By Natasha Brown

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The new normal for education across Philadelphia includes so-called “access centers.” They are places students can go to learn digitally if they aren’t able to do classwork at home.

Philadelphia students aren’t entering classrooms to start off the year but some are entering into a safe setting to begin digital learning.

There was lots of fanfare as students entered the Simpson Recreation Center in Frankford Tuesday morning. It’s one of 31 access centers opening Tuesday around Philadelphia. Dozens more will open later this month.

“We wanted to make sure there’s a resource for families and kids in the neighborhood so they had all the support, particularly for parents who have to work and don’t have the ability to support childcare while they are realizing their kids have to do online learning,” said Deputy Mayor of the Office of Children and Families Cynthia Figueroa.

The centers will provide a supervised place for the most vulnerable city students in grades K-6 who need access to digital learning.

“I packed up my Chromebook and all my supplies and put them in my backpack,” Rihanna Alecia said.

Rihanna is starting the 6th grade. She’s the oldest of her two other siblings who will also be using the site.

Some of the parents CBS3 spoke to say they are relieved to have a safe place to take their children during school hours.

“It puts me at ease because I work. I’m a full-time employee so what’s happening is instead of me being at work worrying about them being at a family member’s house, they’re at a center where I know they are getting everything done,” parent Elizabeth Reyes said. “Normally, I would come from work and help them with school work, now I don’t have to worry about that.”

The centers will only house about 22 students at a time. Temperature checks, social distancing and masks are required.

This is just the first phase of opening. Ultimately, there will be 77 centers accommodating as many as 2,200 students.

It’s not a school, kids won’t be surrounded by their classmates and friends but students will gain valuable access to digital lessons in the new form of a school day.

City officials say they’ve been able to register 600 families so far. They are almost at capacity with room for just a few more.

Interested families are encouraged to sign up online for potential spaces in this round and the upcoming second round, when 46 more centers will be opening up on Sept. 21.