From the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, afterschool programs have taken a back seat to the safety of educators and students. Other things took priority, like adjusting to a remote learning environment. Teachers and other educators have been notoriously overworked and underpaid, leaving little time or room to support afterschool programs. Because of this, many programs were abandoned. However, they are beginning to see a resurgence. Let’s take a look at the rejuvenation of afterschool programs.
Why were afterschool programs struggling?
One of the main reasons that afterschool programs screeched to a halt in 2020 and 2021 was the lack of funding. Especially for low-income school districts, much of the public school funding went to supporting remote learning programs, leaving less money for tutoring. In order to have afterschool programs during the pandemic, more money would be required to provide PPE and other COVID interventions.
Before the pandemic, an Afterschool Alliance survey found that about 60% of parents had children receiving afterschool STEM instruction at least two days a week. Aside from the educational help, the parents reported that the programs helped their kids with social skills and boosted their confidence.
In November 2021, a similar study by Afterschool Alliance reported that nearly half the number of children surveyed went to afterschool programs compared to before the pandemic. According to the survey, “Two in five programs (38%) that are physically open have wait lists, and program leaders across the board report that afterschool students and their families struggle with food insecurity, need community resources, and face social/emotional challenges.”
The resurgence of after-school programs
As educators and school districts adjust to the “new normal,” afterschool programs are beginning to come back. The November 2021 survey reported that “the percentage of afterschool programs that are physically open has grown steadily, from 19% in the spring to 49% over the summer to 68% now.”
So it is safe to say that afterschool programs are increasingly happening in America. Some are happening remotely, and more resources are available to those who need them. However, they are nowhere near operating at the same capacity as before, only serving about half the amount they did before the pandemic.
It is important to note that there is a gap in operational afterschool programs between low and high-income families. Those who live in wealthier school districts are more likely to have access to afterschool programs than those who don’t. Afterschool alliance reports that 79% of high-income students are more likely to have access to physically open afterschool programs.
A new kind of afterschool program
Like other educational programs and learning environments, students and teachers have had to adjust to a new way of learning and operating. It seems like nothing will return to how it was before, but many things are up and running with the further adjustments. Afterschool programs are no exception. And we have more need for additional educational support than ever before, with many students experiencing learning loss.