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Summer Rising, the city’s free summer school program, kicked off Tuesday morning with more than 200,000 students returning to classrooms, according to preliminary data from the Department of Education.
On July 6, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor of Schools Meisha Ross Porter celebrated the launch of the program by welcoming students and families to PS 6 on Norma Adams Clemons Academy at Flatbush. Many families queuing in the morning were overjoyed that their children finally had the chance to interact with their classmates and teachers after months of virtual school attendance.
PS 6 students spent their mornings in reading and writing workshops and spent the afternoons participating in extracurricular activities such as music, theater and art classes or playing sports. Students enrolled in Summer Rising start their days at 8:00 a.m. and are dismissed at 4:00 p.m.
If Summer Rising took off well at PS 6, which currently welcomes 296 children, this was not the case at all of the 800 sites in the five boroughs participating in the program. Sunshine Abuyen, a public school mom from Oakland Gardens in Queens, described the scene outside the Summer Rising site assigned to her 10-year-old daughter, PS 376 in Bayside, as chaotic with administrators scrambling for manage the dozens of parents who drop off their children.
“It was very disorganized,” Abuyen told the New York subway. “There was no order.” The lack of organization that Abuyen witnessed Tuesday morning is part of a logic. Parents complained for weeks about the program’s confusing enrollment process and the Ministry of Education‘s lack of communication.
Earlier this summer, interested parents were asked to visit the DOE website and select a school of their choice that offered Summer Rising and wait for an email from the department indicating where their children had been assigned. Many families waited weeks without a word from the DOE, and some saw their children affected in schools in remote neighborhoods.
A mother in Queens did not receive her child’s assigned school until the day before Summer Rising began, and several parents told amNewYork Metro that they had not received any emails from their school’s school. child with a room assignment before 2:00 am Tuesday morning.
Parents of students with disabilities feared for weeks their children would be excluded from free summer schooling due to DOE’s silence on transportation to and from the program. The city normally transports thousands of disabled students from public schools to and from the school. The ministry waited a week before the programs to offer families of students with disabilities travel reimbursements to and from Summer Rising sites.
Principals and community organizations delivering Summer Rising extracurricular activities have also been looped throughout the preparation for Summer Rising. Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter last week emailed principals informing them that they should prepare to serve all students interested in visiting their site, which sent administrators to scramble to resolve spacing issues and staff shortages over the July 4th weekend.
“This whole problem could and should have been avoided months ago,” said Mark Cannizzaro, chairman of the Board of Supervisors and School Administrators, the city’s main union. Cannizzaro said union representatives from amNewYork Metro explained to DOE earlier this year that CBOs have certain capacity limits for students this summer. As a result, some schools may not have enough staff to properly organize and socially distance students from schools, Cannizzaro said.
De Blasio addressed the bumpy start to the program at a press conference on Tuesday. “It has never been done before in this city. It’s the biggest effort we’ve seen in a summer in this city and it’s exactly the right time for it, ”said de Blasio. “So you will always have things to sort out… we also saw a high level of demand and a lot of desire from parents… so we were really following the request and making adjustments as it went. ”
Of the approximately 200,000 students enrolled in Summer Rising, approximately 80,000 are high school students and another 86,000 are kindergarten to grade eight students. In addition, about 23,000 students from District 75, which serves the city’s most disabled children, and extended school year students are enrolled in the summer program, according to DOE data.
Additional reporting by Dean Moses.