Summer programs are the focus of Children’s Trust of Alachua County

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Summer vacation has gone quickly for Kindergarten to Grade 12 students this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the back to school 2020-21 for public schools in Alachua County, so the last day was not until mid-June. Students had less free time than usual before class resumption for fall Tuesday.

But a short summer isn’t necessarily bad news. This means less time for the “summer slide”, the phenomenon in which students forget lessons from the previous school year.

With students already experiencing learning losses from the disruption of the pandemic, they can’t afford to fall further behind. Low-income children who do not have access to summer programs or other enrichment activities are particularly at risk.

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Fortunately the Alachua County Children’s Trust funded approximately 2,000 scholarships for local students to participate in such programs this summer. County voters approved the Children’s Trust in 2018, allowing property taxes in the county to increase to half a million per year over 12 years to fund programs benefiting local children.

Children’s Trust Executive Director Colin Murphy expects summer to be one of the main areas for funding going forward. This could include expanding scholarships and working with summer programs to strengthen their offerings, as well as a summer employment initiative helping teens develop the skills needed to land and partner with jobs. companies in these efforts.

Providing young people with positive activities is part of an effort to reduce shootings and other violence in the community. Murphy said the Children’s Trust will focus on preventing violence, including filling gaps in existing programs or funding new efforts, in the coming weeks.

Supporters of the Children's Trust of Alachua County watch the number of votes arrive on Election Day during a lookout night at Blue Gill Restaurant in Gainesville on November 6, 2018.

Another initiative considered by the trust’s board of directors involves local early childhood education providers. Murphy said a new state law allows providers to receive more funding if they are accredited, so the trust is considering establishing an accreditation academy. Increased funding would allow providers to pay their teachers more, which Murphy says should help with recruitment and retention.

If Alachua County is ever to reduce persistent disparities, the work of the Children’s Trust is needed to augment the efforts of local schools and other institutions. The pandemic has only made these kinds of issues more difficult to resolve, an issue I will discuss with Chris Curran of the University of Florida’s Center for Education Policy Research and others at a table. Florida Pulse round Thursday The Sun’s Facebook page.

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Our community needs to take full advantage of the Children’s Trust by getting other institutions to coordinate to achieve specific goals, such as a long-discussed plan to improve reading skills in grade three. While the trust’s many initiatives offer a variety of benefits, voters need to see programs with a major impact to increase the chances of them renewing the program upon completion of its 12-year license.

Murphy said he is confident that measures ranging from reading scores to rates of youth violence will go in the right direction thanks to the trust’s work.

“When the time comes for voters to make a decision, it will be very simple: is our community better with trust or without it? he said.

Nathan Crabbe is The Sun’s opinion and engagement writer. Follow him on twitter.com/nathancrabbe and facebook.com/nathancrabbe.

Opinion editor Sun Nathan Crabbe

Florida Pulse roundtable on back-to-school challenges

Thought leaders from the USA TODAY-Florida Network convene a panel to discuss the challenges schools face as they reopen under the cloud of the COVID pandemic.

WHEN: Thursday August 12, 7 p.m.

HOW TO WATCH: The Florida Pulse will be broadcast live on The Sun’s Facebook page. It will also be available for replay on Facebook and The Sun’s website.

PARTICIPANTS: F. Chris Curran, Director of the Center for Educational Policy Research at the University of Florida, and Nathan Crabbe, Editor-in-Chief of Sun Opinion, will be among the attendees.

QUESTIONS: The public will have the opportunity to ask questions in the comments section of the Facebook live stream.



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