Philadelphia School District addresses food and internet concerns during virtual learning

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The School District of Philadelphia addressed two big concerns that were brought up since the pandemic began: making sure students who rely on school lunches still are provided with food and making sure everyone has access to carry out their classes online.

Superintendent Dr. William Hite outlined the ins and outs of a virtual start to the school year.

Schools will continue with food distribution sites like they did in the summer, and Chromebooks will be handed out.

The district is also working with internet providers to make sure students have reliable service.

But Philadelphia Futures scholar and rising senior Yasmin Kotb says having to carry out most of her senior year online is simply heartbreaking.

"Online was kind of stressful for me when we were doing it the past couple of months. It was a very difficult transition," Northeast High School senior Yasmin Kotb said.

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Ever since schools were forced to go virtual back in March, the non-profit Philadelphia Futures which serves low income, first-generation college students the organization was forced to act quickly with more than half of the 700 students they help having no access to the internet.

"We can give all the Chromebooks we want but if it turns on and it doesn't connect it's not going to do you any good," Philadelphia Futures Executive Director Sara Woods said.

And according to a recent US Census Bureau survey, in the Philadelphia metro area race plays a big role with only 28 percent of Hispanic households with children in school saying they have internet access always available for educational purposes, 54 percent of Black households ... and a huge jump with 79 percent of white households.

Philadelphia Futures gives the school district credit for working with internet companies but they say the other big obstacle when everything happened: food.

"Our biggest concern in those first four weeks was delivering gift cards to students so they could get food for them and their families because their families were among the first to lose their jobs or were essential workers where they were right on the front lines," Woods said.

Now in addition to these concerns, the other big priority for Philadelphia Futures is making sure that their students are mentally and emotionally ok being at home especially given how isolating this time is for many children. They are connecting some with mentors or therapists if needed.
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