By Reema Amin, Chalkbeat New York
Applications open Monday for New York City’s free, sprawling summer program for children in kindergarten through eighth grade.
The program was first launched in 2021 under former Mayor Bill de Blasio, using federal COVID relief money, as a way to help children ease into school following remote learning. The rollout of the program was bumpy, but for the first time, it provided a mix of academics and enrichment activities to many children beyond those who are mandated to attend summer school.
In its third year, the program will again have 110,000 spots and will be open to any child in New York City, including children who are home-schooled or attend charter or private schools.
But a couple things will be different from last year, including the application process. Spots won’t be assigned on a first come, first served basis this year; instead, parents will rank multiple choices. In another change, students who already attend a school associated with a Summer Rising site will be added to the list of groups receiving priority in selection for that site.
Parents who want to apply should visit this website when the application opens on Monday.
Here’s what you should know about this year’s Summer Rising program:
Programs won’t be in every school. Rather, each school will be associated with one of 374 sites across the five boroughs.
The program length will depend on a few things. Programs will run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. from July 5 to Aug. 18 for children in kindergarten through fifth grade and until Aug. 11 for middle schoolers.
Students with disabilities who have yearlong individualized education programs, or IEPs, will attend programs from July 5 to Aug. 14, from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Students at District 75 schools, which serve children with the most challenging disabilities, will attend programs that run from July 6 to Aug. 15, also from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Students in Nest and Horizon programs, which serve students with autism, who have 12-month IEPs, will attend a monthlong program from July 5 to Aug. 1, from 8 a.m. to noon.
Generally, students will spend the morning on academics and then in the afternoons participate in enrichment activities, such as sports, arts and crafts or going on field trips. Elementary-age children will spend the last week of their program on enrichment activities and trips, according to the education department website. (Enrichment activities are run by community-based organizations.)
Students with disabilities will receive extra services that are mandated in their IEPs, including services from health and behavioral paraprofessionals, according to the department’s website. For these students, their school will create an accommodation plan for the summer that will be provided to their parents and the Summer Rising site before their program begins.
Students with disabilities are supposed to receive services “as needed” during the enrichment portion of the day, according to the department’s website. If a family doesn’t want the enrichment portion, they should contact their child’s school instead of using the online application. These children can choose on the application to participate in extended-day enrichment programming until 6 p.m.
Last year, several families reported that their children did not have special education support by the start of Summer Rising, said Randi Levine, policy director for Advocates for Children. She said it’s “important that planning begin early” so that students aren’t left without the services they need.
Generally, students who are already eligible for busing during the school year — typically in grades K-6 — will receive busing to their summer program but not past 3 p.m. This includes students with disabilities whose IEPs recommend busing, as well as students in temporary housing and students in foster care who are more than a half-mile away from their Summer Rising site.
For children who want to participate in programming until 6 p.m. and need transportation, families will have the option of a prepaid rideshare service. However, a caregiver must take the rideshare service to and from the summer site to pick up their child, which some advocates have said is not manageable for working parents.
Eligible students who receive MetroCards during the school year can also get MetroCards from their Summer Rising site, or if their site is more than a half-mile from their home.
Students who are not eligible for busing during the school year could receive transportation if their regular school is not open for Summer Rising and their site is more than a half-mile away.
Seats rapidly filled up last year, quickly elbowing out many families who wanted to apply, according to some advocacy and community-based organizations.
This year, instead of the first come, first served model, families will be asked to rank up to 12 choices for program sites, “ensuring that more families receive placements that work for them,” according to a news release.
Like last year, priority will be offered to students in temporary housing, in foster care, who are mandated for summer school, and with disabilities who have year-round individualized education programs. But also, students who have a “local connection” to their school will also be prioritized, such as if they attend the school during the year. Last month, city officials said students who attend city subsidized after-school programs will also be prioritized.
Asked how these groups will be ranked, an education department spokesperson said they’re aiming to give every child in a priority group access to their first choice.
The application will close May 1, and families should be notified the following week of where their child will attend the program, according to the department website.
Reema Amin is a reporter covering New York City public schools. Contact Reema at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.