JW Marriott San Francisco Union Square’s Distance-Learning Hub

On lined paper with lots of “hearts” drawn at the bottom of a thank you note, a grade-school student’s words crystallized the impact of JW Marriott San Francisco Union Square’s distance-learning hub during the heart of the COVID-19 outbreak: “This year is a big bummer, but everything is better when I come here.”

Midway through 2020, San Francisco was in complete lockdown and schools had pivoted to remote learning. The JW Marriott, centrally located between the city’s Tenderloin neighborhood and its iconic Chinatown, reached out to the San Francisco Department of Children and Families to ask if they could use the hotel’s conference rooms for remote learning. The location, SFDCF said, was perfect for the community, providing a safe space for grade-school children to obtain the assistance they needed for learning.

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Incredibly timely for the classroom hub to function was the hotel’s adherence to cleaning and safety standards established by city, state, and federal health officials that Marriott was implementing well before regulatory rules were written. “It was so important that we could ensure the health and safety of neighborhood children when they needed our help the most,” said John Anderson, General Manager of the JW Marriot.

The available space was just the start of almost a year-long community partnership supporting third, fourth, and fifth graders:

  • The culinary team insisted on providing meals, developing daily menus for breakfast, lunch and snacks, and volunteering to teach cooking and nutrition classes once a week.
  • The seamstresses made cloth masks in child and adult sizes, totaling more than 4,000 that were donated to the remote learning hub and several nearby community benefit organizations.
  • Hotel technicians ensured internet connections were “three bars” so that teachers and students had seamless connectivity for classroom hub and remote access.

The appreciation resonated from those who gained the most—the students:

  • “Thank you, JW Marriot, for the food. I hope the food is always going to be this good.”
  • “Thank you for making sure we have what we need.”
  • “You guys are amazing and wonderful because you let us use your hotel.”

San Francisco’s establishment noticed, too. Board of Supervisors member Aaron Peskin wrote in his Certificate of Honor for the JW Marriott: “In honor of your outstanding service in providing a space to host community learning hubs for students who were mostly impacted during the pandemic, your commitment to organizing essential resources such as food and masks, and for proactively responding to the needs of the most vulnerable students, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors hereby extends its highest commendation.”

Although the recognition was welcomed, GM Anderson summed up the effort best: “This is why we are hoteliers. This is why we are San Franciscans. It’s just what we do.”

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