Community Foundation Helps Struggling Students Get Back On Track During Coronavirus

June 18, 2020

An innovative partnership between the Community Foundation of Broward and Broward County Public Schools helps struggling middle school students get back on track to becoming high school graduates.

The pandemic that closed Broward schools couldn’t shut the door on groundbreaking help for struggling middle school students.

Thanks to a dynamic partnership between the Community Foundation of Broward and Broward County Public Schools, important work continues to keep low-achieving students engaged and learning – even as classes have moved online.

In fact, this innovative collaboration to reimagine middle school education has helped 10 local schools tackle new challenges that have emerged for students during the coronavirus crisis.  For example, as a result of the partnership:

  • New community liaisons increased outreach to the families of students at risk of falling further behind during distance learning. The schools’ community liaisons helped get loaner laptops to students who needed computers. They worked to improve internet connectivity for students in households with limited online access. They also connected struggling families to free meal distributions.
  • Online classes for students targeted for extra help have included innovative social-emotional learning, in addition to the usual academics. For example, teachers help students set goals, work on time management and organization, catch up on missed assignments, and also talk about stresses in their life. It’s part of an ongoing effort – that started in classrooms and now extends to online learning – to help students rise above outside problems so they can succeed at school.

Research shows that middle school is a pivot point where students who fall behind can end up in a downward spiral that leads to dropping out. The coronavirus closing schools threatens to make that an even greater risk for sixth, seventh and eighth graders who were already struggling.

New Grant Brings More Support For Students

Now, more help for at-risk middle school students is coming from a new $1 million School Is Cool grant approved this summer by the Community Foundation’s Board of Directors.

Community Foundation President/CEO Linda B. Carter and Schools Superintendent Robert W. Runcie

This is the third phase of a $3 million Community Foundation commitment that is being matched by the school district for an ambitious effort to reimagine middle school education – with the ultimate goal of boosting Broward’s high school graduation rate.

The partnership in 2018 launched a three-year pilot program to help the lowest performing students at 10 middle schools. The program has enabled the schools to take steps such as:

  • Hiring community liaisons who help struggling families overcome obstacles to get frequently absent students back in class and back on track academically.
  • Training teachers in new techniques to lift up at-risk students, such as project-based learning and social-emotional learning.

In year two, the program has already shown positive results in student behavior and course performance.

In the upcoming school year, the participating schools can use the new grant to provide intense tutoring and mentoring to help students in the program catch up from coronavirus-related setbacks. In addition, the grant enables more teacher training. And there’s flexibility for schools to take what they learned from distance learning and incorporate online tools in new ways to engage students.

“Through our partnership with the Community Foundation of Broward, the School Is Cool pilot program continues to elevate the Broward County Public Schools middle school student experience for nearly 1,400 students across 10 District middle schools,” Schools Superintendent Robert W. Runcie said. “We are committed to ensuring equity for students with additional supports to address the needs of students who have previously struggled to succeed at school. During the first two years of this important partnership, we achieved improved academic success in mathematics and English, and fewer behavioral incidents among this group of students. We are tremendously grateful for the Foundation’s continued support as we begin this third year to help our students and families reach their highest potential.”

Philanthropy Empowers Disadvantaged Students To Overcome Hurdles

State budget cuts expected to result from the coronavirus crisis will likely tighten up resources available for local schools, which makes support from the Community Foundation more important than ever for Broward’s students.

Many of the schools in the pilot program are in low-income, minority communities that have been particularly hard-hit by the health and economic effects of the coronavirus. The Community Foundation support can help level the playing field for students that already face an uphill struggle, even without a pandemic.

Thanks to support from local philanthropists who create endowed charitable Funds at the Community Foundation, we will be there to help Broward’s students succeed – during this crisis and beyond.

Support for School is Cool has been provided by the following Funds at the Community Foundation:

Mary and Alex Mackenzie Community Impact Fund, Mary N. Porter Community Impact Fund, The Allen Family Fund for Children, Broward's Tribute to Children Fund, The Sherman "Red" Crise and Evelyn R. Crise Memorial Fund, The Huizenga Fund for Children, James and Lynn LaBate Family Fund, Lawrence A. Sanders Fund to Promote Literacy, Jim Moran Children's Fund, Sheriff Nick Navarro Fund, Robert O. Powell Family Fund, Margaret and Cato Roach Tribute Fund, Patricia Lee Rutherford Fund for Children, Sun Sentinel Literacy Fund, Charles and Ruth Taylor Fund, Anna Bloeser Fund, Donald C. Grobmyer Fund, David and Francie Horvitz Family Fund, Edwin A. and Jane N. Huston Fund, Herschell and Margo Lewis Fund, Jan Moran Unrestricted Fund, Norman R. and Ruth Rales Fund, Kathleen Kinney Slappey Fund, LaVere G. and Mabel R. White Fund, The Rumbaugh Fund, Jack Belt Memorial Fund, Vista Healthplan Children’s Health Fund, Fred and Mary Ruffner Fund, William G. Roy, Sr. Fund, Frank D. and Anita M. Butler Endowment Fund, Community Impact Fund and Margaret Garrison.

Contact Information

For more information about how you can help support struggling students, contact Vice President of Philanthropic Services Nancy Thies at or 954-761-9503.

School is Cool

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