Looking Forward While Returning to School

August 31, 2020

By Rebecca Holmes, CEI President and CEO

These past six months have been some of the toughest we’ve ever undertaken in education. When I started my career in education, if you had asked me to imagine all that we are going through, I would have never visualized this. When I hear the stories of the teachers, families, and students and what they have collectively undertaken these past months, and now again at the start of the school year, I’m left speechless. I believe that we must do the hard work to both acknowledge these challenges but also speak truth directly. This month, I’m sharing an article I wrote recently for parents who are leading learning at home in this moment. It’s a trying time as a parent myself dealing with the challenges of a virtual start to Kindergarten–I’ve certainly experienced my share of frustrations. Fundamentally, we need to have solidarity with all families who are trying to keep learning going during this time, and I’m offering some thoughts about that.

We at CEI have been working with districts and state agencies to support important work happening on the ground across Colorado and the region. In June, we convened 10 districts together to undergo a “design sprint,” where participants built 90-day reopening plans anchored in social-emotional development, relationships, and community. The result of that process was the Strategic Reopening Collaborative, now available on our website, where you will see some of the incredible examples of work happening on the ground in districts. Moving into the start of the school year, we continue to be in dialogue with these districts and many others, which is why we are excited to share the work happening on the ground in Adams 12 Five Star Schools.

With families, communities, educators, and students struggling to start our school year due to safety and support issues related to COVID-19, we are seeing the real emergence of new ideas out in the field. One of the ideas that has risen around the country and in Colorado is the idea of learning pods, in which a group of families band together, in many variations. Many schools and districts have been wary of the idea, worried about the structural, equity and budget implication. However, some schools and districts have been leaning into the opportunity, sensing a real potential to meet students and families where they are and to address the challenges head on. Adams 12 is one such district. As I often suggest, I hope we can put the learning before the advocacy and learn how this district, filled with strong leadership, is making new possibilities real during this unprecedented time.

Beyond this learning, we are excited to announce that we are once again partnering with Rocky Mountain PBS, Colorado Education Association and other incredible organizations to recruit incredible teachers across Colorado to teach on PBS every weekday from 8-12 Monday through Friday starting September 7. We know that nearly 30,000 families don’t have internet access, and even if they do, getting K-3 kids to get online learning requires more support. Every day there will be wonderful teachers and thoughtful lessons helping students from around the state gain access to great learning. We’re grateful for the support from the Governor and the Colorado Department of Education to bring this incredible resource to families across the state.

Thanks for all that you do and please stay safe!