Maximoz Espinoza learns at home on his tablet.
Maximoz Espinoza learns at home on his tablet. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Responding to the expanding divide between those with home internet connections and those who lack them amid the pandemic, the City of San Antonio on Wednesday announced the opening of eight virtual learning hubs in community centers throughout the city.

The learning hubs are free to access Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. between Oct. 5 and Dec. 18.

In addition to free internet, students ages 6 and older – from elementary school to high school – receive a free lunch. Parents can register their children for the program at saparksandrec.com.

“We know that students need reliable and safe spaces to continue their distance learning while caregivers return to work,” said Homer Garcia, III, the City’s director of Parks and Recreation. “In response to this need, we’ve transformed eight community centers into Virtual Learning Hubs. Once registered, students can bring their laptops, Chromebooks, or mobile devices to the Virtual Learning Hub and have access to internet for distance learning classes, schoolwork, and enjoy a hot meal.”

Recent data show that anywhere between a fifth and a fourth of San Antonio residents lack a home internet connection. Since schools have been in full or partial lockdown, virtual learning has been the only means of classroom instruction for many students. Some students, such as those who attend Southside Independent School District schools, have had to attend school in their parent’s car because a parked bus outfitted with a Wi-Fi connection is their only reliable means of accessing the internet.

Students and staff at the virtual hubs will follow COVID-19 health and safety protocols, including health screenings, temperature checks, wearing face coverings, physical distancing, and frequent hand washing.

The virtual learning hubs are installed at the following community centers:

  • Copernicus – 5003 Lord Road
  • Garza – 1450 Mira Vista
  • Hamilton – 107000 Nacogdoches
  • Harlandale – 7227 Briar Place
  • Melendrez – 5919 W. Commerce
  • Miller’s Pond – 6175 Old Pearsall Road
  • Palm Heights – 1201 W. Malone
  • Southside Lions – 3100 Hiawatha

On Wednesday at a coronavirus briefing, officials reported 155 additional cases of coronavirus in Bexar County. The county has seen an average caseload increase of 148 over the past seven days. The overall caseload stands at 53,794.

After seeing an increase of six new deaths Tuesday, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District reported no new fatalities on Wednesday. The county’s official death toll stands at 1,068.

Five fewer COVID-19 patients are in area hospitals Wednesday. Of the 228 patients, 87 are in intensive care and 41 are on ventilators.

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez is the San Antonio Report's audience engagement editor.