Avoiding a Winter of Their Discontent : Child care: Harried parents have a lot of choices for their children, who don’t go back to classes until Feb. 16.

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You’ve welcomed the New Year with champagne and taken down the Christmas tree. Now it’s time to panic: The kids are off from school until Feb. 16 and you’ve made no plans to keep them busy. It’s not too late, although some programs report they are already full and starting waiting lists.

As the public schools begin their second winter break since the calendar was revised last year, there are still few inexpensive activities available that go beyond mere baby-sitting. Youth organizations generally schedule their winter programs around the two-week holiday vacation shared by public, private and parochial schools, ignoring the other six weeks that Los Angeles Unified School District schools on the Westside will be closed.

The district is considering returning to the traditional calendar next year, or at least allowing schools in each area to schedule their own vacations. Enrollment at most Westside schools is not high enough to require multitrack classes, but in the interest of fairness, even single-track schools are now required to shut down for a long winter break and curtail the traditional summer vacation.


Despite the confusing, shifting breaks, a persistent parent still can find innovative programs for youngsters, either by the day or week. None are cheap, but some offer financial aid or flexible schedules to accommodate individual family needs.

For example, young tennis players of all levels can find instruction and partners at Schoop’s Tennis at the park in Pacific Palisades, which will offer a Monday-Wednesday-Friday tennis camp from 10:30 a.m. to noon from Monday through Feb. 12. The cost is $65 per week, and campers are encouraged to come early and stay late to practice what they’ve learned. (310-454-1446).

Skiers between 9 and 17 years old can schuss uncrowded slopes on chaperoned one-day bus trips to Mountain High, near Wrightwood, offered by the Sierra Ski and Pack Club (310-826-7000) every Tuesday and Thursday beginning this week. The cost is $56 per trip, including a lift ticket, but drops to $49 if a child signs up for more than one day. Ski rentals are available for $8. Parents are welcome.

Budding architects and furniture builders might want to check out Vitruvius, at 1818 Stanford St. in Santa Monica (310-475-5437), which will supplement its regular afternoon classes with two-hour morning classes on inventions, architecture and animation, and furniture for kids 5 1/2-12. Six two-hour classes cost $150.

And parents who need all-day child care that is affordable and interesting will find a bargain in the Westchester Recreation Center’s $85-per-week program, which runs from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily for the next six weeks. The staff says it will work out an individual program of say, two or three days a week on request (310-670-7473). Activities include crafts, sports, games and weekly field trips.

Here is a sampling of more alternatives for working or otherwise harried parents and their bored offspring:


* UCLA Bruin Kids (310-206-8027): An array of programs for every age group, built around themes of “sea voyagers,” “planet adventure” and “discover L.A.,” throughout the long break, starting Monday. Two-week day camps for ages 5-13 run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with free extended care available. Prices range from $150 to $338, depending on session and hours chosen. Includes sports, whale watching, skiing, museums and a behind-the-scenes look at the film industry. Programs for teen-agers include hip-hop dance, graphic design, architecture, a video shoot, weight training and a behind-the-scenes look at the film and television industry. Financial aid is available.

* Mitch Miller’s Westside Baseball Camp (310-394-8616): Hitting clinic this week at Palisades High School from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., $60; a pitching clinic in the works for February. Kids 7-17 get pointers on their game and rub elbows with baseball stars.

* STEPS (310-454-5636): Enrichment classes in everything from Japanese and Spanish to cooking and creative writing--as well as a special course for sixth-graders in leadership--at Palisades Elementary School, sponsored by the PEP booster club; $100 for one-week session, 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. (with extended care available) starting Jan. 11; $350 for the three-week session starting Jan. 18. All 200 spots are filled, but put your name on the waiting list and more classes may be added.

* STAR (310-459-4839): PTAs at three schools have combined to sponsor a six-week program with a Renaissance theme at Marquez Elementary School, starting Monday. Prices range from $42 to $90 a week, depending on the number of days and hours chosen. Art, theater, costumes and legends of the Renaissance will be featured, along with computer and science classes.

Several other Westside schools are also offering STAR programs. Information: Overland Avenue Elementary (310-838-7308).

* Mar Vista Recreation Center (310-398-5982): Two-week sessions Monday through Feb. 12 for ages 5-12 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; $150 per session, with extended care available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at $2 an hour. Besides sports, crafts, music and cooking, day-campers will go to Disney’s World on Ice, see a play, go bowling and visit Knotts Berry Farm.


* Santa Monica Playhouse (310-394-9779, ext. 630): Four-week winter workshops and stock starting Monday for ages 6-16. $525, including final performance.

* Palms Recreation Center (310-838-3838): Ice skating and other field trips will supplement the usual winter camp sports-crafts-dance-cooking activities. One-week sessions for youngsters 5-11 are $75 each, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with extended care at $2 available from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Junior counselors pay $20.

* Westside YMCA (310-826-4242): Teen winter camp at Big Bear’s Camp Whittle Monday through Friday, $160 plus $40 ski option; same camp for ages 9-11, $150. Also offering a day camp at the Brentwood Youth House Monday through Feb. 12 for ages 5-11; $90 per week, with extended care from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at no extra charge. A winter club for those 12-15 costs $110 a week.

* Palisades-Malibu YMCA (310-454-5591): No day program, but a resident winter camp Jan. 11-15 at Camp Whittle near Big Bear; $160-$250, depending on age and membership status. The rustic experience (in mountain cabins) will include horseback riding, a ropes course, snow play and campfire activities for grades three through eight; grades six through eight will also ski for two days at Snow Summit. Financial aid available.

* Barrington Recreation Center (310-476-4866): Separate day camps (games, sports, crafts and movies) and sports camps (flag football, baseball, basketball and soccer), with some joint activities, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Feb. 12; ages 6-12; $80 a week, extended care available.

* Broadway Gym (310-450-0012): Gymnastics and field trips from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, $48.


* Rustic Canyon Recreation Center (310-454-1412): A six-day youth theater workshop starting Jan 18 and meeting from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday for two weeks; $85; includes voice, dance, and scene study, and will culminate in a showcase performance.

* Westside Art Center (310-395-1443): Starting Jan. 11, discovering art, drawing, painting, ceramics, cartooning, sculpture and performance art classes for children 2 through 12 in studios under the Carousel at the Santa Monica Pier. Call for prices; scholarships available.

* Palisades Recreation Center (310-454-1412): Weeklong day camp for the next six weeks; $80 per session; 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with extended care available for $2 an hour. A well-rounded and supervised sports and crafts program for 5- to 12-year-olds.

* Libraries throughout the Westside offer children’s reading clubs, which generally meet one day a week. Call your local branch for details.