conditions, Avery said. District leaders must consider other factors, such as the need to warm up buses.
"There's a lot of behind-the-scenes coordination that goes on," Avery said.
Because the community center is operated by the city, its staff also are in communication with the crews clearing the roads.
"We'll coordinate with our public works department to make sure all roads are safe," Ahr said.