Q: How important is the quality of out-of-school programs?
A: Out-of-school programs should have a reputation for high quality just as any other education program.
Out-of-school programs include before and aftercare as well as holiday and summer vacations when parents are still required to work. Children need adult supervision around the clock, whether school is in session or not. Many parents rely on extended family members like grandparents to fill the care gap when children are not in school, however, this is rare.
According to Afterschool Alliance, “nearly 10.2 million children are enrolled in afterschool programs across the nation. The demand is far greater but do to expense, availability and other barriers many families are not able access these programs.” In Michigan, programs that offer out of school time care for school age children are often funded through the Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) Grants. According to Michigan Department of Education, “there are 68 grants with 259 sites in 20 counties and more than 320,000 students have been served since the inception of the program in 2001.”
High-quality programs offer:
- Age-appropriate activities
- Caring and attentive adult supervision
- Physical exercise both indoor and outdoor
- Brain breaks to support SEL
- Literacy engagement opportunities
- Academic development support like homework help or skill review
Early planning is the key to securing a seat in most programs. Many school districts and community centers offer these programs but remember to check early for availability.