Founding Donors Provide Nearly $4M to Help Students Participate in Online Learning
Philadelphia, PA – April 2, 2020 – The Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) today announced that Philadelphia area donors have come together to launch the Jump-Start Philly Schools Fund, aimed at meeting the immediate needs of low-income students and families across the city during the school closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and providing resources to support schools and teachers when they eventually transition students back to full-time learning environments.
When schools announced closures last month, PSP reached out to schools of all types in Philadelphia, education organizations and community groups to assess the education-related challenges facing families, school leaders and teachers. Three areas stood out:
- Closing the Device Gap
- Transitioning to Virtual Learning
- Preparing for Academic Recovery
Backed by founding pledges from Janine and Jeff Yass (The Susquehanna Foundation, $2.6 million), the Lenfest Foundation ($1 million) and the McCausland Foundation ($200,000)—the Jump-Start Philly Schools Fund aims to raise $6 million or more to address these needs over the coming months for students enrolled in all types of schools. With its first grants, the Fund is helping more than 100 public charter and private Catholic schools supply laptop computers to 15,000 students who need them for learning at home.
“Regardless of where they live in the city or what type of school they attend, students must have the opportunity to continue their learning,” said Janine Yass, a co-founder of Boys Latin Charter School and board member of PSP. Her husband, Jeff, is founder and managing director of Susquehanna International Group LLP and the Susquehanna Foundation. “We are committed to supporting educational opportunities for all children, and in a crisis like this that starts with ensuring students can participate in online schooling and communicate with their teachers,” Janine added.
The School District of Philadelphia, with generous financial support from Aileen and Brian Roberts and Philadelphia 76ers owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer, recently announced the purchase of 50,000 Chromebooks so that all students enrolled in district-run public schools have a device for home-based learning. The founding donors of the Jump-Start fund want to ensure the city is also closing the device gap for economically challenged families whose children attend public charter and other types of schools.
Schools of all types have begun to address families’ need for laptops at home by loaning out computers that are normally kept in classrooms. However, these have not proved to be enough. PSP has surveyed the city’s charter and Catholic schools to assess the size of the remaining gaps. Schools that serve low-income students and have not been in touch with PSP are encouraged to reach out to PSP staff.
“Children need to walk before they can run, and having an internet-connected device at home is a necessary first step for home-based learning,” said PSP Executive Director Mark Gleason. “We also know, however, that achievement gaps which existed in a traditional school setting may widen in this new world of remote learning. Schools have a dual challenge of delivering new forms of instruction now and preparing for the learning loss many students will experience and bring back to schools whenever they are finally able to return.”
PSP applauds Comcast Corp. and all of the city’s mobile telecom providers for helping families to obtain free internet service at home during this crisis. Comcast is providing two months of free internet access to families subscribing to “Internet Essentials” (www.internetessentials.com), and the mobile companies have offered free data packs so families can use their phones as mobile hotspots. These don’t necessarily work for every family, however, so additional solutions are needed.
In the coming weeks, the Jump-Start Philly Schools Fund will continue to raise funds, while further assessing what supports families need to engage in the new learning environment (including internet connectivity) and schools need to be ready to help students overcome learning gaps resulting from school closures. Watch for information on additional Fund activities in support of families, schools of all types (including district-run) and teachers on the PSP website at www.philaschoolpartnership.org.
List of Donors (Updated 4/20/20):
$2.6 million – Janine and Jeff Yass (The Susquehanna Foundation)
$1 million – The Lenfest Foundation
$200,000 – The McCausland Foundation
$200,000 – Connelly Foundation
$200,000 – Horner Foundation
$200,000 – Hamilton Family Charitable Trust
$15,000 – George Rosskam