Published February 16, 2023

Beginning in the 2021-2022 school year, California began providing more funding for expanded learning opportunities such as after school and summer enrichment programs to help students through sixth grade develop their academic, social, emotional, and physical skills and interests. This additional funding allowed school districts in San Mateo County, such as the Redwood City School District (RCSD), to collaborate with community partners in offering unique, hands-on, engaging learning experiences that complement classroom learning.

The Redwood City School District has been developing strong community partnerships for years through its community school model, where each school provides services and support for the whole neighborhood. Led by Enrique Calderón, Extended Learning Opportunities Program Manager, and Michelle Griffith, Director of Community Schools & Partnerships, the district met with its various community partners in 2022 to co-develop its Expanded Learning Opportunities Program (ELO-P), which aligns with the district’s Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) and Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) framework and provides all RCSD students with equitable access to extended-day care. After developing a robust plan, the district began establishing open lines of communication between staff and community-based organizations (CBOs). Enrique, who grew up in Redwood City and attended RCSD in his youth, brought his love for students and the community as an inspiration for his work.

Today, ELO-P serves more than 1,600 students across nine school sites and three off-site community centers. This number is projected to expand by another 600-700 students across all 12 school sites in the 2023-24 school year. It engages more than ten local community-based organizations that work in concert with the district to mold the program's services and activities to serve the community and meet collective goals. Twice a month, CBO directors meet with district staff to problem-solve and identify ways to embed best practices in the school curriculum. District and CBO staff alike participate in training to align their practices and philosophy throughout the day.

One of these organizations is Redwood City PAL (Police Activities League), which provides a Community Care and Enrichment after-school program at the PAL Community Center and Hoover Community School. Students try new activities such as Afro-Latin drumming, hands-on science experiments, and creative arts; engage in academic tutoring; and build new friendships through in-person and small group project-based learning. Redwood City PAL also offers a summer camp program, which is a continuation of its Community Care and Enrichment program, and several unique community wellness programs, including a pilot program that engages transitional-aged youth in culturally relevant, youth-centered, and strength-based activities. Redwood City PAL is led by Executive Director Ivan Reyes-Martinez, who like Enrique is from Redwood City and a strong community leader and advocate for students.

Through RCSD’s ELO-P, students who otherwise have limited access to extracurricular activities are given a space where they can grow, feel empowered, and engage in academic, social-emotional, and culturally relevant enrichment activities. These experiences give them greater confidence in the classroom and can accelerate their learning. "I think it’s important because it lets kids socialize and try something new to see if you like it or not," shared one middle school student. "I feel very lucky because a bunch of people don’t get that opportunity.”