TAMPA, Fla. -- One of the biggest concerns for parents around Southeast Seminole Heights is that when the sun goes down Friday night, it marks the beginning of fall break.
Hillsborough County students are off all next week ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, and lots of parents are worried about letting their kids play outside with a killer on the loose.
It is the first time since the shootings have occurred that students are going to be out of school for an extended period of time.
Alex Lopez, playing with her daughter at a local park Friday, says she is worried about her own child and the other kids in Seminole Heights.
“I mean, at school, at least you know they're safe. But now all the kids are out. And we have to go to work.,” said Lopez.
A lot of parents have similar concerns.
“They're going to be outside. And that's not safe right now,” said one mother, who preferred her name be withheld. “Because you don't know what his mind is on.”
She says she won't let her own daughter play outside these days. She even rushing her from the car to the front door every time they get home.
The mother was willing to say the words a lot of parents are thinking.
“If this person is out here, he might start targeting kids. It's like he has no care,” she said. “So if you're harming just any person walking down the street, you may feel like I want to harm some kids next.”
Fortunately, before the shootings ever happened, the city of Tampa had already planned for a Fall Break camp. Seven rec centers around the city will be open from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.
“We want those parents or parent to know that they have a safe place to drop the kids off, that they will be taken care of, that there will be adults there, and that they will be in a healthy and wholesome environment. And that's what we're here for,” said Mayor Bob Buckhorn.
Four of the seven rec centers are within a few miles of Southeast Seminole Heights.
Registration is free, and can be easily accessed online through Tampa's parks and recreation website.
“So, at least we have some sort of adult supervision kind of keeping an eye out on them not having them by themselves,” said Lopez, who was grateful for the option.
“These kids need to be there, picked up and not walking home,” said Wallace, “because I see so many kids walking home alone. And it shouldn't be like that. The camps will be perfect, but it's up to the parents to get them to the camp and pick them up.”
City officials say there will be ample supervision on-hand and regular police patrols, especially at those rec centers closest to Seminole Heights.
The recreation centers that will be open for free are:
- Benito Playground Activity Center
10065 Cross Creek Blvd.
- Forest Hills Community Center
724 W 109th Ave.
- Henry & Ola Center
502 W. Henry Ave.
- Jackson Heights Center
3310 E. Lake Ave.
- Temple Crest Community Center
8116 N 37th St.
- Wellswood Center
4918 E. Osborne Ave.
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