The 2020-21 was a school year like no other. New words popped up in our conversations – words like digital divide, pods, Zoom, supplemental learning and hotspots – and moved to the forefront of our collective consciousness.
According to Allison Billings, executive director of Impact on Education, the key word was “action” in the 500-square mile Boulder Valley School District.
“The school district has a wide spectrum of students,” Billings said. “Our role is to apply an equity lens to offer excellent opportunities to all children. We help by leveraging community resources for the critical needs of public school students.”
A recent study by McKinsey & Company estimates that “students on average could lose five to nine months of learning by the end of June 2021. Students of color could be six to 12 months behind, compared with four to eight months for white students.” This translates to an average loss of “three months of learning in mathematics and one-and-a-half months of learning in reading.”
The website, impactoneducation.org, explains, “Our wide-ranging programs adapt to accommodate the shifting needs of our community. We prioritize programs that benefit students overcoming the greatest obstacles by addressing economic and learning barriers that curtail success, increasing equity among our students, and closing opportunity gaps. We prioritize investments that offer opportunities, and that inspire, innovate and bring forward best practices.”
The organization’s Critical Needs Fund, launched in March 2020, grew to $625,000 during the pandemic and was used to address vital needs for students including nutritious meals, technology for remote learning and additional school-based instruction. Billings said funds came in from hundreds of local donors, with gifts ranging from $5 to $100,000.
As of March 2021, dollars were used to provide: $265,000 for supplemental instruction such as targeted tutoring, ACT/SAT prep courses, funding to retake failed or incomplete coursework and instructional technology; $165,000 for emergency food distribution of nearly 2 million meals; $100,000 to eliminate child care debt and provide supervised care; $60,000 on home internet to enable access to remote learning; $12,000 for school supplies for elementary school students; $10,000 for thousands of books for students to read at home.
Looking ahead, Impact on Education plans to support BVSD’s summer learning for students who have fallen behind and will continue other investments this summer, including the Summer Shuffle program which brings literacy and numeracy instruction to 3-, 4- and 5-year-old children living in public housing in Boulder County. The Crayons to Calculators program, which distributed 15,000 backpacks filled with school supplies to students in need in the Boulder Valley School District and St. Vrain Valley School District in 2020, will gear up in the coming months to ensure that all students have the supplies they need when they head back to school in August.
Impact on Education, 721 Front St., Ste. A, Louisville, 303.524.3865, impactoneducation.org.
By Linda Thorsen Bond, Raised in the Rockies