Back to School with Rocky Mountain PBS and Colorado Classroom


Dele Johnson
November 4, 2020

The following article was submitted to Floodlight by our friends and partners at Rocky Mountain Public Media.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the harsh reality of educational inequality. At Rocky Mountain PBS, the school closures in early 2020 offered a wake-up call: as a statewide television network with a long history of offering trusted educational content for families, we knew we had a unique role to play. What followed was an idea that would test our ability to provide content our community told us they needed on a faster timeline than anything we’ve produced in the previous decade.

Thanks to the willingness, hard work, and ingenuity of our talented staff and partners, we succeeded in producing a show – while working from home – that thousands of out-of-school children would see, many of them in households without broadband internet access statewide.

Colorado Classroom: Read with Me at Home, an RMPBS television program developed by master-level teachers and focused on literacy development for K-3rd grade children, aired originally in May through early June 2020 and then re-aired throughout the Summer. This followed a shift to on-air K-12 educational programming beginning in March 2020 between the hours of 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

The Colorado Classroom series was shared with families of approximately 230,000 children around the state.

We engaged multiple partners to solicit feedback and engage our community to improve the program. One parent wrote to us: “Thank you immensely for your reading program in the morning for my kindergartener-to-be. It’s been a struggle to teach. I’m dyslexic and don’t really understand phonics, much less how to teach it. I feel like my son is really getting something out of your programming change. Good work and thank you!” – Scott Wilkinson, May 19, 2020.

“Thank you immensely for your reading program in the morning for my kindergartner-to-be. It’s been a struggle to teach. I’m dyslexic and don’t really understand phonics, much less how to teach it. I feel like my son is really getting something out of your programming change. Good work and thank you!”

In addition to qualitative feedback, we examined our impact through surveys:

  • 89.5% of families who watched Colorado Classroom in the Spring are interested in continued Educational programming in the Fall.
  • At least 156,000 K-3 aged children from rural, low-income, or areas lacking internet access watched Read with Me at Home.
  • 63% of all 800 lesson plan requests came from outside of the Denver Metro area and represented all corners of the state.

While no one yet has a complete picture of the long-term impact of lost classroom time on our youngest students, we are inspired by the focus on this issue and partnership offered by the Office of Governor Jared Polis, Colorado Department of Education, Colorado Education Initiative, Gary Community Investments, Bright by Text, Invest in Kids and several others. Support from our partners and donors makes Colorado Classroom content possible.

Colorado Classroom: Learn with Me at Home

As schools make choices appropriate to their community about what back-to-school looks like this Fall, we will offer a reliable place for families to turn. Beginning this September, we will provide another educational Colorado Classroom series based on community feedback and the continued need among families. Our Fall project called Colorado Classroom: Learn with Me at Home is an all-new, accessible educational content airing on broadcast television and available to digitally stream. This content will address literacy needs, promote social/emotional skills, and include STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) themed weeks and elements. Designed specifically for young children, the programming is hosted by teachers and informed by families. This program broadcasts in English with Spanish subtitles, and shows will be supplemented by lesson worksheets in both languages created by the teachers and available online or through the mail at no charge for those without internet access.

Mrs Gillete 1st Grade Teacher

Mrs. Gillette, 1st Grade Teacher on Colorado Classroom

We are confident that our Fall Colorado Classroom programming, building on our successful Spring educational content, will continue to be a valuable educational resource which reaches even more families.

For more information or to learn how to partner with us, contact Carrie McKee at carriemckee@rmpbs.org or 719-330-6502.