City Connects is in the news again, featured in a Boston Globe op-ed by Kerry Donahue about how schools can help students recover from the educational and social-emotional losses caused by the pandemic.
“Urgently addressing the needs of students is critical for ensuring the generation of children impacted by the pandemic do not suffer long-term harm,” Donahue writes. She’s the chief strategy officer at the Boston Schools Fund, “a non-profit organization that advances educational equity through opportunity and access to high-quality schools.”
“With only two remaining school years to spend hundreds of millions of available federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds, the city should harness these resources in four critical areas,” Donahue adds.
These areas are evidence-based literacy instruction, high-dosage tutoring, coherent wraparound services, and increased operations capacity.
As Donahue notes, students’ “increased mental health and social-emotional needs” are “straining schools and districts that were never designed to manage this volume or concentration of need. Expecting schools that are already trying to address major academic gaps, while managing continued COVID disruptions for students and staff, to also build an effective wraparound service delivery operation defies logic.”
“In Boston, we are lucky because we have a proven, home-grown wraparound model in City Connects, but it is not yet in place in every school. After decades of successful operation in Boston, we should scale this model across all schools and ensure that there is adequate staffing dedicated to coordination.”
One challenge, as Donahue explains, is that “Adding recovery supports like high-dosage tutoring or increased wraparound services require significant operational coordination.”
Providing this kind of coordination is another area where City Connects helps by putting Coordinators in schools. In addition to conducting whole class reviews with teachers to assess students’ strengths and needs, coordinators lead their school’s Student Support Team, and they are experts at working with community partners to link students to existing services that include everything from tutoring to food support to summer camps to mental health services.
In her op-ed, Donahue concludes:
“A focused, evidence-based approach can make a difference in stemming the impact of the pandemic. For Boston, this will require discipline and a willingness to make large enough investments to address the actual scale of the challenges.”
We agree. As Donahue says, City Connects already have a presence in Boston’s public schools — and we are expanding in other communities, including three in Massachusetts: Springfield, Beverly, and Salem. We are excited about this growth and about working with more educators to provide students with what Donahue calls “the best shot” at “a full recovery” from the pandemic’s harsh impact.