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Expanded Learning Opportunities
“Expanded learning opportunities are structured learning environments that occur outside of the traditional school day through before- and after-school, summer, and extended-day, -week, -year programs. These programs offer more personalized learning opportunities for students in areas such as the arts, civic engagement, and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), as well as mentorship and general academic support. ELOs offer a safe place for students to be outside of schools hours where they can supplement and support their education” (National Conference of State Legislatures).1
ELOs should focus on accelerating learning rather than focusing on remediation. ELOs should be motivating learning experiences for students to ignite their passion for learning new knowledge and skills and help them envision and experience academic success.
The purpose of this toolkit section is to provide resources to assist district and school leaders in developing and implementing ELOs to advance equity, promote student wellbeing and connectedness, and accelerate student learning in response to learning opportunity losses.
This toolkit section provides resources to help district and school leaders implement ELO options of restructuring and/or extending the school day, out-of-school time programming, summer learning, and tutoring. As the toolkit develops, the resources in this section will expand to include examples of ELOs opportunities Colorado school districts are providing as well as options for addressing common problems of practice.
Attending to Wellbeing and Connectedness
Students learn best in a safe and supportive learning environment, a condition that is even more important for students who have experienced long periods of remote learning and potential trauma due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When establishing out of school programs, district and school leaders should intentionally plan for attending the wellbeing of students.
The following considerations from CDE’s resources for Wellbeing and Connection During COVID-19 can help:
Maintain staff/student relationships
Create a sense of belonging and connection for students and staff
Emphasize respect, safety and community
Monitor students and develop a process for those who are struggling
Practice mindfulness with students and staff
Equity and Cultural Responsiveness
Intentional focus on equity considerations and cultural responsiveness is critical when planning and implementing expanded learning opportunities. Attention should be paid to providing:
Opportunities that are free, at locations and times convenient to students and families
Transportation options that work for students and families
Multi-age options to enable participation of all children in a family
Options that reflect the culture, interests, and needs of participating students
Community Partnership Considerations
Engaging with community partners can help schools and districts provide a greater range of options and resources for students and families. Collaboration between schools, districts and community organizations such as nonprofits, public libraries, museums and other cultural and arts institutions, faith-based organizations, private businesses, and philanthropic organizations enables meaningful, well-rounded educational opportunities for students. In particular, public libraries provide many resources to assist communities without high speed internet, devices, and/or technical knowledge, including extended wifi into the parking lot, circulating hotspots and devices, computer classes, print on demand services, and one-on-one tech assistance, all for free.