Thursday morning the City of Columbus will announce the opening of Learning Extension Centers around the city, where students can get reliable internet, meals and some of the wraparound services they would normally get in school.
They will join the 145 sites the Columbus City Schools has recruited to provide students with a safe space to do their school work. Alison Holm has more.
When a statewide order closed schools in mid-March, districts scrambled to find ways to continue learning online, distributing Chromebooks and tablets, and setting up Zoom school rooms. But it didn't take long to realize not all students could take advantage of them. Alesia Gillison, chief engagement officer for the Columbus City Schools says the district tapped into their community partners and began recruiting sites for Learning Extension Centers.
There are currently 145 sites, operating in childcare centers, churches and rec centers around Columbus. Days and hours vary, and some allow students to stop in as needed, while some require parents to sign children in and out. The services are free and the sites are inspected by Ohio Job and Family Services, and Gillison says they provide small groups of students from any district a safe environment and a stable internet connection.
"An LEC is not meant to take the place of a school or teacher. There are volunteers in the LEC's that can help with tutoring, but they are not teaching curriculum. They are providing the space so that a student can come in with their Chromebook, and connect to their learning platform if they don't have internet at home, or if home life is not conducive for being able to focus and pay attention to what's going on in your class."
Gillison says the LECs work with volunteers from Children's Hospital, City Year, I Know I Can, Ohio State, Boys and Girls Clubs, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and other groups.
While there's been an effort to recruit sites across the entire community, Gillison says there are some "LEC deserts" with few opportunities for kids. With the resumption of in-person classes for most students postponed until mid-January, Gillison says there is some discussion of opening Columbus City Schools school buildings in those under served areas, but the LECs there will be limited to small groups of 10 or so students.
On a recent Friday, 11-hundred students attended one of the LECs around Central Ohio.