Thousands of Pupils Start Saturday Classes in English, Math and Science

While their friends slept late or scurried off to ballet classes, tens of thousands of New York City schoolchildren went to school on Saturday for either remedial or enrichment classes in English, math and science.

The Saturday classes are being offered to 34,000 children in second through 12th grades in 26 of the city’s 32 community school districts, officials said yesterday. They were conceived by Deputy Chancellor Judith A. Rizzo and championed by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani in his State of the City address in January.

The program is smaller, however, than anticipated last January, when Mr. Giuliani proposed sending 84,000 struggling New York City schoolchildren to school for a sixth day.

Board of Education officials said yesterday that the city provided only $8.4 million this year, enough for a smaller program through the end of the school year. The program will be expanded to its full size in September, at a cost of $34 million, officials said. It is the first time in recent memory that the board has provided a sixth day of school on such a large scale, officials said.

Chancellor Harold O. Levy said he was pleased with the scope of the program given the short time the school system had to prepare.

“From the time that the mayor announced it in his address to the time that it became clear what the funding level would be a few weeks later, to have the program running all across the city and be a quality program I think is a considerable achievement and will benefit the children significantly,” Mr. Levy said.

Although most of the classes began last Saturday, a handful began on March 3 in four districts, board officials said.

In Harlem on Saturday, children carrying backpacks could be seen streaming into Public School 153, the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. School, at Amsterdam Avenue near 146th Street, as their classmates scampered off to ballet classes at a nearby dance school. “I like it,” one 8-year-old girl said shyly, as she turned into the school.

There are three types of classes being offered around the city, officials said: intensive intervention for children who are trailing far behind state and city standards, accelerated classes for children who are doing well, and tutorials for high school students who need help to pass the state Regents examinations now required for graduation.

Math and science classes are being offered to 18,000 students, and English classes are being given to 16,000 students. The English classes are for students who have been in either bilingual classes or classes in English as a second language for more than three years, yet have not made enough progress in learning English.

Courses are being taught by Board of Education teachers who answered advertisements for the job. Certified teachers were given priority, although there are shortages of certified math, science and bilingual education teachers systemwide.

Officials could not provide information yesterday on how many students attended the classes Saturday or how many of the teachers were certified. They said their focus was on making sure the classes were available for students who wanted them, rather than on forcing students to go.

The opening of the program was delayed two or three weeks, officials said, as the board negotiated some details of how it would be structured with the teachers’ union.

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