MANY AN ANXIOUS public school parent was relieved to hear from D.C. Superintendent Vincent E.Reed late last month that extra classes would be offered to help students make up work lost during the teachers' stride. Starting on April 16, Washington's public schools were going to open an hour early and close an late for eight weeks. Participation would be voluntary; and for junior senior high school students, there would be special tutorial classes, limited to 15 pupils each.

Too bad it didn't happen. Our spot-checks around the city yesterday suggest that any resemblance between what was announced and what's happening in the junior and senior high schools is pathetically coincidental. At some schools, students have recieved little or no word of any programs. At others, there's not a clue as to what subjects will be taught when, by whom or for whom.

At one senior high, a counselor said she didn't know when any classes would be held. What, if anything, might be taught? English and math? "I imagine." At a junior high school, the word was that some classes of some sort might start next Monday or maybe April 30. An inquiry to a regional superindent's office drew an abrupt "Call the school. I don't know whether classes will be morning or afternoon." At still another high school, the report yesterday afternoon was that classes would start today and - yes - "we're calling the parents now." Or this: "We'll start next Monday. . . don't know what subjects. . . we're getting something out to parents. . ."

Some schools, we add, do seem to have their acts together. As far as we could tell, most if not all elementary schools are scheduled to begin extra instruction this morning; and a few junior and senior highs have schedules for this week. If you call the superintendent's office, you may be told that classes began Monday, unless you know better.

To parents-worse yet, to the students who have been so thoroughly shortchanged already-this aimless, lackadaisical response to an educational emergency is as depressing as it is inexcusable. Obviously no one could realistically expect the school administration to whip a perfect makeup system into place in no time flat. But just as obviously, from the moment the teachers' strike began six weeks ago , some detailed catch-up plan for instruction should have been drawn up and ready for prompt, specific, city-wide action once regular classes resumed. It wasn't.