House New York, Inc., the educational philanthropic arm of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH) has launched a PILOT program to repurpose underutilized community and common spaces in two Bronx affordable residences. The program is used as safe and staffed learning spaces for students who might not otherwise have access to reliable Wi-Fi during an era of hybrid learning.
As the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced many students to learn remotely on either a full or part-time basis, the digital divide has been significantly exacerbated, disproportionately impacting low-income children in communities of color who do not have online access.
The “Community Classrooms” program, seeded by a grant from Wells Fargo and amplified by the participation of nonprofit organizations, will provide hundreds of students statewide with safe, staffed and connected spaces in which to learn.
The program, which includes 10 sites across New York States, has two running in the Bronx right now at sites owned by B&B Urban:
- Kingsbridge Heights Apartments, 2700 Jerome Avenue, serviced by BronxWorks;
- 294 E. 162nd Street, serviced by Services for the Underserved.
According to a 2019 report from the New York City comptroller’s office, about 44% of city residents in poverty lacked broadband access, and nearly one-third of Hispanic and Black New Yorkers lacked access, compared to about 20% of white residents.
Research since the pandemic began last March has shown that students across all socioeconomic and racial spectrums are losing ground as a result of school closures and remote learning, but children of color are being impacted at a higher rate due to disparities in access to technology.
While much more needs to be done to address this significant problem and assure that all New Yorkers, regardless of their ethnicity, where they live, and how much money they have, Community Classrooms is part of the solution in the short term.