Extracurricular and out-of-school time programs are essential for educational outcomes and positive youth development. As our society faces the dual public health crises of COVID-19 and racism, OST programs provide the following crucial supports for schools and educators:
Social-Emotional Support – We know that learning only happens when children (and adults) are regulated and able to process what is happening in their lives. OST programs provide K-12 students with crucial opportunities for reflection and self-expression, as well as deep connections with peers and trusted adults. OST professionals are trained in positive youth development and trauma-informed care and can help students (and teachers) address social isolation, grief, and upheaval caused by the pandemic.
Priority on Equity & Access – We’re all aware of long-running disparities in education. Events of the past months have magnified just how much work we all must do to ensure that youth – particularly BIPOC, youth with disabilities, English-language learners, youth from low-income households, etc. – have access to safe and supportive educational opportunities. OST programs help fill in gaps to address learning loss and reduce disparities for our most vulnerable youth.
Flexibility of Time & Space – OST programs have always provided critical academic support and youth development services outside of traditional school hours. During the pandemic, these wrap-around services will be more important than ever. Our programs also operate in a variety of settings, often moving between classrooms and community spaces such as community centers, parks, libraries, college campuses, faith-based locations, and more. OST programs expand learning opportunities outside of school itself.
Engagement with Parents & Caregivers – Many families are in crisis, need additional supports, and are struggling to stay connected. This creates a serious challenge for communicating about new protocols and schedules that are developed for instruction, transportation, and safety procedures. Schools will need to be more connected than ever with families. OST providers have deep relationships with families and community partners, and a long history of coordinating services to meet families’ economic, health, food, and other needs.
Innovation – OST programs are able to step in with flexibility and pivot quickly as school schedules and educational delivery systems shift. We offer safe, developmentally rich settings for learning and opportunities that engage students in meaningful projects and activities correlated to academic achievement. We are nimble and adept at creative problem-solving.
The Afterschool Alliance's project, The Afterschool Impact Database, shares reports about the importance of OST/extracurricular programming and presents the growing body of evidence student-supporting and community-building impacts of afterschool and summer learning programs. Explore the Database here.