Ute Mountain Ute School, Pueblo Community College And Others Get $27 Million For Projects Addressing Pandemic Education Gaps

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Empty Denver South High School
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
An empty hallway at Denver’s South High School, Tuesday, May 5, 2020.

Gov. Jared Polis announced more than $27 million in funding to address educational equity across the state.

The RISE Education Fund, which launched in September 2020, provides CARES Act funding to support school projects addressing gaps caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The first round of recipients received more than $14 million for workforce readiness projects, mental health support and new academic programs. The second round included community college partnerships, early childhood education and service-learning.

The Kwiyagat Community Academy, a new school on the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation, received $2.7 million toward an education plan focused on combining academics with tribal history.

Chairman Manuel Heart said the funding will ensure tribal history is passed on to new generations.

"I think each tribe is different in their own way, in language and culture," Heart said. "We wanted to implement something in the curriculum that would help them understand where they come from."

He said the community often loses students to out-of-state boarding schools or neighboring public schools. His hope is this new investment in a school on the reservation will incentivize students to stay.

"In the past generations of our grandfathers and our parents, a lot of our students were taken away from their homes," Heart said. "They were taught to assimilate into the system. [Now] we are looking to streamline education to meet the needs of our future, and we also want to include the past."

Funding will also go to services for families, including parent engagement, project-based learning and entrepreneurship opportunities. The school is slated to open in the fall of 2021.

Pueblo Community College also received a little over $2 million for a community college partnership across the state to strengthen higher education pathways for students. Teachers will receive updated technology to improve remote learning, along with course-sharing across schools.

"Any student, regardless of where they live, will have opportunities for academic success," said Pueblo Community College President Patty Erjavec..

The college, along with other Hispanic-serving institutions, plans to partner with 70 high schools across 33 counties. High school teachers will also have the opportunity to gain certification to offer community college credit in their classes.

Other funding recipients include St. Vrain Valley Schools for a summer literacy program for Cheraw, Estes Park, Las Animas, Montezuma-Cortez, and Sheridan school districts; Adams State University in Alamosa for workforce readiness for San Luis Valley students; and Campo School District RE-6 in Baca County for an entrepreneurship and service learning program.