Local businesses and nonprofits expand efforts to assure students have means to succeed.
Even in a “normal” year, going back to school in the fall can be a difficult time for many children. In 2020, with all the unknowns concerning the COVID-19 pandemic including virtual learning, the return to classes raises monumental challenges for children in need as well as their parents and teachers.
As the Boulder Valley School District, St. Vrain School District and Adams 12 5-Star Schools adjust plans for starting classes, local businesses and organizations are ramping up their efforts to assure that every student – regardless of their circumstances – can start the school year safely with the tools they need to succeed.
Boulder Body Wear
Boulder Body Wear Owner Amy Kenney says the store is staffed, stocked and ready to help performance artists, students and anyone wanting to look great this fall. Customers are able to shop the way they feel most comfortable; either in-person with a mask and social distancing; through a contactless pickup option, or online at boulderbodywear.com. Many area dance studios offer zoom classes or limited-capacity classes now and students seem very happy to have an option again, Kenney said.
Boulder Body Wear has all the essentials for back to dance class and active extracurricular activities in dresses, tops, skirts and leggings.
“I think dancers and artists have used their creativity to be resilient,” Kenney said.
Boulder’s Childish Things consignment store has a lot of reasonably priced items to offer as students start learning again.
“It’s hard this year because we don’t know [how] they’re going back to school,” said Kerry Radicella, owner. “If people ask for my opinion, I recommend buying lots of books because those will keep them busy at home.” Books run about $2.25 to $7.50 a piece. Clothing averages $8 more or less.
“We have tons of clothing for $4.75 to $5.50 including name brands Carters, Gymboree and Old Navy,” Radicella said. Most of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) toys and games are a great thing to teach with, she said, because they involve counting, letters and reading. Most of those run $6.25 to $11.50. The store’s lunch boxes and backpacks are brand new, and cost around $25 each.
Impact On Education
Impact on Education is the major non-profit foundation supporting students and educators in the Boulder Valley. The wide range of services and programs includes professional development, supporting computer science curriculum and skills, and offering grants and scholarships. Right now the organization’s focus is on its Critical Needs Funds which supports efforts like food distribution and equity in online access through free Chromebooks to every student who needs one for remote learning. There are also enrichment programs children who missed out or fell behind during this past difficult school year.
More than 11,000 Boulder Valley and St. Vrain Valley students from preschool through 12th grade typically benefit from Impact on Education’s well-known Crayons to Calculators program. The program provides kits of school supplies to students who have a need. Kits will be distributed by BVSD and SVVSD in a safe and socially distant manner, giving students and families the opportunity to begin the school year ready for success whether attending school at-home, within the school building, or a combination of both.
“These kits are specific to student grade level and contain a new backpack and the supplies students need to return to learning, whether that happens at home or in school,” said Allison Billings, executive director.
The demand has grown substantially because of the economic disruption cause by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ordinarily volunteer assistance and donated supplies are a vital part of the program but this year the program will depend on financial donations from individuals and businesses.
A Precious Child
Broomfield-based A Precious Child assists disadvantaged and displaced children and families by supporting services at more than 440 agencies in the region. This includes individual help navigating community resources from basic needs to STEM-based activities and A Precious Child’s best-known program: Fill A Backpack.
The need for Fill A Backpack has grown exponentially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Supplying students at school as well as remote learning at home is an additional challenge this year. The traditional collection of donated school supplies at stores, schools and agencies has also changed. Supplies have been purchased in bulk and A Precious Child is asking for financial donations to support the program, as well as its Give Arts and Give Sports programs which provides students with equipment and fees to access extracurricular activities.
Emergency Family Assistance Association
Likewise, Emergency Family Assistance Association in Boulder is making sure all children in the 56 housing sites it serves across Boulder County will have backpacks full of school and art supplies. EFAA raised funds in a summer drive and used some of their own budget to make sure their children are set, said Marnie Copeland, family strengthening manager. “There was definitely more of a need this year. Everything with COVID has been intensified with the mental stress and economy,” she said. “Our folks are the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.”
One of their volunteers who works in information technology, is also giving his time to help families with technology and Zoom issues as the school year gets started. Visit efaa.org to learn more about the resources EFAA can help with for low-income and homeless families.
By John Lehndorff and Jessica Benes for Raised in the Rockies.