ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – House New York Inc., the educational philanthropic branch of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH), has launched a pilot program to repurpose underutilized community and common spaces in two Albany Housing Authority properties. The spaces will be used to help underserved students succeed in online learning.

The program provides “safe, sanitized learning spaces” staffed by employees of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Capital Area for students who might not otherwise have access to reliable WiFi for online learning – especially middle and high school students who haven’t been able to attend in-person classes for almost a year.

The program is open to all AHA and Section 8 residents, with space for up to 15 students on a first-come-first-served basis, from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Computers are available on site for students who do not have their own and mentors can assist in troubleshooting online access difficulties.

The program, which includes 10 sites across the state, has been up and running at the Ezra Prentice Homes on South Pearl Street since Jan. 4. A second site at the Capital South Campus Center on Warren Street is also available and seeking participants.

As the pandemic forces many students to learn remotely on either a full or part-time basis, the “digital divide” disproportionately impacts low-income children in communities of color who do not have online access. 

The “Community Classrooms” program, seeded by a grant from Wells Fargo, will provide hundreds of students statewide with safe, staffed and connected spaces for learning.