With June marking the end of the traditional school year, many San Diego families look forward to their summer plans, including enrichment activities like summer school, camps and workshops. These enrichment activities are also known as out-of-school learning, or expanded learning, and can be nearly as crucial to a young person’s development and learning as traditional school time.

Expanded learning helps bridge the gap within the traditional school system by providing students with limited access to resources with educational opportunities outside the classroom through summer, and/or after-school or community programs.

Bringing Disparities to the Light

With COVID-19 came a tremendous amount of pain and loss, however, this period of time also shed light on the important disparities in many of today’s systems, especially the educational system. It became apparent that access to wifi, additional tutoring, and a quiet, safe place for focusing was not available to all students. According to McKinsey & Company, Black and Latino/a students could be six to 12 months behind, a significant difference from White students who could be four to eight months behind.

These inequalities were present long before the pandemic took the nation but became even more apparent when schools began to shut down. Students who were furthest from educational opportunities before the pandemic were now struggling more than ever to succeed in the educational realm. Expanded learning programs have become critical in preventing further learning loss and widening the equity gap.

Bridging the Gap

Student in classroom

“Recent studies reflect greater learning loss than originally estimated for students compared to pre-pandemic levels, especially for those furthest from opportunity,” said Mark Stuart, President & CEO of San Diego Foundation. “These after-school and summer programs provide equitable access to expanded learning opportunities, so students thrive in school and life.”

To bridge that gap this summer for local students, San Diego Foundation awarded $2 million in grants to 15 nonprofit partners that are focused on the recovery of post-pandemic academic and social recovery of K – 12 students in San Diego County. These 15 nonprofits provide summer programs that empower the students of North, East and South County and encourage them to continue on their journey to academic success.

Getting Students Back on Track

Expanded learning programs are now more important than ever to help get students back on track.

On average, students were likely to have lost five to nine months of learning due to the pandemic. Organizations offering expanded learning opportunities have seen the impact these programs have on the students and their academic progress. These programs provide the important educational tools needed for academic success, such as additional tutoring, in-person learning opportunities and access to adequate school supplies.

Aside from the academic benefits expanded learning programs have to offer, these programs also promote students’ mental and emotional well-being. Students not only lost months of learning but many students also experienced heightened levels of depression and anxiety. Expanded learning programs allow students to connect and build relationships with their peers and provide them with an outlet to channel heightened emotions.

San Diego Foundation launched its Expanded Learning programs in 2021 with Level Up SD, a partnership with San Diego Unified School District. Since then, it has awarded over $31 million in grants to 176 nonprofit partners, serving more than 50,000 students throughout San Diego County.

Learn more about SDF Expanded Learning programs.