On Jan. 11, Harrison School District 2’s new partnership with the Pikes Peak Library District to give every D2 student a library card called PowerPass went live.
Colorado Springs School District 11 piloted a similar program last year, but not only will D2 students have access to PPLD resources, but D2’s curriculum development team has partnered with PPLD staff to provide curriculum-aligned resources for D2 students.
The COVID-19 pandemic upended traditional instructional methods. Schools were required to rely on digital resources, as public health orders and staffing issues forced districts to move in and out of remote learning throughout semesters. And libraries have been had to limit in-person services. Partnering with local libraries lets school districts provide more resources to students while utilizing underused public library resources.
“We find that a number of our students do have library cards,” said Christine O’Brien, D2’s public information officer, “but a greater majority of them don’t. Especially right now, during COVID, it’s difficult for families to get to the library to apply for a card, and we just find that sometimes in our community that’s not possible, for whatever reason, for parents or guardians to get their children and go through the process of securing a library card. This bypasses that.
“We’ve already notified parents that students will be given a library card using their student ID number with the district. They don’t have to provide their household address or show up with several forms of their parents’ identification. They will each be given access, and they can check out virtual pieces or use the virtual system, but they can also get from the library or the bookmobile five pieces at a time, if they want to get books or videos or movies or music.”
PPLD has been working with D2 to align PPLD resources with school curriculum. “We’re excited; they’ve gone a step above and beyond,” said O’Brien. “They’ve really worked with our curriculum department, not only to make this beneficial for our students, but to also provide a service to our teachers. They’ve been pulling really interesting, great content for teachers to be able to use in the classroom and during e-learning with students.”
Abby Simpson, PPLD’s director for the Southeast region, said D2 has built on the work started in D11.
“They’re enhancing it a little bit,” she said. “We’ve got some different things ... as far as how we’re interacting with their curriculum. They sent us their curriculum and we’ve been matching resources with what they’re being taught. A kiddo could be learning about oceans in the classroom, and then there’s information on our page that enhances or adds on to what they’re learning. If they need [sources] for a school project we’re pointing them in the right direction for the resources they need.”
Kasey Andrade-Smith, a curriculum and instruction assessment coordinator for D2, said the program will be a valuable resource for classroom teachers.
“The first part of that is the PowerPass, and that is allowing every single HSD2 student full access to PPLD resources,” she said. “That spans from their physical resources all the way through every digital resource that’s available. The second part of the partnership is that a fellow coordinator and myself have been collaborating with a young adult [librarian] point of contact at the library and also with a primary point of contact at the library, and what the PPLD staff is doing for us right now is they are creating resource pages to align with our curriculum for grades 3 through 12. It’s really phenomenal.
“Imagine that our students are learning about blue whales in third grade. The PPLD is creating a webpage that has videos and extra readings that are topically and thematically based. The goal is that we are providing our students even more access to texts to build their knowledge about what they’re learning in school, particularly in their reading and language arts classes and high school English classes.”
Although the focus this year will be integrating PPLD materials with English language arts curriculum, Andrade-Smith said there are already plans for expansion.
“We chose to strategically provide the Power Passlinks, through our learning management system, to every single teacher in the district, every student, every course,” she said. “The curriculum alignment that we’ve done so far is for reading, [grades] 3 through 5, language arts, 6 through 8, and high school English. In the future we definitely want to expand that, so we can align that to American history and have another curriculum page. We started out providing that resource to reading and language arts teachers, but hope to move it to other contents as well.”
The PPLD materials also were chosen with a variety of learning styles in mind, so the resources of the PoweePassprogram will be accessible to a variety of student ability levels.
“One thing we were really mindful of when we started the curriculum partnership and these resources was to make sure we are providing for our students different types of experiences that all students can benefit from,” said Andrade-Smith. “We focused a lot on videos, images, graphics to reach our populations of diverse learners. We’ve also provided this resource for every course. Even though it aligns with say, fourth-grade reading, we’ve pushed this out through our internal learning management system to every teacher, every course, every student.When the student has their access they can just go and access these resources.”
The PowerPass program is just the latest development in D2’s efforts to digitize curriculum and expand access for students and families, and part of a partnership between D2 and PPLD that has been ongoing since the pandemic started.
“Last March when the shutdown occurred, PPLD was one of the first partners on the scene, and they delivered hot spots to us as a district, so that we were able to distribute to families who needed them immediately,” said O’Brien. “When we had other partners join us, which were business partners and foundations, [they] were able to then provide funding for us to pay for Comcast basic services for families who did not have internet access.
“We also know sometimes Comcast basic is not enough for families that have multiple e-learners at home, and maybe even a parent who needs to access the internet for work. The district has been able to bump up their service due to the generosity of our donors, or we’ve been able to provide them an additional couple of hotspots for students. In addition, we’ve also expanded our Wi-Fi at all of our schools, so that people could access Wi-Fi from the parking lot, even though the building is closed, similar to what you would find on a college campus, so everyone has access to Wi-Fi while they’re on the campus. One-hundred percent of students have the ability to gain internet access. If we have students in our district who are having difficulty accessing the internet, they should call their school principal and let them know. We can solve that.”