Nearly 30,000 students shut out of city’s popular summer school program

Roughly 138,000 families applied for just 110,000 slots in the program, and funding shortfalls threaten to shrink the program.

Mayor Eric Adams visits a Summer Rising site in Manhattan on July 19, 2023.

Mayor Eric Adams visits a Summer Rising site in Manhattan on July 19, 2023. Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

Around 28,000 New York City students have been shut out of the city’s sprawling, free summer program, according to new figures from the Department of Education. 

This year, roughly 138,000 families applied for a seat in Summer Rising – a free program launched by former Mayor Bill de Blasio during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program, which has 110,000 seats for K-8 students, runs at hundreds of sites across the city in July and August. Teachers provide educational instruction during the morning portion, while a network of community-based organizations partnered with schools offer enrichment activities in the afternoons. The program has been highly popular, redefining summer school as something for all children – not just those who are struggling academically.

"I am thrilled to once again see immense interest in Summer Rising – a program which has quickly become a cornerstone in the lives of our youngest New Yorkers,” schools Chancellor David Banks said in a statement.

Acceptances, sent out earlier this week, were distributed a month earlier than last year, giving families more time to plan and make alternative arrangements if they didn’t receive an offer. Last summer, an initial 45,000 students and their families were left scrambling to find child care after acceptances for the program went out in mid May, a little over a month before the school year ended. 

While a significant number of students will once again be shut out of the program this summer due to limited seats, 100% of applicants living in temporary housing or foster care and certain students with special needs received a spot in the program. Students who learn that they are mandated to attend summer school at the end of the school year are also guaranteed a place in the academic portion of Summer Rising. But other groups of students – including those who currently attend after-school programs operated by the city Department of Youth and Community Development and those who applied to attend a site housed in their current school – are only prioritized for placement, not guaranteed a spot. This year, some of them were not accepted to the program.

Additional seats will likely open up as some families who were accepted turn down the offer. Families are currently able to add themselves to a waitlist in MySchools for any number of programs regardless of whether they applied during the first application process. 

“DYCD and New York City Public Schools are proud of our focus on equity – prioritizing students who have disabilities, are in temporary housing and foster care, or face other barriers,” Keith Howard, commissioner of the city Department of Youth and Community Development, said in a statement.

Despite the program’s popularity, Summer Rising’s future is somewhat uncertain. The program was initially funded with federal stimulus dollars tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, which are set to expire later this year. While New York City Mayor Eric Adams has announced the city would pick up part of the tab to help keep the program going, funding has been cut, scaling back the hours offered to middle schoolers this summer. Future funding is also uncertain.