As Philadelphia students prepare to head back to school, city officials on Monday announced a slew of programs and initiatives to ensure students are safe and engaged both before and after school as well.
The School District of Philadelphia will once again collaborate with the Philadelphia Police Department as well as local volunteers to ensure students can safely travel to and from school. The PPD is expanding their Safe Zones program, which provides additional uniformed police officers present at school dismissal times — this year, there will be 27 Safe Zones that will encompass 40 district and charter schools.
“Back-to-school season is always an exciting time of year, and we know that the safety of our city’s children is at the top of everyone’s minds,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “As we work together to address the surge in gun violence taking place across the country and in Philadelphia, it is critical that we ensure that the epidemic of gun violence does not impact children or interfere with their learning, development, and wellbeing—and that our schools and the surrounding areas are safe havens from violence, something every student in Philadelphia deserves.”
The School District is also collaborating with The Institute for the Development of African-American Youth, Inc. to hire community members that will patrol routes providing extra supervision. The city also has more than 620 crossing guards actively assigned to locations for the upcoming school year to help students arrive and depart safely.
To help engage students after school hours, The Office of Children and Families will offer various Out-of-School Time (OST) programming to focus on creative and performing arts, athletics and health and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). A majority of OST programs will be located in School District of Philadelphia schools, however, charter, parochial, private and community-based locations such as rec centers will also be available. Programs are offered for all grade levels and residents can find available programs online at phila.gov/OST.
Other programming includes the Free Library’s Literacy Enrichment Afterschool Program (LEAP), which offers homework assistance in-person and tutoring through Homework Help Online. Also, LEAP is hiring local teens who will design and implement programs, and serve as peer mentors to younger LEAP participants.
Parks & Recreation offers programs for ages 6-12 throughout the city. Also, the Department of Human Services now has open enrollment for two youth development programs for ages 12 and up; Intensive Prevention Services is for ages 10 through 19 and offers social, emotional, or academic support; and Community Evening Resource Center programming offers help with homework and provides mentorship with family engagement and conflict resolution.
“We invest in a variety of programs because decades of research confirm that students who participate are more likely to be engaged in learning,” said Vanessa Garrett Harley, Deputy Mayor for Children and Families. “They are also likely to have better school attendance, increased levels of physical activities, and are less likely to become victims of violence or be involved in violent activity.”