REDWOOD CITY – Today, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors approved $1.5 million to create the Learning Hub Expansion Fund to increase the number of students from socioeconomically disadvantaged families who can participate in “learning hubs” – programs that provide safe, supportive places for K-12 students to engage in distance learning in underserved communities. Grants will be awarded to youth-serving organizations that already run such programs.
“The education gap in San Mateo County between socioeconomically disadvantaged students and their peers has widened dramatically due to COVID-19,” said Supervisor Dave Pine, who championed the effort. “With the ongoing requirement for distance learning, students who are already facing hardships are encountering additional challenges and risk falling behind. By expanding the capacity of learning hubs, we can provide connected and supportive learning environments so that all students have the opportunity to succeed and thrive.”
Among the challenges faced by students from lower income families are crowded homes, parents who may work outside of the home, inconsistent internet access and lack of appropriate digital devices.
Successful learning hub programs already exist in many communities in the county. Key aspects of these model programs include a partnership between a school district or city and an existing afterschool or other youth-serving program, and tuition assistance/subsidies for participating students. Existing learning hubs, for example, in South San Francisco are operated by the Boys and Girls Club of North San Mateo County in partnership with the South San Francisco Unified School District. Separately the Lewis and Joan Platt East Palo Alto Family YMCA and East Palo Alto Tennis Club operate learning hubs to support students from the Ravenswood School District.
Local school districts have seen a spike in failing grades and absenteeism among low-income students and other vulnerable groups. For example, in fall 2020, 29% of Sequoia Union High School District students earned more than two Ds or Fs, up from 20% last year. Fifty-five percent of these students were socioeconomically disadvantaged students, even though they represent only 36% of the district’s student body. Along similar lines, absences among Pacific Islander and Latinx students enrolled in the San Mateo Union High School District increased by almost 16% and 7%, respectively, during the same time frame.
“Learning hubs represent a unique opportunity for students to access technology and support during the remainder of this school year,” said Supervisor Carole Groom, co-sponsor of the measure. “The pandemic is taking a toll on many students in San Mateo County and we must make every effort to level the playing field and support academic success.”
Eligibility for grants from the Learning Hubs Expansion Fund will be limited to non-profit providers and public entities (such as cities and school districts) that commit to using grant funds to expand the number of available learning hub slots for socioeconomically disadvantaged students and that meet approved criteria. The grant fund will be administered by a partnership between the Community Equity Collaborative and the San Mateo Credit Union Community Fund.
The application opens Wednesday, January 27 at 9am. All applications must be received by Wednesday, February 10 at 5pm. For more information and to apply visit: bit.ly/LearningHubsInitiative or contact Heather Hopkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.