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Crew Proposes Packing N.Y.C. Students Off to Camp

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New York City Schools Chancellor Rudy F. Crew wants to send kids to camp, big time.

The schools chief has pitched a plan that would pay for as many as 10,000 of the city's schoolchildren to attend sleepover camps in the region, starting with about 1,000 this summer. The idea, he says, is to shift learning into another mode and extend it beyond the traditional school year.

"I can't think of a better way to reinforce learning, challenge our children with new material, and provide life experiences that instill teamwork, build character, and offer just plain fun," Mr. Crew said last week in a prepared statement.

The cost of the program, estimated at $2.3 million for the first year and $15 million to $20 million annually by 2002, would be borne by the school system with help from corporate and foundation contributions, according to a draft proposal.

The plan went before a receptive school board last week, but the panel has not decided how much money it would be willing to ante up. President William C. Thompson said that would hinge on how much could be raised from sources other than the school district, including the state.

Mixed Benefits Seen

Under Mr. Crew's plan, 30 to 50 participating schools would be paired with camps in New York state, Connecticut, and New Jersey. Together, they would devise a three- to four-week summer program for students in grades 4-8 that would set aside three hours a day for academics in the camp setting.

Campers might, for example, collect water samples at a lake and examine them under a microscope, or use a camp's computer lab to conduct research on Indians who once lived in the area.

Participating camps would be required to take a teacher from the partner school and 20 or more children, who could be integrated into a regular camp session or form a session of their own.

According to the proposal, principals would select the campers, and they could do so for many reasons--to provide academic help, reward achievement, or simply to give a child whose family would not be able to pay a camp fee a few weeks of outdoor fun.

Ideally, children would attend the camp for two or three summers.

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