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Elias Nelson stood at the whiteboard, dry erase marker in hand, facing down a five-digit math problem: 93,213 minus 59,758. He glanced at the boy next to him, who was working on a three-digit problem, and then back to his own trickier equation.
“You gave me a hard one!” Elias said.
His tutor smiled. “I challenged you,” she said.
“Whyyyyy?” Elias whined.
“Because I believe in you,” she said.
Another boy, who was sitting at a desk, subtracting numbers on paper, piped up.
“We all do!” he said.
The boys are students at University Prep, a homegrown elementary charter school network with two campuses in northeast Denver. This summer, they’re participating in a six-week tutoring program meant to fill academic gaps that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic. Funded with federal COVID relief dollars, the summer tutoring is part of University Prep’s two-year, three-pronged “catchup plan” to help students get back on track academically.
About 70 students, mostly rising fourth- and fifth-graders, are attending reading, writing, and math sessions for three hours a day, two days per week. University Prep Founder and Executive Director David Singer said the focus on older students is intentional.
“If you’re in fifth grade and you haven’t been back in school since March of third [grade], we have a narrow window of time to make sure you’re equipped for middle school,” he said.