The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on Colorado’s schools and students — disrupting daily learning and school operations and forcing students, teachers, and families to rapidly adjust to online environments.

In response, Gates and a coalition of partners have created the COVID-19 Education Innovation Fund (the Fund) — a K-12 initiative dedicated to supporting innovation in learning during these unprecedented times. A total of $325,000 is available, and applications will be accepted on a rolling basis from anyone working to provide innovative learning opportunities to Colorado youth.

There is no doubt that schooling in Colorado will look different next year. This shifting reality poses several challenges to the education landscape:

Gates Family Foundation, Lyra Colorado, Empower Schools, RESCHOOL Colorado, the Donnell-Kay Foundation, Colorado Succeeds, and RootED have joined to create this flexible pool of funding. The goal of the initiative is to promote resilient education systems and stimulate new approaches to meeting learners’ needs, by supporting ideas that are transformative, systemic, and sustainable.

Given the unprecedented and evolving nature of this crisis, there is not an expectation for applicants to have fully-formed projects and ideas. We encourage interested applicants to apply, regardless of the status of your proposed project.

Complete information about this funding opportunity
is available here and summarized below.

About the Initiative

The Fund has designated $325,000 for small, medium and large size grants, which will focus on emergent strategies and provide support via:

  1. “Learning dollars” for families facing economic hardship to expand access to summer learning. If you are a Colorado family interested in applying for this resource, please visit RESCHOOL’s website here.
  2. Funding for locally-driven efforts to design and test new models of learning.
  3. Funding to districts and others to develop strategies that address the systemic disruption of school and district operations due to COVID-19 for the summer and 2020-21 school year. 

Individuals as well as formal or informal teams of people can apply for these opportunities. Eligible applicants include educators, school leaders, out-of-school/summer learning providers, families, school networks (district or charter schools), nonprofit organizations, superintendents, boards of education, or others partnering with districts, parents, entrepreneurs, and students.

Selection Process, Timeline & Parameters

  • If you are a Colorado family interested in applying for “learning dollars”, please visit RESCHOOL’s website here.
  • Applicants for the other two funding opportunities listed above are asked to submit Letters of Interest to innovationfund@lyracolorado.org.
  • Submissions may be up to two pages in length, or comparably brief if submitted in another format (such as PowerPoint, video, etc.)
  • Letters of Interest are due by 5 p.m. MT on June 1, June 15, July 15, and August 15. Funds will be distributed on a rolling basis from now through the beginning of the 2020/2021 school year.
    • (PLEASE NOTE: Based on feedback from partners and reviewers, we have removed the July 1 and August 1 deadlines, and added a August 15 deadline since originally announcing this grant opportunity.)
  • The Fund’s donors and partners will select grantees from submitted Letters of Interest; final selection will be guided by a desire to capture a diversity of approaches to improving educational opportunities for students in Colorado.
  • The size of the award will be determined based on the potential scope of the project and projected cost for implementation. Most grants will be in the $1,000-$4,000 range but some could be as high as $50,000.
  • The Fund plans to give grantees a great deal of flexibility over the use of grant dollars.

See examples of potential projects and corresponding award amounts for guidance here.

Examples and Ideas

The Fund is intentionally designed to encourage innovative prototypes and pilots as well as larger-scale initiatives. NOTE: The following are not meant to limit innovation or creativity, but to provide some practical examples of how projects might come together.

  • An educator requests $1,500 to adapt a summer learning program to a virtual context for 100 students
  • A group of learning providers requests $4,000 to develop a collaborative summer program for 400 middle schoolers
  • A school network requests $6,000 to pilot new summer programming for 5,000 students that could inform ongoing operations in the fall
  • A group of families, out-of-school learning providers, and/or a district request $15,000 to pilot a program to allow families to direct a portion of per pupil revenue to meet students’ needs
  • A group of school districts requests $30,000 to develop a formalized strategy to share and flex resources across schools, districts, higher ed and/or industry partners to meet students needs in SY 2020-21

Questions?

  • For questions about “family learning dollars,” please visit RESCHOOL’s website here.
  • For questions about funding for locally-driven efforts to design and test new models of learning or strategies that address the systemic disruption of school and district operations, please email innovationfund@lyracolorado.org.