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School’s back in session, and we’re ready to help.

It's no surprise that back-to-school looks different this year. Parents and teachers alike have grappled with what's best for youth and families ever since COVID-19 closed schools and many workplaces in March. Months later, there are still conflicting answers. But we have been working relentlessly, re-imagining our options to ensure CommonBond youth continue to have the support they need to reach their goals.

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Earlier in the summer, we wrote about some of the ways we had been supporting youth amid the pandemic. For families with low incomes, the lack of access to educational tools and opportunities over summer break can lead to massive long-term learning losses. So, we committed to continuing our youth programming as best we could through virtual programming and education opportunities.

Now, school is back in session. There is no perfect answer for kids returning to school, whether it be in-person or virtually. It’s something families and caregivers across the country have grappled with. But as we’ve seen over the past few months, the pandemic has deepened existing inequities, making the decision of how to keep kids learning especially challenging for families with low incomes.

With funds exceptionally tight, these decisions have critically high stakes. If a family sends their child back to school, the increased risk of COVID exposure means increased risk of being unable to work and losing income, or being faced with unknown healthcare costs. If they don’t, how can they go to work and ensure kids are cared for and learning? Plus, the new demands of today’s virtual learning can be expensive—is there internet access? A laptop or tablet? These factors and many more put youth from more wealthy families at an even steeper advantage. It’s why now more than ever, we’ve been working to be nimble and creative in the ways we keep our programs running for young CommonBond residents.

Based on what we learned the past few months, we are taking a few steps beyond what we were able to offer this summer. In addition to four-hour virtual homework/distance learning help sessions most weekdays, we will resume some in-person programming for children and teens—with social distancing and safety precautions at the forefront. Volunteer Study Buddies and Homework Center tutors will still be tutoring virtually, but youth and teens will start to meet in-person with CommonBond staff in limited numbers. We know that access to technology remains a barrier for many CommonBond families, and we’re working to provide more laptops and technology for youth to use during programming. While it won’t look the same as when youth and their tutors could meet to work and laugh face-to-face, it will offer an outlet for students to work through problems together and share ideas. And it’s still a specific time and place for youth to seek extra help and take steps toward reaching their goals.

This new world we’re living in is filled with uncertainties, but we can all agree extra support is crucial right now. Want to help? We still need virtual volunteers to tutor, as well as donations of youth-sized masks! Click here for more information on becoming a tutor, or donating masks. We also need ongoing financial support to ensure we can provide the technology students need as we continue navigating this virtual environment. Donate now!

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