City and School District Provide Update on Back-to-School Safety and Programming for the 2023-2024 School Year
PHILADELPHIA — At a press briefing today, the City of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia School District and the School Board announced plans for keeping students safe during the upcoming school year.
“Our students’ security and well-being are essential for their learning and academic achievement,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “As we continue to address violence and crime citywide, one of our top priorities is the safety of all students throughout the school day. As we look ahead to a new school year, the City is glad to continue its partnership with the School District of Philadelphia on programs designed to keep children safe and engaged.”
The Office of Children and Families (OCF) provided an update on Out-of-School Time (OST) and other programming in advance of the return to school. This fall, OCF is working to engage over 6,400 students at 129 OST programs, and with hundreds more students in Parks and Recreation, Free Library and Department of Human Services programs.
“We all know that the hours after school are a critical time for young people,” said Vanessa Garrett Harley, Deputy Mayor for the Office of Children and Families. “They are at greater risk for unsafe behavior when not positively active, engaged and supervised. Research also confirms that students who participate in quality Out-of-School Time programs are more likely to attend school and to be physically active and less likely to become victims of violence or be involved in violent activity.
Most OST programs are located in School District of Philadelphia schools. Charter, parochial, private, and community-based locations including recreation centers also host programs.
Other OCF department programs are:
- Philadelphia Parks & Recreation provides affordable, fun after-school programming for more than 2,000 students at 100 sites across the city. Programs serve students aged 6 to 12, provide a snack, homework help and recreational time until 6 p.m. On School District half days, students go on trips (i.e., ice skating, environmental centers, etc.). Visit phila.gov/ppr to learn more.
- The Free Library’s Literacy Enrichment Afterschool Program (LEAP) returns for a new school year at all libraries this September. This drop-in, after-school program focuses on literacy, STEAM, wellness, as well as support, collaboration, communication, creativity, and social skills. LEAP offers homework assistance in-person and online with live tutoring through Homework Help Online from 9 a.m. to midnight seven days a week.
- The Free Library is also hiring high school students to work with the LEAP Program, who will design and implement programs, help with homework, and serve as peer mentors to younger LEAP participants. Check with your local library for more information on LEAP. The limited-edition, commemorative 50 Years of Hip-Hop library card is also available at the Central and local branches while supplies last. More information on all the Library programs is available on the Free Library’s website.
- The Department of Human Services is enrolling now for two youth development programs: Philadelphia Youth Leadership Council and Boys and Girls T.R.A.C.K. For students in grades 7 to 11, the program offers structured activities, community service, mentorship, life skills, and more. Visit phila.gov/dhs to learn about those programs.
- Intensive Prevention Services, or IPS, is for youth ages 10 through 19, for more intensive social, emotional, or academic support. Visit phila.gov/ips to find the site closest to you.
- Older youth are also encouraged to take advantage of Community Evening Resource Centers (CERC). At CERCs, youth can get help with homework, boost their photography skills, learn to cook, or take part in a movie night. The CERCs also provide mentorship and coaching to help with family engagement and conflict resolution, and are open from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. To learn more, visit phila.gov/cerc.
- Don’t Fall Down in the Hood is a community-based prevention program for youth ages 12 to 18 who have been impacted by violence. The goal is to protect youth and support their growth into healthy adults by providing interventional treatment to lessen harm and prevent future risk of violence. Parents can learn more online by visiting phila.gov/dhs.
- PHLpreK is enrolling for the 2023-2024 school year. This year, the program will add 950 new PHLpreK seats to serve 5,250 students in over 225 pre-K centers throughout the city. Interested families can reach out directly to participating centers, or call 844-PHL-PREK (844-745-7735) to find a program. Children who will be 3 or 4 by September 1, 2023 are eligible, regardless of their family’s income.
The District is also expanding its Safe Path program, which provides additional supervision and support for students traveling from school to reduce the rate of violence experienced by students. The program launched in 2022-2023 with a single-contracted provider, The Institute for the Development of African-American Youth, Inc. (IDAAY) to support six schools and then expanded to an additional seven schools throughout the year. Thanks to a 2022 PCCD VIP Grant, in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania Penn Injury Science Center (PISC), this program will expand to an additional nine schools.
All District employees will also be trained this school year in ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate) Active Shooter Response Training, a Violent Critical Incident (VCI) training model that encourages staff and students to respond based on their situation, rather than rely on centralized instructions in dynamic times of crisis. Under ALICE training, staff and students are oriented to different options to respond to a school intruder/active shooter. Additional courses will be offered to Administration and Support Staff, to include age appropriate lesson plans for teachers to use with their students in K-3rd, 4th-8th, and 9th-12th.
“Safe environments are critical for our students and staff to learn and grow, which is why safety is one of our top priorities in the District’s new five-year strategic plan, Accelerate Philly,” said Philadelphia School District Superintendent Tony B. Watlington, Sr., Ed.D. “We cannot accelerate student academic outcomes if our students do not have safe environments where they can learn and grow. We are committed to working closely with our partners to keep a close eye on what’s going on in our communities, and provide extra resources when needed to support the safety of our schools, staff and students.”
The City of Philadelphia has over 650 crossing guards actively assigned to locations for the upcoming school year, and will continue to process applications, provide trainings, and onboard new hires over the coming weeks to staff additional locations. To learn more about the program, and submit an application please visit phila.gov/crossingguards.
For more information visit the City’s website.