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Indianapolis mayor calls for donors to support remote learning sites

A student works at a laptop computer in a classroom at Crispus Attucks High School, a public school in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett appealed for funds to set up community learning sites for students who need supervision and access to technology.

Alan Petersime for Chalkbeat

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett on Friday called for more donors to support supervised centers for students forced to return to remote learning this month because of the rapid spread of the coronavirus. 

The centers, funded by the non-profit The Mind Trust, provide internet connections and supervision for students needing places to log into virtual lessons and to do homework.

Last week, Hogsett ordered all city schools to close by Nov. 30 to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In Indianapolis, the rate of people testing positive has reached 13.7%. The rates are higher in K-12 schools, health officials said. 

The Mind Trust has funded spaces for 812 students at learning centers, but the need is likely in the tens of thousands, officials said. 

“I’m calling on residents, businesses, and the philanthropic community who have the means, please help support our students who need access to technology, to meals, to quiet space, the type of quiet space that these community learning sites provide,” Hogsett said. 

The Mind Trust plans to open 22 learning pods from Nov. 30 through Jan. 15, called “community learning sites,” around the city. This is a $207,000 investment from The Mind Trust. 

Earlier this fall, The Mind Trust, with city help, sponsored 15 learning centers. The city contributed $24,000 for three sites.

Those centers, mostly on the southeast and east side of the city, provided safe places to learn, and many had waiting lists, said Brandon Brown, chief executive officer of The Mind Trust. The sites have not experienced a significant spread of COVID, he said. 

Three of the 22 sites that will open on Nov. 30 are already full, he said. Indianapolis Public Schools, one of several school districts in the city, plus charter schools within its boundaries together serve 45,000 students.

The Mind Trust has raised $485,000 to fund the centers, said its director of communications, Kateri Whitley. The group hopes that Friday’s appeal will produce donations to open more sites and to sustain the centers beyond Jan. 15. 

Other organizations like AYS and the YMCA also offer studying space for students, but at a cost to families. The Mind Trust’s partners offer spaces without charge.

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