This story was originally published by Chalkbeat Colorado. More at chalkbeat.org.
Colorado should prioritize opening schools above opening businesses and take stronger action to stave off a looming crisis for the state’s children, 45 advocacy organizations led by the Colorado Children’s Campaign wrote in a letter to Gov. Jared Polis and other state leaders Friday.
While children are less likely to suffer the most serious health consequences from the coronavirus, they are hit harder by nearly every secondary effect of the pandemic and the efforts to contain it, the advocates wrote. Those include poverty, hunger, homelessness, and lost learning.
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“Prioritizing the care of our children benefits all Coloradans,” they wrote. “By placing the needs of children and families at the center of our response we can ensure kids are in safe environments provided with the tools and skills to realize their full potential, and we can support parents who need to work so our economy can thrive.
“We are at an inflection point. The trendlines in community spread create an opening to advance strategies that support children and families. As the school year begins, families are having to make impossible choices between the education and care of their kids and meeting basic needs.”
Hundreds of thousands of Colorado students are learning remotely, some by family choice and some because their school campuses remain closed. At the same time, tens of thousands lack adequate internet access to support their learning. Families are also struggling with unprecedented job losses that threaten their housing and their ability to put food on the table. Households with children are more likely to be evicted than those made up just of adults, studies have found.
The letter asks the governor to set clear metrics for when it’s safe for schools to open, improve internet access for all students, set baseline expectations for quality remote learning, shore up child care providers, and make sure children have secure housing and enough to eat.
“What we’re seeing across all the work that we do is that kids and families need a lot right now, and there is more that the state could be doing to put children at the center of our policy response,” said Leslie Colwell, vice president of K-12 education initiatives for the Children’s Campaign.
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