No plans to expand Swamp School to allow for more campers

While 260 kids in St. Charles Parish were able to sign up for St. Charles Parish’s most popular summer camp, many were left disappointed after registration filled up within minutes.

And at this point, there are no plans to expand Swamp School so that more campers can attend in the future.

Swamp School, which is offered through four sessions this summer, is an outdoor camp that includes such activities as tree planting, canoeing, archery lessons and net casting. It was started by educators Barry Guillot and Craig Howat.

Barry Guillot poses with a camper.

“As of now, we do not plan on expanding the number of weeks,” Guillot said. “There are plenty of reasons but one of the biggest is that we involve four senior counselors and about 20-30 volunteer junior counselors for each week of Swamp School that assist in guiding campers safely through all of the many activities. The majority of these are high school students that want to have time to enjoy their time off during summer as well.

“Scheduling Swamp School the first two weeks in June and the last two weeks in July has allowed parents to schedule plans with their families in between.”

When the camp began 14 years ago, there were only two sessions each summer with a total of 48 campers allowed each session. For the last twelve years, four sessions of the camp have been held each year. The number of campers was also increased to 65 per session.

“I feel that 65 campers is about as high as we can go, because as the groups get larger, the experience diminishes for all of the campers involved,” Guillot said. “We organize the camp by having campers rotate through different activities. Having larger groups limits the number of turns each camper gets to practice skills such as cast netting or archery.”

One of the biggest limitations to camp size, Guillot added, is the number of canoes available at the camp.

“Canoeing is one of the campers’ favorite activities, but we can only fit so many people in each canoe,” he said. “If our groups were larger then campers would have to take turns not participating which is not something that we want to do.”

Guillot said that it’s heartbreaking to read stories about parents who stay up until midnight and are still not able to register their kids into the popular camp, but he says the process is not rigged.

“There’s 65 slots available for each week at 12 a.m. when the computer opens it up,” he said. “And it’s all first come, first serve basis.”

Still, Guillot is excited to instruct those who were able to register for this summer’s camp sessions.

“Both Craig and I have put our entire hearts into Swamp School,” he said. “Every step that we do in preparation from ordering and organizing materials to contacting counselors brings us closer and closer to the most exciting day – the first day of Swamp School. There is not much that is more exciting than greeting the campers on the first day and seeing the excitement in their eyes while we are sharing all that we will be doing over the coming week.”