First Semester of San Francisco's Community Hubs Provide Safe, Equitable Learning Opportunities for Students
Mayor Breed’s Community Hubs Initiative serves 2,000 San Francisco students -- 96% of whom are students of color -- with in-person support for distance learning, healthy meals and snacks, and recreation opportunities while experiencing no COVID-19 outbreaks
San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed and Department of Children, Youth and Their Families’ Director Maria Su today announced that San Francisco’s Community Hubs Initiative for youth has successfully completed the first semester of the 2020-2021 school year. The Community Hubs Initiative for youth, which provides in-person support for distance learning and out of school time activities for San Francisco’s highest needs children and youth, currently serves 2,000 students at 78 locations throughout the City. The next semester will begin on Tuesday, January 5, 2021.
City departments, the San Francisco Unified School District, community partners, and the private sector joined the Mayor’s call to action to ensure our City’s most vulnerable students continue to have the support and resources they need to learn, grow, and thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, Comcast announced it will provide 800 family households within the Community Hub Initiative with a laptop computer and 12 months of Internet at home for eligible families through its Internet Essentials program.
“Early on in our response to COVID-19, we understood that we needed to prioritize our young people and make sure our most vulnerable and highest needs students had the resources and support they needed during the pandemic. We knew it would take a village to create this new program, and provide a safe place for kids to get help with distance learning, have healthy food, and just have a place where they could be kids and socialize with their friends,” said Mayor Breed. “Thanks to the work of many City departments, our community partners who are running these hubs day in and day out, and private sector supporters, we’ve been able to create something amazing for the highest need students and their families.”
“I don’t know what I would have done if it wasn’t for the Community Hubs, I would be jobless if my daughter didn’t have a place to go for support,” said Shashona H., a parent of an 4th grade SFUSD student who currently participates in the Youth 1st Community Hub program at Merced Heights Playground. “Not being stuck in our apartment, my daughter has more freedom as she learns, plays and interacts with other kids. She is safe at the Hub, I appreciate how the classroom and playground are constantly cleaned and sanitized. The staff care for our kids and remind them to wash their hands and wear their masks. Being there is like being with family.”
From the outset of the program, the City has utilized a focused enrollment model for the Initiative. The City established priority populations for the Community Hubs, which include families who are residents of public housing, families living in RV parks, and families living in single occupancy hotels (SROs); families that are experiencing homelessness; children in the foster care system; English language learners; and low-income families, with a focus on historically impacted communities, including people who identify as African American, Latino/a/x, Native American, Pacific Islander, and/or Asian. Higher enrollment priority was granted for families that are involved with multiple social service systems, are part of multiple priority populations, and families that do not have reliable internet access or digital learning devices at home.
Community Hubs are hosted at Recreation and Park Department recreation centers, Public Library branches, churches, cultural centers, and at sites owned or operated by community-based organizations. Of the approximately 2,000 youth enrolled in the Community Hub Initiative, 96% of the youth are youth of color. 444 are residents of public housing, 152 are homeless, 64 live in SROs, 18 are foster youth, and 287 require language supports.
DCYF, the Recreation and Park Department, and the Library have led a collaboration of agencies from across City government to administer the Community Hub Initiative. The Department of Public Health, City Administrator, Department of Technology, COVID Command Center, Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD), HOPE SF, Human Services Agency, 311, and the San Francisco Unified School District joined forces to host Hubs, identify eligible families, conduct community outreach, provide equipment, and support program implementation.
“While 2020 has certainly not been ‘an ordinary year,’ it has brought out the extraordinary, especially when it comes to the collaborative partnerships between city government, the school district, community-based organizations, and the private sector partners that are serving our communities,” said Maria Su, Director, DCYF. “Throughout the pandemic, our community partners have consistently been on the front lines, rapidly responding to the needs of our communities by providing essential supports. From joining the City to stand up the Emergency Child and Youth Care program in the spring, to providing camps, programs, and childcare during the summer, to implementing the City’s Community Hub Initiative in the fall, our partners are San Francisco’s educational and youth development first responders.”
The Community Hubs are required to follow strict health and safety protocols in accordance with state and local health orders, directives and guidance. To date, none of the Community Hubs have experienced COVID-19 outbreaks. Each Hub is required to operate based on a City-approved Health and Safety Plan, which includes face covering and physical distancing requirements; regular COVID-19 testing for staff; consistent, small cohorts of 14 children/youth and two staff with no mixing between cohorts; and regular cleaning, handwashing, and sanitizing. The health, safety and well-being of the Community Hubs’ children, youth, staff and their families are of highest priority. The Initiative’s success in maintaining health and safety protocols across 78 Hub sites provides meaningful data and research for the Department of Public Health and the City’s COVID Command Center as they help inform and guide San Francisco schools on how to reopen safely.
“The YMCA of San Francisco has always prioritized the safety of children—emotional and physical—and staff. That is evermore present while working through this pandemic,” said Betty Sells-Asberry, Associate Executive Director of the Embarcadero and SYL Central YMCA. “We are so proud of the effort staff are making to keep the youth and themselves safe, the willingness and effort youth are making to keep themselves and their community safe. From the simple reminders to each other to keep your masks on, to the difficulty of physical separation, we have not experienced any COVID outbreak, or any instances of infection caused from exposure in our hub.”
In addition to ensuring the health and safety of participants and staff, the Community Hubs have established a public-private partnership that is working to mitigate San Francisco’s digital divide. The Department of Technology helped stock the Community Hubs with digital learning equipment and ensured connectivity at City sites, MOHCD’s Digital Equity Initiative assessed sites for their suitability for distance learning, and Comcast worked with over 30 community-based organizations to connect their Community Hub sites with high-speed internet service.
“The Department of Technology is honored to assist in connecting students with their teachers to help the City’s most vulnerable children continue their education,” said City Chief Information Officer Linda Gerull. “We were proud to contribute to this effort by supplying computers, coordinating with the school district to make the computers distance learning ready, providing the hubs and City affordable housing sites with Internet connections, and working with MOHCD to identify and fill connectivity gaps.”
“Comcast is proud to partner with the City of San Francisco to power more than 30 Community Hubs in our most vulnerable neighborhoods and to support a full continuum of learning for thousands of San Francisco students,” said John Gauder, Regional Senior Vice President, Comcast California. “By providing robust WiFi coverage at safe and secure spaces, Comcast intends to help thousands of low-income students get online, participate in distance learning and do their homework.”
In addition to powering the Community Hub locations through its Comcast “Lift Zones” program, Comcast donated $140,000 to Give2SF to support digital literacy training, food insecurity efforts during the pandemic and holiday season, and other services offered at the Community Hubs.
Comcast will also provide 800 family households of the Community Hub Initiative with a laptop computer and 12 months of Internet at home (for eligible families), through its Internet Essentials program. The Comcast Lift Zones program complements Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, which, since 2011, has helped connect more than 8 million low-income people to the Internet at home. This includes more than one million residents across California, which is the number one state in terms of overall participation in the Internet Essentials program.
“Since day one of the pandemic, the men and women of the Recreation and Parks Department stepped up to ensure the City's kids were healthy, happy and safe,” said Phil Ginsburg, General Manager of the Recreation and Parks Department. “We are happy to continue that effort with the many partners making the Community Hubs a success.”
“San Francisco Public Library is here for our community,” said City Librarian Michael Lambert. “We are happy to be able to provide safe and welcoming spaces for students where they can get the support they need to have a successful academic year, and to give parents and caregivers peace of mind so that they can continue their important work knowing their kids are in good hands.”
For more information about the Community Hubs Initiative, go to dcyf.org/care. The City and County of San Francisco can accept tax-deductible monetary contributions for the City’s COVID-19 response and recovery efforts. To make a contribution to Give2SF to support the City’s Community Hubs Initiative, visit https://sf.gov/give-city-respond-covid-19.