The Philadelphia Housing Authority(PHA) has partnered with the School District of Philadelphia, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Philadelphia and the City of Philadelphia to make sure its residents have everything they need for successful virtual learning.
Boys and Girls Clubs of Philadelphia CEO Lisabeth Marziello said this partnership allows PHA and the Boys and Girls Club to come together for a common mission.
“We both want to make sure that kids and families are getting the things that they need to be the most successful and Boys and Girls Clubs of Philadelphia have been here for over 130 years and we’ve always strived to make sure that we’re helping kids to become the most productive and caring and responsible citizens that they can be. And this is one of those opportunities,” Marziello said.
PHA Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Development and Operating Officer Lopa P. Kolluri said PHA kids are the most vulnerable children throughout the city and they need access to things that are readily available to their more affluent counterparts.
“Often, we find that these students have the least access to things like the internet or laptops,” Kolluri said. “In this particular case, as the city moves into virtual learning, it was important for us to ensure that our kids had access to the resources that the school district and the city provided to all the kids across the city. By PHA partnering with the school district, we could really ensure that the school district was able to reach the most vulnerable in our society, and in our communities, which are PHA residents.”
The partnership provides programs that give students access to laptops, digital access, remote tutoring as well as providing training for lab monitors.
Because of COVID-19, the School District of Philadelphia loaned a Chromebook to every student in grades K-12 that needed one, so they could ensure that all students had access to digital learning opportunities while schools remain closed.
Although the school district offered Chromebooks for use, not every student picked theirs up, including a number of students living in PHA housing.
“The school district was having difficulty reaching and finding students to take advantage of picking up the Chromebooks so we were able to make that connection for them,” Kolluri said.
For PHA, getting the laptops in the hands of students was paramount followed by making sure residents were internet ready for virtual learning.
“We know that the city has said that they’ve been working with the internet providers and they’re trying to reach 35,000 households over the next three years,” Kolluri said. “The city has rolled out an initiative for families or students across the city to dial 211 to get access to the internet but there are many families that are not calling or who may not know about it. We’re on the front lines with our residents so we’re able to push out that information and reach our residents and to let them know, of the services and supports that are being provided by the school district and by the city and ensuring they are taking advantage and have access and are getting these services that are available to the rest of the students in the city.”
Most of the PHA properties are equipped with a computer lab staffed by residents so as part of this digital learning partnership, selected residents will become School District-trained Computer Lab Monitors and will be on hand to assist students with tech and connectivity questions.
The City of Philadelphia is offering remote assistance for students, Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the JFS Center, Vaux High School and Lucian E. Blackwell Center. The City will provide staff at all 3 sites and hotspots for the youth as well as food.
The Boys and Girls Clubs of Philadelphia will provide remote access learning assistants to help students with virtual learning questions. They will be available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Abbottsford Homes, Johnson Homes, Raymond Rosen, Harrison Plaza, Wilson Park, Paschal Village, Spring Garden, Bartram Village, Fairhill Apartments.
Boys and Girls Clubs of Philadelphia CEO said partnerships like this one, for digital learning, are more important now than ever.
“A partnership with the Philadelphia Housing Authority and the Boys and Girls Club has been in existence for over 10 years,” Marziello said. “Recently during the pandemic we have definitely stepped up to work in partnership with them to make sure that some of our most vulnerable kids and families are getting their needs met.”