by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
[W]ith some forward thinking and ingenuity, nonprofits and other community organizations in Cleveland and San Antonio have created in-person learning environments for at-risk students, and are finding ways to bring much-needed normality and a scheduled structure to children’s education.
This response from civil society can be the lifeline for the many low-income families, like the Osbornes, struggling to balance work and their children’s at-home education.
At the forefront of this unique response has been the United Way of Greater Cleveland and the Cleveland Foundation, which partnered with 25 other nonprofits to open over 50 learning centers across the city for at-risk students to take online classes in a safe, supervised space where children can get meals, receive help with school work, and access their online classrooms at these learning centers.
These partnerships have allowed churches, theaters, and other community venues to open up their doors and use their space to help fulfill an important need for some of the students most impacted by the pandemic.
In San Antonio, Catholic Charities provides a free learning space for families living in the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods. There, students can attend online classes, have reliable internet, receive homework help, and get snacks and meals—all while socially distancing.
These learning centers provide a designated place for supervised learning to help students avoid the potentially devastating effects of COVID-19-related learning loss.
A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that having even lightly trained tutors available results in substantial positive effects on students’ academic gains.
The learning centers sponsored by nonprofits are a superb example of civil society innovating and supporting communities in a time of crisis. These centers are offering in-person instruction to students who are most likely to fall behind academically from their public school’s online learning program.