Return to School 2021

We are so grateful for your ongoing trust in us and the opportunity to educate each and every one of your children, especially during this challenging school year. In spite of the pandemic, we are proud of the progress that we have made this year and the programs that we have launched, including:

  • Across the Empowerment Zone, the percentage of children on grade level increased by 7% in math and 8% in reading.
  • Across the Empowerment Zone, the percentage of children two or more grade levels behind decreased by 9% in math and 7% in reading.
  • 98% of teachers and staff have been fully trained in de-escalation techniques through the Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) to better support our students and families.
  • We ended the school year with 90% of students reporting, “I mattered and was important to the adults in my school” in monthly surveys.
  • We ended the school year with 93% of parents who felt that their child was treated with respect, care, and love by school staff.
  • Enrollment has grown each month as 120 more students enrolled in Empowerment Zone schools across this year.

As we wrap up this school year and prepare for the summer break, we want to share with you some very exciting plans that will begin next school year. Click on the titles below to find out more. 

The first day of school for all Empowerment Zone students will be August 11, 2021 and we are excited for all students to participate in in-person learning at their schools. In service to ensuring our children bounce back from the interrupted schooling of 2020-2021 due to the pandemic, we will be extending the school day at each school to best meet your child’s academic needs. The new times will be:

  • Navarre/Coquillard: 8:00am to 4:00pm Monday through Friday
  • Harrison/Warren/Wilson: 8:00am to 3:30pm Monday through Friday


If you experience any logistical difficulties with these extended times, please contact your child’s school and our team will work with you to remove any barriers.

Next year, each Empowerment Zone elementary school will have half day pre-K classrooms for any student turning four years old by October 1st, 2021, with Harrison Elementary’s pre-K classroom having a dual language focus. These programs will be staffed by certified teachers, include class sizes of 15 students or less, and will use nationally recognized curriculum and programming to maximize student learning. Transportation is also provided The lottery for admission will take place in two rounds – the first early deadline on July 1st and the second on July 29th. Apply early for the best chance at admission

You can learn more about the program and access the lottery application here. 

We will be entering into a contract with a new transportation company, First Student, which is different from the one that was used this school year. We’re excited about what this means for the quality of transportation service your child will receive. For example, you will have real-time access to your child’s bus location to know where they are and when the bus will arrive, drivers receive regular training and support, and there will be easy to use tools to provide feedback so that the quality of service can continuously improve. More information on your child’s bus assignment, including their pick up and drop off times and location, as well as other logistic information will be sent the week of August 2nd.

You can contact First Student using their online tool at https://firstfeedback.com/ or reach out to the Empowerment Zone staff member supporting transportation at rdaigneau@sbez.org.

This school year (2021-2022) students will not be required to use uniforms at any of the South Bend Empowerment Zone schools. 

On Monday August 9th, we will be having a material and backpack distribution during the Back to School Bash happening from 3pm-6pm at each of the schools.

Come out and join us at your child’s school this upcoming Monday, August 9th from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m for our Back to School Bash!  Families will have the opportunity to tour their child’s school, meet staff, listen to live music, play interactive games and receive backpacks and school supplies needed for this year! (WE WILL SUPPLY YOUR CHILD THEIR SCHOOL SUPPLIES). Once again this is for Empowerment Zone schools which include: Coquillard, Harrison, Warren, Wilson Elementary and Navarre Middle School. Call your child’s school if you have any questions. We look forward to seeing you this upcoming Monday, don’t miss out!

In the upcoming school year, we are making significant investments in intervention supports for your children. Every child who needs additional support in reading or math will receive support in small groups during the school day and students. We have increased intervention teacher positions, created an intervention apprentice position, and will work in collaboration with our partners, instructional development facilitators (formerly known as coaches), and instructional teacher leaders, to strengthen inclusion practices, instructional practices, and academic outcomes for all of our students.  

We are doubling the number of PeaceBuilders and tripling the number of Social Workers in our schools to support our children’s social-emotional needs and address root causes of behaviors at an early stage to better support our students. PeaceBuiders support school culture with conflict resolution tools such as social-emotional learning, communication techniques, restorative processes, mindfulness, and other proven peacebuilding skills to decrease incident behaviors and increase classroom engagement.

We also know that students perform better academically, socially, and emotionally when they are meaningfully engaged, contributing members of a school with a positive, caring, equitable school climate. That is why, next year we are launching Student Leadership Councils at every school to lift student voice and we are also partnering with community organizations and higher education institutions to support us in these efforts.

We also made a significant investment in a PBIS Rewards system that makes it easy for teachers and administration to continuously recognize students for meeting behavior expectations from anywhere in the school, not just the classroom. Teachers and staff can immediately acknowledge positive student behavior by rewarding points, point totals are automatically tracked, and students can redeem those points in our online PBIS store for fun rewards and prizes.

Next year, each elementary school will have a specialized enrichment focus and Navarre will continue offering a set of unique and enriching electives. These enrichment programs will enable your children to have unique and special experiences at school, learn a valuable set of skills, and most importantly, have fun! While students enjoy these specialized enrichment opportunities (for a two-hour block, once per week), their teachers will have two solid hours to engage in analysis of student work and instructional planning. Each quarter will include a celebration of enrichment learning, which we will invite our families and the community to join.  The enrichment focus for each school includes:

  • Coquillard: Gaming & Computer Science
  • Harrison: Health & Medical Science
  • Warren: Veterinary & Agricultural Science
    Wilson: Architecture and Design Science
  • Navarre: Electives will include Chicano(Xicano)/Africana Studies, Art, Band, Choir, Orchestra, Technology, Communications, Entrepreneurship and Personal Finance

We’re excited to announce that Wilson Elementary will have after school programming provided through the Boys and Girls Club, and after school programming will continue at Harrison. These programs will provide additional tutoring and exciting enrichment opportunities for students. Additionally, Navarre will continue to offer its premiere Boxing Club to students. The Boxing Club supports students with physical fitness, self motivation and discipline and the program is designed to teach students how to use self regulation. A robotics club and coding club will also continue to be a staple at several of our schools at the Empowerment Zone.

Lastly, we will continue to offer family Zumba and yoga so that the whole family can join in on the fun via fitness. Additional program offerings will be available throughout the year, many which will support the special themes of each school.

If you have any questions or concerns about the changes listed above, please feel free to contact your child’s school. We can’t wait to welcome you all back!