Governor Jared Polis awarded a Response, Innovation, and Student Equity (RISE) Fund to Colorado Mountain College last week. The RISE fund supports innovation in high-needs school districts, charter schools and public institutions of higher education to address the learning challenges related to the economic, social, and health impacts of COVID-19.
The grant, which will be shared with Colorado Northwestern Community College (CNCC), includes $2,957,466 to rebuild, grow and sustainably scale concurrent enrollment opportunities for high schools and local institutions of higher education in rural communities within CMC and CNCC’s service area. The colleges’ service area includes 20,000 square miles and 10,500 high school students.
The CMC/CNCC grant was awarded in Polis’ second round of RISE grants, the first of which were awarded last November and included a $492,000 grant to Lake County School District for the development of a mobile learning center. Both rounds of grants, which were chosen by a group of parents, students and education leaders, awarded over $40 million in RISE funding.
“Every Colorado student should have access to a quality education and these amazing ideas and innovative programs, from improving early childhood education to increasing apprenticeship opportunities for high schoolers, will help improve our schools and build back stronger than before the pandemic,” said Polis. “I’ve spent the majority of my life pushing for innovation and excellence in education and these focused investments will make a transformative positive impact on the lives of Colorado’s kids and families today and for the future.”
Thanks to the support of funders, including the Gates Family Foundation and Gary Community Investments, almost half of the grantees received resources and strategic design support for the RISE fund earlier this year. This planning and design support opportunity helped potential grantees conduct strong community engagement efforts and strategic design processes. This opportunity allowed the RISE fund to reach grantees from every geographic region in the state.
In addition, the state will partner with the Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab to conduct evaluations of the RISE grantees so the rest of the state and country can learn what works. The goal of this process is to ensure that school districts, schools and institutions of higher education can learn from the best practices developed through these innovative projects.
“The central mountains and far northwest region of Colorado are incredibly beautiful and attract visitors from across the globe,” stated President and CEO of Colorado Mountain College Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser. “These same communities are also particularly susceptible to economic downturns and natural disasters such as the devastating wildfires of this past summer. With funding from RISE, CMC is pleased to aid in the region’s economic recovery by partnering with Colorado Northwestern Community College, 17 school districts and 54 rural high schools to restore concurrent enrollment programs toppled by the pandemic, build the state’s most extensive network of technology-enabled classrooms, and dramatically expand access to college courses for students in western Colorado.”
CMC and CNCC anticipate completing the following goals with the RISE grant:
— Equip 26 high school smart classrooms throughout the North Central Colorado (CMC).
— Equip 28 high school smart classrooms throughout Northwest Colorado (CNCC).
— Stabilize the structure with formal memorandums of understanding between all partners and a permanent funding solution (CMC).
— Create a staffing structure to support local school district needs, map concurrent enrollment instructional capacity and need on an on-going basis, and facilitate resource sharing (CMC).
— Foster greater cross-service district collaboration and enrich concurrent enrollment capacities by sharing both institutions’ instructors (CMC and CNCC).
— Expand cross-district concurrent enrollment simultaneous courses and expand remote course delivery by providing access to existing college classrooms, technology, software and faculty expertise (CMC/CNCC).
— Review and simplify concurrent enrollment entry procedures to minimize friction and barriers for students at each partner school undertaking course offerings (CMC/CNCC).
— Expand concurrent enrollment supports/student success supports with individual district funding (CMC).
— Create a mobile STEM concurrent enrollment laboratory to teach targeted courses in Northwest Colorado (CNCC).
Other RISE recipients include St. Vrain Valley Schools, Adams State University, Hayden School District, Montezuma Cortez School District RE-1, Northeastern Junior College, West Grand School District, Bennett School District 29J, Academy 360 Charter School, Charter School Innovation Consortium, Campo School District, Park County School District RE-2, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Adams County School District 14, Cripple Creek-Victor School District, New Legacy Charter School, Santa Fe Trail BOCES and Pueblo Community College.