Learning hubs provide some San Francisco students in-person education

San Francisco took the latest step inching toward normalcy, with some children getting in-person education for the first time since the shelter in place order. Schools in the city have been empty since March.

But now, the city is taking a small step, opening more than 40 learning hubs like the one at the Merced Heights Playground.

"This morning opening the doors, we had two parents who were here before we were," said Renard Monroe from Youth 1st.

While it's not exactly school, Monroe from Youth 1st says, inside, kids are getting guidance from educators helping them navigate distance learning.

"We were all a part of a system and that system was interrupted. Now we're starting to put the pieces back together for these kids and to see the smile on their faces. When they came in this morning [it] was priceless," said Monroe.

The city says the learning hub program is currently serving some 800 students at high risk of getting left behind while schools are closed. It allows kids from low income households, in the foster care system or even those who are experiencing homelessness to learn in a safe place with an educator present.

"We are so excited that we are here, and we've got kids inside, engaging on their Chrome Books and learning and kids running around after participating outside," said Maria Su from San Francisco's Department of Children, Youth and Their Families.

District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai said in addition to the educational opportunities for the kids, the learning hubs also allow parents to re-enter the economy.

"There's a lot of families that are having to choose right now between 'do I stay home and watch the kids, or do I have a place that my kids can go to, a good learning environment, so I can go back to work,'" said Supervisor Safai.

While the program is serving fewer than a thousand students right now, organizers hope to expand and accept as many as 3,000 students.

The city is leveraging public spaces including Recreation and Parks buildings to serve as learning hubs.

"Here they're getting caring adults who are helping them with their technology, helping them with their learning, providing them with some food, managing their break time. Ensuring they get exercise, and allowing the kids to socialize in a very safe way," said Phil Ginsburg from  San Francisco's Recreation and Park Department.

Those learning hubs are expected to remain open through the remainder of this school year. San Francisco could have some pre K-6th graders back in class as soon as September 21.