Al and Jess LaFountain review artwork created by students in their Adirondack Arts & Science Day Camp, which has been hailed by area parents. The educational summer school is held in the old Adirondack hamlet schoolhouse. Volunteers who rehabilitated the sturcture for a community center recently aired their complaints to the town board — which rents out the building — that the day camp's use of the building during the summer is hampering its use by civic groups. Students pictured are: Avril LaFountain, Karli Wood, Teddy Fleming, Owen Fleming,Devin Clench-Matteo, Izzy LaFountain and Gracie Staunches.
The proprietors of a children’s summer day camp situated in a former local schoolhouse they are renting from the Horicon town government found themselves at odds recently with local volunteers who have been rehabilitating the structure as a community center.
At the Horicon town board meeting held July 19, the day camp’s operators and the volunteers offered differing opinions about how the building should be used.
The enterprise, known as Adirondack Arts & Science Day Camp, offers educational enrichment opportunities for children from kindergarten age through grade seven.
Al and Jess LaFountain operate the camp for five weeks during the summer.
Last year, they operated their day camp in the pavilion behind the Horicon Town Hall in Brant Lake, which Al LaFountain said was problematical, because wind and rain would often blow through the structure and disrupt the children’s activities.
The move to the old Adirondack hamlet schoolhouse, LaFountain said, improved student safety due to eliminating the need to cross Rte. 8 for trips to the beach, and the building in Adirondack now offered sanitary and convenient bathroom facilities.
However, several volunteers who worked on rehabilitating the building said that the town’s rental of the schoolhouse to the couple for five prime summer weeks prevented use of the building for meetings of civic and social groups, as was originally intended.
Michelle Montague, a parent of one of the students, said her child enjoyed the camp experiences immensely, and the enterprise should be allowed to fully use the facilities.
“This camp is providing a safe, happy, enriching environment,” she said, noting that the children were learning civic responsibility and helping the town by cleaning up the local roadside. In an environmental project, the students had picking up and disposed of a considerable amount of trash.
The children also helped remove invasive Japanese Knotweed from the park in the hamlet of Adirondack.
Montague, as well as a town board member, said that the day camp offered the only local summer educational program in Horicon, and parents would otherwise have to send their children to Chestertown or beyond for the experiences the camp offered.
“We want to keep our youth here,” she said.
One of the volunteers, Vince Blando, said the purpose of the building had been bypassed by the board. “The schoolhouse was to be a community center, used by groups for short periods of time,” he said. Another volunteer, Jane Smith, noted the hundreds of hours invested by community members into the building, which was now being used primarily to host a private business.
Others said that the school supplies and curriculum materials remaining in the building made it difficult for groups to meet without disturbing the ongoing school projects. A local resident suggested that the day camp proprietors store the materials over weekends, so other groups could meet and conveniently conduct their functions, which Jess LaFountain agreed to.
“You call use, we’ll clean it out — we’re not here to make things difficult,” she said. “We’re providing something the local kids don’t otherwise have here.”
Rebecca Hopper, parent of a student, praised the day camp program.
“They teach respect, citizenship and a sense of community,” she said. “It’s an amazing program.”
Tom Magee, chairman of the Gore Mountain Region Community Fund which awarded a grant for the schoolhouse’s renovation, spoke up after listening to the controversy on how the building should be best utilized.
“I’m happy that I’ll be reporting to my group that the building and our funds are being used well,” he said.