By Florence Mafomemeh
Ray McGuire, NYC candidate for Mayor has proposed a full-time Summer “Catch-Up” to make up for the school year lost to COVID-19. In his 5-page Plan which his campaign shared with NYCPolitics.com, McGuire says, the vast majority of students have experienced what amounts to a “lost year” of education and development. Yet the City still doesn’t have a clear strategy to help students who have experienced significant learning loss, or even fully acknowledged the severity of the problem.
“The impact is likely to be felt even more by lower-income students who have limited access to the technology and high-speed internet distance learning depends on, as well as the resources for private tutoring and other extracurricular support. This issue has exacerbated the inequities in a system that was already failing too many of our kids” the plan stated.”
The 64-year-old former Citigroup executive presents an aggressive summer instruction plan which he says should begin immediately and would be further implemented under his administration. He says the DOE should “open public schools for full-time in-person summer sessions and offer extended school hours and weekend instruction based on student need during the 2021-2022 school year.”
“The summer is an opportunity for schools to help students continue to regain skills and competencies lost during the last year, and DOE be prepared to continue summer sessions for additional years as needed based on ongoing student assessments” the plan said.
The Manhattan resident who announced his candidacy in October 2020 says the focus of the effort will be on accelerating learning so that students can move forward instead of falling further behind. “Typically, summer school is associated with remediation and making sure students are not retained in the same grade. These summer sessions should be designed for every child and the whole child, and explicitly be designed to “recreate a sense of in-person belonging” and include all the richness a school environment can offer.”
Aware that students would be reluctant to attend these summer sessions after being locked down at home for over a year, McGuire says additional programming could be incentives for students to enroll in these summer sessions while the primary focus of instruction would be on core proficiencies.
“This could include field days and summer sports leagues; physical education, health, art, music, dance, theater, newspaper, debate, and civics; as well as whatever enrichment programs individual schools usually offer during the year.”
The Harvard graduate and father of three says he would work with the UFT and Council of School Supervisors & Administrators (CSA) to develop and implement these programs and work must begin immediately on plans to accommodate more students.
“All Public School students should be enrolled by default, with families having the option to opt out if they would prefer to have their children engaged in summer jobs, travel, or other activities” the plan stated.
The former Wall Street executive says if he becomes Mayor, he will bring in retired educators to get his plan done. He would “launch a Catch-Up Volunteer Corps, recruiting retired teachers to serve as tutors, coaches, and teaching assistants.” McGuire believes many retired educators would be interested in finding ways to help kids overcome the learning loss crisis.
The McGuire Plan comes on the heels of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) five-point plan that includes extended summer learning programs to deal with the effects of the pandemic on public school students. Unlike McGuire’s full-time, extensive Summer plan, the Union’s plan focuses on remediation and in-person learning. The Teachers Union which has been critical of the City’s handling of schools in the pandemic, calls on the city and the state to adopt their plan and earmark more than $1 billion to address the psychological effects and academic learning losses in New York City.
McGuire’s plan comes when Meisha Ross Porter who takes over as Chancellor also seeks to expand Summer School.
After being locked down for over a year and stuck with learning devices, the McGuire Catch-Up plan is received with mixed reactions among parents, students and teachers. Ngueseh Wapime, a senior at Benjamin Banneker Academy in Brooklyn says he doesn’t like the idea. “Summer is the time I am supposed to be having a break from school and stressful assignments and you are taking that away. If the idea is implemented, that means I will be in school for 21 straight months without a long break.” “The pandemic has already made things worse and kept me inside all this time.” said Ngues,
“Ew! No! Summer is supposed to be a time that you go outside and relax. Having full-time Summer just defeats the purpose. Doing school all year round is boring” said Afeseh W., a Freshman at Brooklyn Technical High School.
Meanwhile, the reaction among parents is mixed. Amiecia Benjamin, a parent of two elementary students in East New York says it will be a good plan if students get some summer break as well. “I will be all in because my kids need a lot of help, but don’t take away all of the Summer.”
As for Bronx parent, Modou Nyang, it’s a no. “I don’t want it. I want a break. What was lost, was lost. School starts immediately after that in September and the kids need a break before then.” Nyang says having a break is much more important for the kids.
However, teachers seem open to the plan if they will be compensated for the full-time teaching. “It all depends on what the Union says about it. As long as there are funds, I’ll be willing to do it. And also, if there’ll be a break too,” says Sarah Walsh, a teacher at Benjamin Banneker Academy.
I reached out to the UFT to get their thoughts on the McGuire Catch-Up Plan and they responded in an email saying “The UFT has called for federal COVID funds to finance an aggressive summer program to address academic and social-emotion loss.” The email adds that the UFT is in the process of vetting mayoral candidates with a goal of making an endorsement in April and that part of that internal vetting includes a review of all candidates’ education platforms.