Jennifer Graham says she’s well aware of what researchers and educators have come to call “summer learning loss,” but she’s not concerned. Graham has made sure her daughter is in camp.
When looking around for summer activities for her 9-year-old daughter Talitha Roberts, she chose the one with – as she put it – “the education piece.”
The idea of community schools, long discussed in Philadelphia but never quite a reality, takes to a whole different level the notion of maximizing time and optimizing resources for children.
More than just a place for students to have something stimulating to do in the afternoons, community schools integrate services for families right in the building. Other cities have developed the idea in ways that have been transformative, prompting a movement to bring community schools here.
Sulton Glass is just 7 years old, but he can ride his bike in traffic.
He’s learned to strap on his helmet, check his tires, and follow the rules of the road. That means he can join the other kids from the Neighborhood Bike Works for their weekly ride, a wobbly, giggling excursion through University City to the Woodlands Cemetery. There he’ll listen to a repair lesson, practice his hand signals, and swoop happily up and down the hilly, car-free roads that wind through the headstones. Finally he’ll follow the group down Chester Avenue, past Clark Park, up Locust Street, and safely back to his waiting mother.
At South Philadelphia High School, under principal Otis Hackney’s leadership, students don’t all bolt for home the minute the bell rings.
That’s because partnerships between the school and the community are providing them with a wealth of opportunities, from new sports like boys’ and girls’ lacrosse to programs like video production that engage their minds in different and exciting ways.