By CHRIS GRAMUGLIA
Rye Neck High School students who wish to attend summer school have to pay more than $350 dollars to attend those classes in different districts because Rye Neck does not offer such a service.
Luis Quiros, a Mamaroneck community activist, said the fee is a poverty tax, put in place to deliberately prevent those without the means to pay for the courses from advancing to higher education.
Rye Neck High School Principal Dr. Barbara Ferraro said Quiros is missing the point, and the fee is paid by all students who choose to attend summer school in other districts.
Rye Neck High School students can choose to attend remedial summer classes in any district that offers them, but must pay that district the required fee. At Mamaroneck High School, for example, 20 percent of this year’s summer school students are from out of the district, according to Communications Director Debbie Mannetta. Those out-of-district students were each required to register by June 24 and pay a fee of $350 per class plus textbook fees. If students who failed the New York State Regents exam require a retake, they have to pay an additional cost of $50.
Quiros said these fees are unfair and oftentimes not taken into consideration by those struggling financially.
“How many people plan for a $350 penalty to attend summer school, that’s not a budgeted item,” Quiros said. “I think we have been accustomed to accepting policies where race and economic conditions are not considered. The principal of Rye Neck said to me in person, that [students] ‘don’t have to go.’ That is a racial statement. [A student’s] high school relationship becomes tarnished, which also further hinders their ability to get into better colleges.”
Quiros said that, by charging for students to go to summer school, the Mamaroneck community is hastening a student’s journey into poverty.
“The longer and the harder you make it for a student to be successful in an academic environment, the faster that student will be in a situation where they will eventually be poor,” Quiros said.
A Rye Neck sophomore who wished to remain anonymous said paying the fee to attend remedial programs has put her family under an undue amount of financial stress. “[Paying for summer school] was an issue because my mom has to pay the rent, and I have another sibling. We need to buy food. The summer school fee takes away from the bills we have to pay,” she said.
The unnamed student said she lives on the same street as other students who attend Mamaroneck High School and are not required to pay for the extra classes.
“We are in the same neighborhood,” the student said. “I live on a street where I could have picked either school. It really just depends on the street you live on.”
According to boundary maps of both the Rye Neck and Mamaroneck School districts, streets like Palmer Avenue, Boston Post Road and Forest Avenue are bisected by district boundaries, meaning students who technically live on the same street could wind up going to different school districts. For example, Halstead Avenue runs through both district boundaries, but the location of the student’s home on Halstead is what determines which school system the student must attend.
Ferraro said that Quiros’ allegations don’t focus on the real reasons for Rye Neck’s lack of a summer school program, and there are a number of other factors at play.
“[Quiros] didn’t seem to get the idea that summer school is not required. It’s the school district’s responsibility to make sure the student has the opportunity to have access to all courses needed, and that happens during the months of September to June,” Ferraro said. “The reason that these kids are going is because they failed something, it’s not because the student was denied any course of study.”
Ferraro told The Sound and Town Report that Rye Neck has never offered a summer school program because there was never enough need to warrant it.
“It costs the district money to run summer school, and it’s not profitable for us to do it,” she said. “We’ve never had a summer school program. Smaller districts typically don’t run them.”
Mamaroneck Summer School Principal Chris Kumrow echoed Ferraro’s comments. He said, of the 99 students who attend summer school in the Mamaroneck District, only thirteen came from Rye Neck.
“If you are offering summer school and there are only thirteen kids that need it, it really isn’t cost effective to run something like that,” he said.
Ferraro said it is primarily larger districts like Mamaroneck and White Plains that offer remedial classes during the summer.
Quiros said a possible reason such a low number of students attended from Rye Neck is the financial burden it places on them.
“I think that’s a horrible way of placing it. To me 13 is not a low number,” he said. “We’re talking about a value number here. How many more would have come but can’t because of these financial obstacles?”
Quiros said he believes the summer school tuition money should be reimbursed to students and that an investigation should be conducted regarding how many Latino and African-American students in the county have gotten General Equivalency Diplomas because they did not graduate high school.