Arvada pitches in to give middle schoolers a remote learning boost

Bob Wooley
bwooley@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 2/16/21

A new resource for students attending Moore Middle School is hoping to redefine what the hybrid model of learning in Jeffco can look like. TeamUp Jeffco is a learning center for Moore students, sixth …

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Arvada pitches in to give middle schoolers a remote learning boost

Posted

A new resource for students attending Moore Middle School is hoping to redefine what the hybrid model of learning in Jeffco can look like.

TeamUp Jeffco is a learning center for Moore students, sixth grade through eighth grade, who are struggling or finding it difficult to engage during at-home days of hybrid learning. 

Instead of staying home, students in the program will do their remote learning with other students in one of two off-campus sites that each have a site manager and high school-aged mentors in each student pod. Kids in the program will attend in-person school at Moore two days per week and spend the remaining three days at a TeamUp Jeffco location. 

The program started when members of the community saw a problem and quite literally teamed up to solve it, according to Jean Boylan, Founder and Program Director. She said they’re focusing on middle school students because they’re at an age where they don’t always possess the skill set needed to navigate through remote learning. Elementary students have the option of attending school five days per week.

Boylan, the owner of a store that sells educational toys and supplies, said she started noticing more families coming in looking for things to help their children during remote learning. That’s great, she said, for families that had the resources. But she knew there were families that also needed that help, and wasn’t getting it.

At the same time, Katie Winner, an Arvada mom and businesswoman, started noticing the same thing in her community.

“People were looking for options. I got invited to a roundtable and was encouraged to invite other people to be at the table,” she said. “I thought of Jean right away.” 

They formed a steering committee, earned some individual community donations, were awarded a grant from the Community First Foundation, and TeamUp Jeffco was born. 

Boylan said the next thing on the agenda was trying to figure out exactly how expansive the need was, if they were going to be effective at combatting it. 

“We had to make lots of calls to principals, to other districts, to places across the country,” she said. “Early data was starting to come out about anxiety, depression, child abuse, neglect and increased alcohol use, brought on by the stresses of the pandemic and kids not being in school. Abuse numbers were down, but they weren’t accurate because teachers and counselors are the people who usually report it, and kids weren’t spending time with them.”

They came up with a model loosely based on that of the Boys and Girls Club. Boylan said it gave them a roadmap to operating a remote location, utilizing a site manager, creating job descriptions and a system for coordinating with schools.

“While we were doing our needs assessment, we reached out to Moore Middle School and worked hand in glove with Principal Brenda Fletcher,” Boylan said. “She sent letters to families she thought would benefit.

Meanwhile, Katie was working on our website to get registration and application information out to parents. The program is completely built on partnership.”

Winner said, in their opinion, principals, teachers and school staff know the kids best, so it was important to get them onboard, helping to figure out which kids needed help and would benefit the most from the limited number of spaces available in the program. 

TeamUp Jeffco currently has room for 100 students to participate. So far, about 85 have signed up. It’s not a drop-in program. Students have to commit to showing up and engaging in their work. Another benefit to parents is the ability for kids to stay until 4 p.m., instead of having to leave at 2:30 p.m. when school gets out. Boylan says the gratitude of families has been overwhelming.

“I’ve been doing conference calls with families and students,” she said. “It’s gotten emotional — parents and students crying, saying “you have answered my prayers.” They’re so anxiety ridden over lost jobs and just stressed out. They didn’t know where to turn for help.”

Boylan and Winner say they plan to keep the help coming, if possible. They would like to see the program grow to include more Jeffco middle schools and are starting conversations about continuing the program through the summer and beyond, to help make up for learning losses this unprecedented year has brought on.

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