What does it mean to go back to school when school buildings are closed? As Boston Public Schools began the year with to a fully-remote teaching model, we put measures in place to be able to invite our young people  to join us during the day for virtual learning support and after-school enrichment. We created physically distanced “learning hubs” for young people who are grouped together by age/grade level in different rooms and which are led by a consistent set of supportive staff members. 

Within each hub, we support student success by offering technology troubleshooting and help understanding schedules and instructions. To fuel their bodies and minds, we provide snacks and delicious, home-cooked meals during the day. Most importantly, the learning hubs offer downtime filled with enrichment and fun―including the return of our valued partners, Elevate Youth. We are supporting as many students in-person as safety will allow and then connecting with our community as a whole in as many ways as possible — including a well-attended back to school kickoff for all students.

On September 17 and 18 the parking lot was abuzz with music and activity as our community danced to Cotton Eye Joe, Cha Cha Slide and The Electric Slide. Staff set up socially distanced tables of backpacks filled with school supplies and other give-aways for our young people. Items included basketballs, clothing, masks and hand sanitizer. Our Senior Director of Fitness and Nutrition Lisa Smith made delicious individually wrapped ice cream sandwiches with home-made chocolate-chip cookies.

Times are difficult for our young people and community, and this is why it is more important than ever to gather, celebrate and laugh together. As our youth programs continue to evolve in response to current conditions, our young people inspire us with their perseverance and ability to embrace joy wherever they can find it.