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With a new school year just under two weeks away, students, teachers, and parents in San Francisco face a new back-to-school routine, devoid of the usual school supply and clothes shopping that usually marks the end of summer.

For some families, parents hope to recapture interruption-free Zoom meetings and take snack breaks on their own terms. For other families, their concerns extend further than finding more than three minutes, 24 seconds of uninterrupted work time. 

In a recent briefing on education in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom recognized the challenges presented by distance learning; in addition to limiting the individualized attention each student receives, it negatively impacts the social-emotional learning and development of students. 

Teachers miss their students. Students miss their friends. Many youth struggle to access support systems they have outside of their homes. On a systemic level, being limited to distance learning disproportionally affects low-income families who do not have spare resources to ensure their students receive the same enrichment opportunities as they do in school. 

School districts around California had hoped to offer a gradual hybrid online and in-person instruction combination to students and families. However, with the City opening more slowly than anticipated, families have called on leaders to develop alternative solutions and our community has risen to the challenge.

This school year, Mission Graduates and other community organizations have partnered with the City of San Francisco, San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), and the Department of Children, Youth, and Their Families (DCYF) to plan and provide Community Learning Hubs throughout the city. These Community Learning Hubs will nurture safe, neighborhood-based locations for SFUSD’s Distance Learning Curriculum and student support services. 

Mayor London Breed has provided directives to ensure that the Community Learning Centers serve the intended communities. In her July 23 press release, she notes that they are designed to support children and youth from low-income households; residents of HOPE SF, public housing, and single room occupancy hotels; youth experiencing homelessness; foster youth; and English Language Learners.

Enrolled families can expect in-person support for children and youth, support with distance learning, access to WiFi and digital learning services, healthy snacks and meals, enrichment activities, outdoor recreation & physical activities, and mental health, wellness, and family support resources – all while practicing CDC and local health official guidelines.

SFUSD has planned to launch the Community Learning Hubs to open shortly after the start of the school year. The fall semester will start on August 17, 2020, as scheduled. Between August 15 and September 4, SFUSD will open enrollments for the program; enrollment will prioritize matching high-need youth to Community Learning Hubs in their respective neighborhoods. Shortly thereafter, on September 14, SFUSD will launch more than 40 sites around the city. 

Since initial school closures in Spring, Mission Graduates has been working hard to rise to the new challenges in education. We partnered with SFUSD in March to distribute Chromebooks and Internet hotspots to students and to educate families on accessing digital resources. Over the summer, we launched MG Academy – a virtual program designed to supplement Community Learning Hubs and enrich education at home. 

We want to keep that energy going! We’re looking forward to continuing our initiatives, empowering low-income and immigrant youth, and coming together as a community through Community Learning Centers. 

After all, it takes a village.

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