Building a Sense of Belonging in School Communities Affected by Closures

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Jefferson County Public Schools (Jeffco), families and kids were faced with a daunting challenge with the closure of 15 elementary schools. They were forced to navigate new environments, make new friends, and adjust to different activities.  

Colorado Gives Foundation (formerly Community First Foundation) saw the need for support and stepped in to make a difference. They granted Jeffco $314,000 to help students, families, and staff successfully transition through the Regional Opportunities for Thriving Schools (ROFTS) program. 

According to Noah Atencio, vice president of community impact for Colorado Gives Foundation, fostering connections in the community was a top priority. “We know that for families impacted by school closures, building a sense of belonging in their new school community is crucial. Working with Jeffco, we can help make that happen.” 

Lisa Relou, chief of strategy and communication for Jeffco Schools, echoed the importance of creating a sense of belonging for all students and families impacted by the closures. The district was already working hard to engage communities through field trips, pen pals, buddy programs, shadowing, and collaborative projects. In addition, professional learning for school staff, events and programming to welcome new families, and empowering family voices were all part of Jeffco’s plan to build a positive school culture. 

This wasn’t the first time Colorado Gives Foundation had come to the aid of Jeffco schools. Earlier this year, they granted $118,500 to support students and families impacted by the closures. The investment went towards engaging school communities and providing a unique opportunity for students at Emory Elementary School (a closing school) and Lasley Elementary School (a welcoming school) to build community through Boys & Girls Club spring break and summer camp. 

Thanks to the support, families and staff impacted by the school closures could face the changes ahead with a renewed sense of hope and belonging.