How do we engage and support learning, connection, and curiosity beyond the school day and year?


While there has always been an equity gap in education, the past year has challenged and stretched educators in unimaginable ways and despite the best of intentions, distance learning has widened the equity gap. By leveraging summer learning, it may be possible to get a jump start to the new year, reimagine our approach to remedying inequities and trauma, accelerate learning, and bring back the joy of school for students across California.


Rather than focus on remediation, summer learning can focus on providing deeper, experiential learning for students that provides opportunities for both academic and social-emotional attention and acceleration and launches students into the fall ready to rise. The influx of COVID relief funding provides schools an opportunity to create dynamic, exploratory, and joyful learning that is both rigorous and fun.


  • DO NOW: Get a deep understanding of how you can use current funds by reading the next section.
  • DO NEXT: Design programs in which form follows fun—not remedial credit programs but rather engaging explorations of content.


We recommend LEAs start by understanding all the funds that are available to them and then move to design powerful summer programs.  You can start with some of the summer planning templates created by the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching.

Maximize Funds

We’ve identified two COVID-specific relief sources that can be used to support expanded learning: 

  • ESSER III funds (the American Rescue Plan Act’s $122.7 billion in supplemental Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds), and 
  • Funds made available by California’s Assembly Bill 86 COVID-19 relief package.

For a list of additional opportunities, visit CA3’s Funding Sources for Expanded Learning Programs.

Allowed Uses of AB86 Funds

AB86 provides $2 billion for In-Person Instruction (IPI) grants and $4.6 billion for Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO) grants. 

  • Definition: In AB86 (43520), “expanded learning” refers more broadly to all activities outside of the instructional day that support the bill’s three goals: 
    1. offer in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible starting in the 2020–21 school year and continuing into the 2022–23 school year
    2. expand in-person instructional time, and
    3. provide academic interventions and pupil supports to address barriers to learning and accelerate progress to close learning gaps. 
  • Added flexibility:
    • These funds are not designated solely for the type of expanded learning programs funded with ASES, 21stCLCC, and ASSETs funding.
    • These funds can be used in combination with existing afterschool or expanded learning funds. 
  • Potential uses: 
    • professional development, 
    • staffing and administrative costs, 
    • costs of starting and operating a program (planning, curriculum, materials, supplies, technology, etc.), and 
    • costs associated with outreach to pupils and parents. 
  • Allocating funds:
    • An LEA should use at least 85% of its apportionment for expenditures related to providing in-person services. [43522(d)(1)]
    • An LEA may expend up to 15% to increase or improve services for pupils participating in distance learning or to support activities intended to prepare a LEA for in-person instruction before in-person instructional services are offered. [43522(d)(3)]


CCSESA offers multiple tools and resources to assist LEAs in the planning and effective use of one-time funding.

Includes a primer on COVID-19 Relief Funding for K-12 Education and a COVID-19 Relief Budget Planning Tool.

Accessing AB86 Funds

  • To receive an IPI grant:
    • LEAs will receive 50 percent of their estimated allocations for the IPI Grant in May 2021 and funds will be paid in the same apportionment with the Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO) Grant.
    • Remaining funds will be released in August 2021 based on final allocations. Funding may be reduced or forfeited if LEAs do not meet all in-person instruction requirements [EC 43521(c)(2)]. LEAs will see revised funding levels in the final allocation and adjustments to funding in the August apportionment.
  • To receive an ELO grant: 
    • LEAs must complete the Expanded Learning Opportunities Grant Plan (template here); 
    • it must be adopted by the local governing board or body of the LEA at a public meeting on or before June 1, 2021; and 
    • it must be submitted to the county office of education, the California Department of Education, or the chartering authority within five days of adoption as applicable.


Further Resources

Design Powerful Programs

Designing programs that help reengage students in a joyful manner while accelerating their learning will require planning and preparation, an emphasis on social-emotional learning, a project-based learning lens, and the creative use of staff and time

Plan and Prepare


Social-Emotional Learning

More than ever, it is critical that LEAs prioritize healing and joy. Summer programs should focus on promoting both academic and social-emotional learning. Here are some resources on SEL and meeting basic needs:


Put the Fun in “Function” with Project-Based Learning

While academic goals should be part of your program, the intent should not be to reteach all content from the prior year. Ensure programs are rich in joy and fun, and leverage projects and explorations to engage students in new ways of learning.

  • For projects and explorations to have both an academic and social-emotional impact, it is important to begin with the end in mind. Here is a quick project planning guide, and here are some examples of creative programs.  
  • Bring community experts and collaborators into the classroom. Projects with a community connection are practical and raise awareness and support for your school. 
  • Give the students questions to answer, data to collect, a mission to follow. This will help drive learning. 
  • Make the project fun! Don’t be overly academic at all times: get messy, try something new, and expect mistakes. This is part of learning and helps with reengagement. 
  • Capture and reflect. Photograph experiences and record big learning moments. After the project is completed, reflect on what was learned. How was the process? Do students have new questions based on what they learned? What can they do differently next time?
  • Plan to celebrate and share the outcomes with the community, parents, and other educators. Doing so may help reestablish a sense of normalcy and reengage your community. 

 Use Staff and Time Creatively

Rethink the role of staff and engaging everyone in the process of supporting young people.  Who is best qualified to do what part of the summer work? 

  • Leverage your credentialed teachers for small-group targeted instruction. 
  • Get older youth involved through models like Play Captains. Leverage college students to lead sports and one-on-one tutoring.
  • How can you keep parents informed and engaged to the extent they want?

How can you structure the day to engage students and promote learning?

  • Think of schedules as customizable: you can use crafts, sports, and independent exploration time to break up larger blocks and engage students in their favorite activities.
  • Leverage tutoring as a strategy for learning acceleration. This can happen one-on-one with volunteers or via community-based organizations. After explicit instruction, most students need intentional practice with positive reinforcement to unlock new skills.  
  • Maximize independent asynchronous learning opportunities through Personalized Learning Objectives.
  • If needed, think creatively about the use of space and leverage the outdoors
The Field Guide for California LEAs
The Field Guide for accelerating learning, equity, and well being was developed by the California Collaborative for
Educational Excellence for California LEAs in collaboration with technical assistance partners.