The access centers are a resource for working parents who cannot afford childcare. Parents are able to drop off their kids at one of 77 total access sites across the city. The children will be able to participate in virtual learning while supervised. Staff will provide food as well as activities.
"The access centers are cohorts, you have to be registered and it's the same children who come to the centers," said Superintendent Dr. William Hite with the School District of Philadelphia.
Prior registration is required and site capacity is limited to adhere to health and safety guidelines. Priority is given to children of caregivers who need to work outside the home and cannot provide or afford supervision. The first phase of 31 access centers opened on September 8.
COVID-19 has made this year a challenge for working parents, as they juggle working and helping their kids with virtual learning.
"Without that help with my cousin in Jersey, it would have been rather very difficult," said North Philadelphia resident Sylana Christopher. "I probably would have had to quit my job."
In a statement, the school district said, "77 access centers can serve over 2,100 K-6 students during digital learning time this fall. Access centers are located at Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, Free Library, Philadelphia Housing Authority, and Office of Children and Families Out-of-School Time network sites. Sunrise of Philadelphia, Inc. operates a network site in the Trinity Lutheran Church building."
Action News asked Dr. Hite if the access centers could put children at risk for spreading the coronavirus.
"We've also had experience with the childcare and summer camps and neither of those produced an increase in cases of COVID-19, and because they were using the appropriate protocols," said Dr. Hite. "Access centers are designed around those similar models."
Dr. Jessica Kendorski, chair of the School Psychology Department at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, said active supervised learning is most beneficial for children whose parents have to focus on work.
For struggling students and parents, she has some advice.
"I think it's really important for parents and kids to kind of work out a schedule," said Kendorski. "So if they're going to the access center or they're at home, you work out a schedule of what your schedule is going to look like."
CLICK HERE to view all the sites and find eligibility information. Eligible families can fill out the online interest form to start the registration process. Those who need help filling out the form can call (215) 709-5366, Monday-Friday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Filling out the interest form is the first step for registration, but does not guarantee placement in an access center.