The global pandemic has upended life for Colorado families and children, especially for those furthest from opportunity. We know children need targeted support to address the short- and long-term impacts to learning, and social and emotional wellness. More importantly, data and experience confirm and underscore these needs.
We are among a growing list of dozens of education practitioners, foundations, and nonprofit partners across Colorado that have formed a Recovery Summer coalition to re-connect and re-engage students for a relationship-rich, learning-infused summer while supporting their families as active partners in their child’s learning experiences.
We are at a significant pivot point between the disruption of the past year and long-term recovery for the future. We must act collectively to create a Recovery Summer for kids and families so the necessary healing and growth can begin. Together, we can help move them forward and build on important competencies developed this past year including resilience, compassion and independence.
Schools will be critical recovery hubs, but they can’t, and shouldn’t, do it all. Creative community-based partnerships will be essential this summer, and beyond, to address whole-child development including social-emotional wellness. This is what families and students, especially those that have been chronically underserved, say they want and need.
Most of our coalition members work daily in early care and learning centers, schools, and districts. We have witnessed firsthand what children and families need most now, and to return the 2021-2022 school year ready to thrive. Based on our expertise and research, we have identified several priorities that focus on supporting families, many of whom have served as their child’s co-educator during the pandemic, and equity-driven strategies to leverage systems and structures.
We urge government and philanthropic leaders to focus budgets and potential federal funding on advancing these priorities through new, expanded and existing programming, outlined in a letter we co-signed and sent to Colorado Governor Jared Polis, the state’s 100 legislators, leaders of the state Departments of Education and Human Services, and local officials.
First, we need to better support families by partnering with them around their child’s learning and wellness needs including clear and consistent engagement and connection. Second, we need to invest in and allocate funds directly to families who know their children and needs best, especially those most impacted by the pandemic, and who can’t typically afford outside-of-school summer enrichment opportunities. Local and national efforts show broad support for actions that address the true economic hardships faced by families and create opportunities for them to get the individual support they need. Third, we need to simplify and develop easy to navigate information systems for parents that list children’s services, supports and opportunities for all ages at a single source.
Among strategies to leverage systems and structures, we recommend wrap around supports that expand childcare and early learning, summer school, tutoring, and after school programs to provide safe places to build knowledge and strengthen relationships. We also need to foster success through and after high school by identifying and advancing course recovery opportunities, and we need to work with local school districts and businesses to support opportunities to earn course credit and income for knowledge and skills-building internships and summer learning experiences.
We stand ready to meet with decision makers to discuss these priorities, what community driven implementation might look like, and how we can leverage the potential influx of relief funds for an equity-focused Recovery Summer. Our next steps include engaging additional coalition members and developing pilot program sites that will build community-driven change across Colorado.
The time is now for all Coloradans to address these issues. We have an enormous opportunity in the summer and school years ahead to breakthrough and leapfrog the persistent and longstanding opportunity gaps our state has faced when it comes to educating our kids and engaging their families.
Rebecca Holmes is CEO of the Colorado Education Initiative and Jennifer Stedron is executive director of Early Milestones Colorado.
This content was originally published here.