Philadelphia prepares to open access centers for online learning

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia opens the first wave of access centers Tuesday, where children can be supervised while they log onto their virtual classes. 

City recreation centers, libraries and Philadelphia Housing Authority sites are home to the first 31 access centers, where low-income parents who have to work during the day can take their children for online school. 

Deputy Mayor Cynthia Figueroa told reporters Thursday that those centers are mostly full. She says the 31 sites can accommodate 800 students in grades kindergarten through sixth grade, and 600 slots have been filled so far. 

“Site staff will ensure that students are logged onto their learning platform and provide meals as well as enrichment activities,” Figueroa said.

School District of Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite reminded parents that the virtual lessons are being conducted online through Chromebooks, and not by teachers at the sites. “The access centers are places where the children will be under some supervision but the teaching will be done by district staff that are not at the access centers,” Hite said.

Figueroa says parents have to register before bringing their their children.

“It is an enrollment process. So it’s not just that you fill out the form,” she said. “We have to connect with the family and connect them with the right site.  So we’re feeling like the 800 slots will be near full.”

Figueroa said a second group of sites is expected to open September 21, bringing the total capacity to 2200 children.

They’re also not drop-off centers. Families have to pre-register and meet eligibility requirements. Figueroa says 1,400 families have qualified so far.  And after a second group of 46 centers opens in two weeks, she says the program will be able to serve 2,200 children.​