The city of Columbus announced Thursday that it is funding "learning extension centers" for students who are doing school online during the worsening COVID-19 pandemic.
These centers allow students in grades K-12 to access high-speed internet, tutoring services and meals that would have been available to them in a physical school setting.
Mayor Andrew Ginther says there are more than 140 such centers across the city serving thousands of students. Some are located in city recreation centers and YMCAs.
“However, some have sprung up organically at local churches, homeless shelters, settlement houses and in other non-profits with the capacity and the will to host them,” Ginther says.
After starting orientation for students to return to classrooms, Columbus City Schools recently reversed course and announced that it would continue with online learning with most students until January, as the pandemic worsens in Franklin County and around the state.
Columbus City Council invested $2 million in the learning extension center project. The city accepted a federal CARES Act grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to enter into a contract with I Know I Can, a local college access nonprofit, to operate the centers. Most of the budget goes towards staffing, volunteer training and background checks.
“This infrastructure will not only allow for more parents to work and more kids to learn, but it will keep our kids safe,” says City Council president Shannon Hardin. “We all know cities around the country are experiencing a spike in gun violence. Columbus is not immune from this public health crisis.”
A project manager, regional coordinators and site coordinators will be based at each learning center. The project manager will serve as a liaison between Columbus City Schools administration, community nonprofits and faith-based organizations.