By Jamie Leary

BROOMFIELD, Colo. (CBS4) – As school districts across the state look to make plans for the fall, some are taking the summer to make sure their most vulnerable students have the means to make it through.

“I think in the midst of this kind of COVID-19 crisis, we are experiencing a lot more families who are kind of in transition and there are things that are unknown to them that maybe felt really secure before,” said Caitlin Guerrie.

(credit: CBS)

Guerrie is one of 17 Early Childhood Community Liaisons for the Boulder Valley School District. In some ways, the district was lucky when the pandemic hit. Its foundation, Impact on Education, was ready with a plan to make sure families struggling to get by before weren’t overwhelmed.

“It’s just been an enormous effort on behalf of the school district and partners at Impact on Education. It’s everybody coming together to think about, like, let’s be creative. Let’s use some creative problem solving here to reach our families in new ways that we haven’t before.”

Twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, families are welcome to swing by a pop-up food bank in the lot of Emerald Elementary School. While it’s for district families, there is never a single person turned away and volunteers say the lines continue to grow.

When families can’t make it to the drive through, for any reason, the food comes to them.

(credit: CBS)

“It’s just been an enormous effort on behalf of the school district and partners at impact on education… it’s everybody coming together to think about like, ‘Hey let’s be creative. Let’s use some creative problem solving here to reach our families in new ways that we haven’t before,’” she said.

It’s a new program as a result of the pandemic and part of the district’s new All Together for All Students strategic plan.

While Guerrie has only been doing the delivery aspect for a couple months, she can tell. It’s already made a meaningful impact.

“Being able to bring food to people’s houses and having families that can pick up as well I think it eases up the strain of these times a little bit,” Guerrie continued, “and when we know that kids are well fed. That’s the best capacity for learning.”

She is trying to spread the word about the free program. She knows, there are many kids whom without school, would be missing meals.

“The reality is, a lot of people are facing new challenges. They’re being stretched, their budget much more now than ever before.”

CBS4 followed along with Guerrie on her route Thursday where we met the Compian family.

Priscilla, the family matriarch, couldn’t express enough, her gratitude for the districts efforts.

“I just think it’s important because a lot of people are struggling a little bit and they’re afraid to ask for help and so I think offering these services? It opens up opportunity…”

(credit: CBS)

For Priscilla, who like many is on a fixed income, it’s about being able to pay her bills.

“We’re barely making enough to pay the bills so this helps us not have to… eat bean and cheese burritos all the time,” she laughed.

She can laugh because her kids are healthy. The food, while it also includes their favorite cereal, is much more.

“We’ve gotten a ham right before Easter and that was like a blessing for us…” Priscilla began to cry, almost caught off guard by the memory but continued, “Some of the other items are just milk, and healthy items that we’re able to feed our kids with. We just moved here back in October from California. You know, it just helps us a lot because we don’t have anybody else here.”

It’s moments like these that keep Guerrie going.

“It makes me feel like, you know, this is my job and that’s what I’m doing but I feel like I know I’m doing it well. To hear Priscilla say, you know, we feel like we have community, even though we don’t have family that live near us. That matters a lot.”

A statement from BVSD on Thursday read, One of the biggest goals of our new All Together for All Students Strategic Plan, is to provide supports for our most vulnerable students. We are determined to close the long-standing achievement gap in Boulder Valley and we know that in order to learn, students’ most basic needs must be addressed first. While this is something we are working towards every day.

It is even more important during the pandemic, where many families — but especially those at the lowest socio-economic level — are being impacted by the Stay at Home orders and the impacts on the economy, including layoffs. After schools closed, we quickly worked to stand up emergency food, devices (Chromebooks and iPads) and backpack distributions. The backpacks were full of school supplies, paper materials and gift cards for students who didn’t previously had internet connections. Since then, we’ve helped to close that cap.

This is only possible through our partnership with our community. Our foundation, Impact on Education, has been instrumental. They have been working to collecting funds through their Critical Needs Fund for the food distributions, gift cards… as well as preparing for whatever needs will come as we begin working to catch students up as restrictions are lifted. We are also working closely with our partners at the county-level to ensure other basic needs like housing are available.

More About Our Strategic Plan

Our strategic plan is focused first and foremost on students. After analyzing volumes of data and feedback from educators and the community, BVSD set three Long Term Student Outcomes that will drive everything we do:

  • All students benefit from challenging and relevant educational opportunities
  • Reduce disparities in achievement
  • Every student graduates empowered with the skills necessary for post-graduate success

More simply, our goal is to Ignite the passion of learning in every student, Equip them will the skills needed to overcome the achievement gap and to prepare them to Soar in whatever they do after school. 

Guerrie says as many families as the strategic plan hopes to serve, she knows there are many in need who don’t know the resources exist.

To learn more about how your family can sign up, click here.

Jamie Leary

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