While it may seem like summer has just begun, children will soon be going back to school. Back-to-school season is always an exciting time of year, and we know that the safety of our city’s children is at the top of everyone’s minds. That’s why we’re partnering with the School District of Philadelphia and our public safety partners to enhance programs that will help keep our children safe as they head back to school.

Below, I’ve highlighted some of the ways we’re working to keep children safe as they head back to school, as well as opportunities for our youth during out-of-school time.

Out-of-School Time (OST) programs

We know that the hours after school are also critical times when students are at greater risk for unsafe behavior. This is one reason why we invest so heavily in Out-of-School Time programs as a key priority for our young people.

This fall, The Office of Children and Families is working to engage over 6,400 students at 129 OST programs. OST programs provide students with fun, safe, and engaging activities during critical after-school hours. A majority of OST programs will be located in School District of Philadelphia schools. Charter, parochial, private, and community-based locations including recreation centers will also be available.

Decades of research confirms that students who participate in quality Out-of-School Time programs are more likely to be engaged in learning. They are also likely to have better school attendance, increased levels of physical activities, and are less likely to become victims of violence or be involved in violent activity. A variety of programs are offered for all grade levels. Find an OST program for your child.

Aside from OST programming, the Office of Children and Families offers a wealth of youth programming:

Philadelphia Parks & Recreation programming

Parks & Recreation offers affordable, fun after-school programs for young people ages 6-12 in every neighborhood. Many Parks & Rec programs pick up directly from the local district school, and all include a healthy afternoon meal. Visit phila.gov/ppr to learn more.

The Free Library’s Literacy Enrichment Afterschool Program (LEAP)

LEAP returns for a new school year at all libraries with a playful learning focus for younger students, as well as a focus on literacy, as well as collaboration, communication, creativity, and social skills. LEAP will offer homework assistance in-person and live tutoring through Homework Help Online from 10:00 a.m. to midnight seven days a week.

Job opportunities for youth

Also, LEAP is hiring teens who will design and implement programs, and serve as peer mentors to younger LEAP participants. Check with your local library for more information on working with LEAP. More information is available on the Free Library’s website.

The Department of Human Services’ youth development programs

Philadelphia Youth Leadership Council and Boys and Girls T.R.A.C.K.

Youth ages 12 and up are invited to register. The programs offer structured activities, community service, mentorship, life skills, and more. Visit phila.gov/DHS and look under “Announcements” to learn more.

Intensive Prevention Services (IPS)

IPS is for youth ages 10 through 19. Youth can enroll in the program for different reasons. Whether it’s for social, emotional, or academic support, the goal remains the same. Find an IPS site closest to you.

Community Evening Resource Centers

Older youth are also encouraged to take advantage of Community Evening Resource Center programming. At the Resource Centers, youth can get help with homework, boost their photography skills, learn to cook, or take part in a movie night. The Centers also provide mentorship and coaching to help with family engagement and conflict resolution. Visit phila.gov/DHS and look under “Posts” to learn more about the Resource Centers.

Enroll your child in PHLpreK

PHLpreK is enrolling for the 2022-2023 school year. This year, the program will add 300 new PHLpreK seats to serve 4,300 students in over 180 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, 2022 are eligible, regardless of their family’s income.

Keeping students safe while they travel to and from school

The Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) will continue to collaborate with the School District of Philadelphia (SDP), local businesses, and community volunteers to ensure that students have safe passage to and from school. Through a longstanding partnership, PPD will expand their Safety Zones initiative, which provides additional uniformed police officers present at school dismissal times to support safe passages for students as they leave school. This year, PPD and SDP have 27 Safety Zones that will encompass 40 District and charter schools.

The District is also collaborating with The Institute for the Development of African-American Youth, Inc. (IDAAY) to hire community members that will patrol routes providing extra supervision and support for students traveling from eight schools.

Crossing Guards

The City of Philadelphia has over 620 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. Learn more about the program and submit an application to become a crossing guard.

As we work together to address the surge in gun violence taking place across the country and in Philadelphia, we know that it is critical to ensure that the epidemic of gun violence does not impact children or interfere with their learning, development, and wellbeing. We are committed to making sure our schools and the surrounding areas are safe havens from violence and harm, something every student in Philadelphia deserves.