Schools Start Too Early in Georgia: How to Squeeze More Fun Out of Summer

Today’s blog is the opinion of Laurie Loftin and does not reflect that of the Water Conservation Office.

Ah, summer break.  Days when kids splash in cool, refreshing pool waters, visit a thrilling water park, orHappy children playing on the beach take a quick trip to the ocean during the hottest months of the year.  Summer time gives children a chance to experience and explore the joys of water.

At least this is the summer I remember.  Today’s children don’t have the same amount of time to make these memories.  School kicks off earlier and earlier, with many of our students heading back as soon as August begins.  Sure, the kids get out earlier, but May is not summer.

In a chain reaction, school begins and swimming pool attendance drops, forcing the pools to close in August.  Water park employees return to classes and the park no longer has the staff to supervise the wave pool and lazy river.  With average August temperatures reaching 88° F, it seems like the perfect time to get away for a beach trip, but school obligations eliminate a span of time for the family to head out.  The lazy days of summer are gone, in spite of it still being summer.  Early school start dates put an end to it.

What happened to schools opening after Labor Day?  I feel like Clint Eastwood yelling, “Get off my lawn!”  I could continue to rant, but my frustration won’t change starting dates or when testing takes place.  Instead, I have searched for a few watery destinations still available to beat the heat.  After all, our youngest children, who aren’t yet attending school, could use a wet place to cool off.  Here they are:

Trail Creek Splash Pad

          Trail Creek Splash Pad

  1. Splash Pads:  The colorful Trail Creek Park splash pad, located at 200 Trail Creek Street, has multiple elements that shoot water from the flooring as well as drop water from above.  There is a $1 admission fee (cash only).  As an added bonus, all water used at the splash pads is sent through a filtering system and recycled to reduce water use.  After August 7, their hours change to Weekends Only, August 13-Monday, September 5, 10:00am – 5:30pm.

    Tubing in Helen

     Tubing in Helen

  2. Tubing in Helen:  Take a lazy river ride down an actual river!  An hour and a half from Athens, both  Cool River Tubing and Helen Tubing & Water Park provide ginormous tubes to shoot the ‘Hooch.  Even better, both stay open through Labor Day.  Plan for a few hours or make a day of it by including a visit to the water slides or water park at these locations.


          Bogan Park’s indoor pool area

  3. Bogan Park Aquatic Center:  Go to The Mall of Georgia for lunch and  a carousel ride, then head over to the Bogan Water Park from 3:00 – 6:00.  Enjoy all the indoor leisure pool has to offer, including zero depth entry, a lazy river, interactive play structures, and a water slide for the older kids.  Because the pool is inside, it is also a perfect option for when a late summer shower pops up.

    Explore the South Fork River

    Explore South Fork River by Watson Mill Bridge

  4. Watson Mill Bridge State Park:  Strap on your water shoes and head over to this gem, just a short drive from Athens.  In the shadows of the state’s longest covered bridge you’ll find the perfect spot to splash.  Visitors enjoy sliding down the shoals, catching fish, or taking photos near the waterfall.  Remember to bring a picnic to eat at a shelter by the playground and your day is complete.  And all of this for the low price of a $5 parking fee!

    Enjoy the beach right here at home

          Enjoy the beach right here at home

  5. Sandy Creek Park:  No need to drive hours to the beach when we have a fabulous one right here in Athens!  Soft sand and a roped off swimming area offer the perfect local swimming hole.  Open year-round, the lake is available for fishing, swimming, and boating.  Kayak and canoe rentals are available on the weekends.  You can even try out the hot water sport of stand up paddle boarding, guaranteed to give your abs a workout.

    Water Paint the walls

    Water Paint the walls

  6. Make Your Own Fun!:  Get out a bucket, fill it with water, and hand the kids large paint brushes to paint water on the side of the house.  Let the kids run through the sprinkler while you water the grass (after 4:00PM, of course!).  Add food coloring to shaving cream and let your young artist use it to paint their bodies, then hose ’em down over the grass.  Make your own water table:  Fill a large storage container with water and add turkey basters, colander, sponges, ice, boats, Efferdent (use peanut butter to attach to the end of toy boat and put in water), sea creatures, and more for hours of fun.

    Be sure to bring a swimsuit!

          Be sure to bring a swimsuit!

  7.  Athens Water Festival:  This one-day event held at Sandy Creek Park the Saturday following Labor Day can officially close out summer.  Water is the star of this festival and is incorporated into more than a dozen hands-on activities and games, be it splashing in the spray of water trucks, testing water pH levels, or meeting sea creatures who make water their home.  Everyone is guaranteed to leave drenched in fun.  Be sure to bring a bathing suit!

I wish I could say I was taking one of my own suggestions and about to tube down a river, but I’ve got to go get last-minute back to school supplies.  I hope you find some time to bring your little squirts out to squeeze a little more watery fun from summer.


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