A children's program using LEGO-type building blocks to conduct engineering, physics and robotics experiments will proceed as scheduled next week despite Board of Health inquiry nearly shutting it down.
LetGo Your Mind, a "fun and enriching program using LEGO in the areas of simple machines and robotics" according to its website, will host five days of sessions at South Church next week from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for already-registered children ages 6 to 13.
For a time, however, the camp was cancelled by those organizing it. In a July 6 letter to parents who signed their children up for it, the owners of the program wrote that "we have been notified by the Board of Health from the town of Andover that we are unable to hold our summer enrichment program in Andover."
Because the program advertised itself as a camp, it was required by state law to follow specific regulations reserved for camps, which include area Board of Health approval and various background checks of councilors or other adults involved, such as Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) checks.
On a yearly basis, the Andover Board of Health holds hearings on and licenses around 12 camps, according to Health Director Tom Carbone. These camps include sports camps, Scout-related camps and more. Given the time it takes to get licensed, the LetGo Your Mind program wouldn't have been able to receive a license before it was slated to run, Carbone said.
At a July 9 Board of Health meeting, Health Director Tom Carbone informed the board that the program, which operates out of New Hampshire and isn't used to Massachusetts regulations, and "is purely academic." In the end, they "had used the word 'camp' indiscriminately, not on purpose knowing that there was a problem using that phrase."
"I just don't feel good about it," Candace Marton, Board of Health chairwoman, said at that meeting.
"I think an all-day program, whether it's called a camp, is a camp. And if they continue next summer, I would imagine they would want to be a camp, so why is it OK this year?"
Despite Martin's concerns, Carbone sent a letter back to LetGo Your Mind, telling them that they "have since taken action to address this issue by removing the reference to operating as a camp from your website."
"The curriculum is such that it complies with the definition of a classroom-based program and offers no apparent high-risk activity that could injure a child," continued Carbone. "We believe that the proposed program may continue here in Andover."
Nancy Lane, co-owner of the program, said the program is used to working through town recreation departments. "We don't serve food, we don't clean bathrooms, so we've never had a problem," said Lane.
"We're working to do whatever we need to do to have further camps in Massachusetts," said Lane. "We're going to work to be in compliance with any Board of Health. We're going to see if we can get a blanket Massachusetts OK that we can work anywhere, that we're certified anywhere in Massachusetts."
The program launched several week-long sessions in nine New Hampshire towns, six Massachusetts towns and Brattleboro, Vt. starting June 25.
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