SOUTHERN COLORADO — As some school districts begin to consider summer school to help with learning loss, Colorado educators and community leaders are banding together for a unique summer initiative.
To help children in all grades rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, they're proposing the "Summer Recovery Coalition" aimed at addressing the short- and long-term impacts to student learning and social and emotional needs. In an open letter to Governor Polis, the Colorado Education Initiative along with other organizations called for federal and state funds to be allocated toward summer programs as part of the state's recovery plan.
"I think there are a lot of families out there that don't know where resources are, don't know where to get them, and where to access them. So how as a community do we collaborate and get that information out there to families, an idea being proposed is a one-stop-shop," said Diane Price, CEO of Early Connections Early Centers.
Her organization joined the Summer Recovery Coalition to not only help children get back on track but re-engage them in their education.
"It's focusing on support for families. Families are the first and best teachers, and they know what's best for their kiddos and so how do we create opportunities for parents to engage in activities, programs, support, extracurriculars during the summer months. When schools close down, how do we support our families, and how as a community do we come together and partner to create those opportunities and make them available to families," said Price.
The letter identifies six priority areas and one overarching approach for the upcoming summer. For young children, focusing on the "whole child" which would address their needs holistically through learning and social opportunities. It would also identify opportunities for students to access a range of social-emotional services and counseling services, free of charge.
For older students, the initiative would showcase programs that tie into community engagement and job opportunities.
As part of the initiative, Price says her organization will be working with school districts.
"What are the needs of the families, what are the needs of the children, how do we make this an easier transition," said Price. "As we start approaching spring break and summer, we'll continue those deep conversations in terms of what we can do when the kiddos are here all of the time to help build on what schools want to see happening, what parents want to see happening, and how we can create a program that is supportive."
Head south down I-25, and the Boys and Girls Club of Pueblo County also getting involved with the Recovery Summer Coalition.
"There's a lot of research out there about summer learning loss which talks about youth who don't have resources, they aren't going on vacations, they're not going to museums, not reading books during the summer. Who fall further and further behind as school continues on in their lives. Now we have this pandemic where youth aren't getting the education that they would in a typical year," said Becky Medina, Vice President of Operations, Boys and Girls Club of Pueblo County.
She says school districts can't do it alone, and it's important organizations come together to offer much-needed support and resources.
"Boys and Girls Clubs and after-school agencies have been doing much of this work so coming together just makes sense. Certainly leveraging on all of the resources that we have in our communities to help lift our kids up and provide opportunities," said Medina. "We know school districts will provide some summer school opportunities so if there are opportunities for that then we want to be there for after school so we can provide those fun activities and other opportunities to support working parents, and provide a place where children can go to grow and learn," said Medina.
She says they'll also be identifying schools that don't have afterschool or summer programs and partnering with organizations to help with transportation.
Community partners interested in helping with the Summer Recovery Coalition are encouraged to sign up here.