Determined to fill summer classrooms, Schools Chancellor Harold Levy is launching an outreach campaign to convince parents that summer school is valuable and crucial for struggling students.

By tomorrow, parents should receive letters from the Board of Education to announce if children need to attend summer school. A second letter will follow to parents who don’t respond.

Summer school begins July 5 in some schools, and all schools will be open by July 9 for the five-week session.

“I want parents of students who are at risk of being left back a grade to know that they have a huge opportunity this summer,” Levy said in a statement. “They can help their children step up in reading, writing and mathematics and move forward in school.”

As many as 270,000 students could be held back, and the school system is combing through recent standardized tests and checking classwork to cull students who have met the standards and can take the summer off. Of those whose promotions are in doubt, nearly 29,000 were held back last year and could be flunked again.

For the first time, Levy will recommend that children who are not English proficient after three years in bilingual programs spend the summer in an intensive English as a second language program.

The board already has hired 16,000 teachers for the summer program, nearly all it will need. Levy and school board members criticized parents last year for letting children skip summer classes to take vacations or simply to enjoy their childhood.

Last summer, 88 percent of failing students in grades 3 to 8 showed up, but 7,500 kids didn’t attend, the board said. About 64 percent attended in 1999. The chancellor says summer school improves achievement and test scores.

In the “Step Up” Summer School 2001 campaign, the Board of Education also will make thousands of telephone calls to homes and run print and broadcast ads promoting the program.

Parents can call a toll-free hotline, 800-601-5952, if they have questions.

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