Approximately 45,000 children failed to secure a place in New York City’s highly in-demand free Summer Rising program, according to the city’s education department. The summer program runs for six to seven weeks, offering morning academic instruction and afternoon enrichment activities for kindergarten to eighth-grade students across the five boroughs.
In April, applications for this summer program went live with a few changes to the application process. In contrast to the previous first-come, first-served policy, parents were now required to rank and prioritize a multitude of choices, including Summer Rising locations near them. Students who attend a school that is a Summer Rising location or participated in city-funded after-school programs were supposed to be added to a list and given priority for that site during the selection process.
While there were 110,000 slots available this year, identical to last year’s offering, and even though some of these slots were earmarked for mandated summer school attendees, the program didn’t fully satisfy the demand of its 139,000 applicants. Many families who didn’t receive slots earlier this month are now scrambling to arrange alternate summer arrangements for their children. For many parents, the issue of finding cost-effective childcare has become a significant challenge.
Emma Vadehra, Chief Operating Officer for New York City Public Schools, acknowledged the imbalance in supply and demand, emphasizing that despite being the country’s largest summer program, it could not cater to the number of interested families. She noted that there were only 94,000 spots available this year.
Former mayor Bill de Blasio launched the program two years ago, using federal relief funds to bridge the learning gap caused by the pandemic. Despite an initial turbulent rollout, the program has gained popularity. This year saw key revisions to the application process, enabling applicants to rank their favorite Summer Rising sites and granting priority to children who participate in city-funded after-school programs, along with children in foster care, living in temporary housing, or those with disabilities requiring year-round services.
When speaking to City Council members, Vadehra said, “The basic challenge is that demand outstripped supply pretty dramatically. And so there’s different ways that could have looked, but we just didn’t have enough seats in the program for the number of kids and families that really wanted this program despite the fact that it is the largest summer program we’ve had – and the largest in the country.”
However, despite these changes, many families still find themselves without a Summer Rising spot and are urgently searching for affordable alternatives. NYC Public Schools emphasized that no new slots would be added due to the finite federal funding supporting the program. However, some slots might become available as the department works with the Department of Youth and Community Development to inform families about potentially unclaimed slots in June.