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Summer Fun program will be free this year, but spots are even more limited, Honolulu mayor says

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Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell this afternoon announced the city would offer a pared-down version of Summer Fun in July for free, but registration this year will be handled online, starting 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 18.

A total of 3,600 children from kindergarten to sixth grade — down from the average of 10,000 in past years — will be able to participate in the program, to be held from July 1 to July 28. The program will run from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Lunch will be provided for select sites.

“This summer is going to be free so that children can come and have fun together and be away from their parents for awhile as their parents begin to go back to work,” said Caldwell at a press conference at Manoa Valley District Park. “We are really working hard to find out ways to make it easier for people to climb out of the pandemic, to get back to their lives, and do it with love and understanding.”

In years past, parents would camp out overnight in long lines at Manoa to get a coveted spot in the Summer Fun program — a relative bargain from other summer programs at just $25 per child in registration fees.

Registration this year will take place online on the Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation’s new web reservation system — In order to register, individuals must first go to the website and create a profile and account with an email address and password, which can be done ahead of time.

The online registrations will take place on the following dates for the following districts:

>> Starting 6 p.m. Thursday, June 18 for park districts 3 and 4, which covers Pearl City to Waianae to Wahiawa, and Waialua to Waimanalo.

>> Starting 9 a.m. Saturday, June 20 for park districts 1 and 2, including East Honolulu from Hawaii Kai to McCully and West Honolulu, from Makiki to Aiea.

DPR director Michele Nekota said the department has new software, and she is confident it can handle the volume of parents going online for Summer Fun. Residents without access to the internet may go to their local Summer Fun site to seek help registering, she said.

For safety reasons, each group this year will be limited to 12, and will stay with the same group, with one senior leader and one junior leader, during the entire program, she said. Both participating children and staff will be wearing face masks and participating in mostly outdoor activities. In addition to games and sports, there will be music and dance activities.

“We want to make sure this Summer Fun is a safe and healthy environment for the kids and staff,” she said.

Nekota said there will be 65 Summer Fun sites this year, and that more sites could open up to accommodate more children if there are more staff, and encouraged those who qualified — anyone 18 and over —and interested to apply. Senior leaders receive an average pay of $14 to $15 an hour.

Caldwell said given that these are tough times, the city was finding ways to help residents, and that more announcements would be made in coming weeks.

Watch the news conference above.

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