PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Starting next week, hundreds of Philadelphia students will be heading to access centers for supervised care while they learn digitally. On Friday, volunteers were working to ensure those children have the supplies they need to start the new school year.
Volunteers started early Friday morning filling hundreds of backpacks with school supplies for children who will be entering access centers on Sept. 8.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to have kids have that feeling of really returning back and starting their year,” Cynthia Figueroa, deputy mayor of the Office of Children and Family Services, said.
Thirty-one access centers will be available for the most vulnerable students in grades K-6 who need a supervised place to go for digital learning. It’s just the first phase of a city initiative that will ultimately accommodate thousands of students.
“The centers are all over the city. The first phase is 31 sites but by the time we get to the second phase, we’ll have 77 sites,” Figueroa said. “The first phase, we’ll have 800 kids and so we have enough backpacks to give to the kids at the centers, and it’s kind of that excitement of new pens, new pencils, the sharpener, the erasers, the notebooks. We’ve added a few other fun things that go into digital learning like headsets so they can have their own independent learning as well as online. By the time we get rolling to the second phase, we’ll be at about 2,200 spots for students throughout the city.”
Volunteers packed as many as 1,000 backpacks filled with the normal school supplies, but there are also reminders of anything but an abnormal school year.
Every child will also get a mandatory mask to wear at all times in the access centers and headsets for individual virtual learning. The centers — mostly set up in recreation centers around the city — will also adhere to social distancing guidelines with limited capacity.
“Small settings, small groups within the rec centers. No rec center will have more than 44 kids,” Kathryn Ott Lovell, commissioner of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, said. “Most rec centers will have around 22 children and again, plenty of adult supervisions and also some fun activities for their downtime.”
Parents will not be allowed into the access centers. Daily temperature checks and symptom checklists will be required for students and staff.