The pandemic upended almost every aspect of education and increased awareness on existing racial and economic disparities. Gaps in access to online education and digital services widened already existing educational inequalities. For example, many low-income families struggled to find reliable internet services. The programs below provide assistance to tackle the learning divide and increase access to reliable internet.
Digital Divide Program
Funds will be used to continue building the community wireless network project that was initially approved by City Council using the Coronavirus Relief Fund. The project is a partnership between the City, Phoenix Union High School District, and others.
The goal of the program is to increase academic achievement and instruction for families residing in the wireless network neighborhoods, which are neighborhoods in Qualified Census Tracts. Families in this area of the City experienced negative economic and educational COVID-19 impacts. The lack of access to reliable internet widened the learning gap for students and made it more difficult for families to access services, such as school instruction, employment, social services, and more.
Early Childhood Education Expansion
Funds will be used to create a program to increase access to early childhood education for 300 preschool children, ages four to five. The proposed program would mirror performance standards, quality control, and curriculum of the Head Start Program while allowing eligible families to be at 200% of poverty level rather than the Head Start mandated 100% of poverty level.
Wi-Fi Connectivity for Community Centers & Public Housing Properties
Funds will provide access to internet connectivity in community centers (Parts Department) and public housing properties (Housing Department) to bridge the digital divide that impacted communities during pandemic. The goals of the programs are to increase access to care and mental health services, increase financial stability and health outcomes, and improve well-being and increase social connectedness. Several community centers in Qualified Census Tract lack Wi-Fi connections for the public and are unavailable to be used by the public. Additional, public housing tenants lack access to reliable Wi-Fi and this program seeks to increase this access to achieve the stated outcomes.
The Parks and Recreation Department will install wi-fi access at four facilities across the City to provide internet access to the public. As of October 2022, the first install has been complete and there is now wi-fi at the Barrios Unidos Park/Recreation Center located at 1501 E. Mohave St. As of May 3, 2023, there is now wi-fi at the Green Valley Park Recreation Center, Smith Park Recreation Center, and Central Park Recreation Center.
College Depot Assistance for Students
Funds have allowed the Library Department to have additional staff to expand current College Depot services for high school students. This includes the following: prepare students for postsecondary access and success, identify students without access to the technology necessary to be successful in their educational goals, provide case management to help students overcome barriers, and build relationships with high school counselors and teachers to identify students in need. Staff is also assisting with the circulation of laptops and hotspots to provide students access to reliable internet services.
Abrupt shifts to remote learning over the past two school years have affected students, negatively impacting their social, emotional, and mental well-being and academic achievement. The preexisting achievement and learning gaps widened as a result of the pandemic. This program aims provide students a supportive and learning environment to access services to close these gaps.
Library Bookmobile for Underserved Areas
The Library Department is in the process of procuring a large bookmobile that will be used to provide services to the community at 67th Avenue and Lower Buckeye.
Library Hotspot Lending Program
Continue hotspot lending program to provide broadband access for individuals who lost access because of pandemic-related challenges.
Early Literacy Tutoring Support
The Library has partnered with Arizona State University (ASU) to provide 1:1 reading tutoring to emerging readers in 1st through 4th grade who lost ground due to the pandemic. The program aims to close the education gap experienced by students who experienced remote learning for a long period of time due to the pandemic and are in need of additional services to maintain grade-level comprehension and understanding, such as in reading and math. Tutoring would be provided by ASU students and the library will provide Wi-Fi provisioned tablet computers to facilitate virtual tutoring as needed.