School district survey shows student emotional needs and instructional support are top concerns during the pandemic

Written by: Leslie Colwell
Date Posted: April 24, 2020

Since the coronavirus crisis took hold in Colorado, we’ve worked quickly across all of the areas in which we work to understand how the pandemic is impacting children in Colorado. This week, the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) and the Colorado Education Initiative (CEI) released the findings of a comprehensive survey that was administered to school and district leaders in the first two weeks of April. As schools have closed to slow the spread of COVID-19, the survey results highlight the top needs school leaders are seeing in their communities.

A majority of respondents (52 percent) shared that the biggest struggle they face right now is providing emotional support for students who are learning at home. Not far behind were concerns about technical support to deliver remote learning (46 percent), online instructional supports for teachers (41 percent), and family engagement practices (38 percent). Results of the Colorado School District Needs Inventory represent 91 percent of Colorado districts and Boards of Cooperative Education Services (BOCES), serving 90 percent of the state’s public school students.

The survey asked about student access to technology, internet and software, which are basic needs for all students to be able to learn from home. Results estimate that 52,918 students lack access to a wi-fi enabled device (6 percent of the student population), and that an estimated 65,860 students lack access to internet at home (8 percent of the student population).

Schools and districts have worked quickly to try to address these technology gaps quickly, but we know more work is needed to ensure equitable access. The data are broken out by region and show that needs vary by location. Just 6 percent of students in the Denver metro area lack home internet, while 16 percent of students in northeast Colorado aren’t connected.

The coronavirus is hitting communities hard in other ways as well. Fifty-three percent of district leaders cited internet connectivity as a top community need separate from remote learning, but they also share concerns about food security (51 percent), challenges with community members making mortgage or rent payments (46 percent), and unemployment (43 percent).

Finally, the survey asked questions about local public school foundations that can serve as financial hubs and often raise significant resources that are not accounted for in school finance or easy to find publicly. Overall, 42 percent of responding districts and BOCES have a local foundation for their district, with districts in the metro area and Northwest regions of the state substantially more likely to have local foundations.

Staff from CDE and CEI hope the results guide both government response and philanthropic efforts to respond to the crisis. The Children’s Campaign is participating in these conversations and using the results as the basis of our advocacy for how federal stimulus dollars for K-12 education should be used in Colorado. Stay tuned for updates in next week’s KidsFlash.

Leslie Colwell

About Leslie Colwell

Leslie Colwell serves as the Vice President of K-12 Education Initiatives, leading the Campaign’s work to improve education in the state of Colorado. Before joining the Children’s Campaign in August of 2014, Leslie worked to facilitate partnerships and produce policy agreements, especially in the area of education as an Associate at The Keystone Center. Her professional experience includes working as Legislative Director for State Senator Mike Johnston, managing his education policy portfolio (including his office’s work on HB12-1238, Colorado’s READ Act, and SB13-033, ASSET), and directing a policy fellowship for educators for three summers. Leslie has also worked on Teach For America’s alumni team, and before that taught 6th grade Math and Earth Science as a TFA corps member at Mary McLeod Bethune Middle School in Los Angeles. She currently serves on the board of the Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy & Research Organization (CLLARO) and on the steering committee of the Colorado Afterschool Partnership.