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Charter Schools Coalesce to Mitigate the Effects of COVID


A survey of school superintendents across Colorado at the end of 2020 showed a high level of concern about the loss of student reading and math skills due to the pandemic, as well as negative impacts on the mental health of both students and teachers. National data confirm these worries; a McKinsey study shows the pandemic has set back learning for all students, but especially for students of color.

Six Denver-area charter schools are working together to reimagine approaches that support both learning and well-being in the wake of COVID-19. A grant from the Governor’s Response, Innovation, and Student Equity (RISE) fund supports the collaborative work of AUL Denver, Colorado High School Charter, Academy 360, Girls Athletic Leadership Schools, RiseUp Community School, and Highline Academy.

Each of these charter schools is offering summer programs that center academic, social-emotional, and experiential learning to make up for learning losses and address opportunity gaps. Collectively, the schools have created a Learning Community, supported by the Colorado Lab, to share best practices and identify and test solutions to emerging challenges. While summer programming isn’t a new concept, reconstructing the school year in order to mitigate the effects of a pandemic most certainly is, making the collaborative approach invaluable.

Following the first round of programs offered by the charter schools this summer, the Colorado Lab facilitated a review with the Learning Community. Members reflected on what worked well and challenges to be worked through, such as recruiting and retaining students, integrating academic and social emotional content, and meaningfully engaging families. Collectively, they began to identify approaches to strengthen offerings ahead of next summer’s programming.

The Colorado Lab’s continuing work supports identifying cross-site lessons learned and guidance and resources helpful to charter schools across Colorado in implementing summer programs that center both academic and social-emotional development.

To learn more about this and the work of a wide array of RISE grantees being supported by the Colorado Lab, contact Dr. Lauren Gase.