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How to Start, Run, and Maintain an After-school Program

When the final school bell rings, some students hurry home, finished with the school day until the morning bell signals a new beginning. For others, the fun is just beginning as they head to various after-school programs that provide opportunities for connection, creativity, and enrichment. 

With many students struggling with mental health and the far-reaching repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic coming into focus, many school administrators, nonprofit organizations, and other stakeholders are looking for ways to support young people.  

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 56 percent of public schools offer after-school programs for students who need academic assistance, with most providing 1-2 hours of programming four or five days a week. 

These programs are entertaining and educational, offering immense mental health benefits while allowing students to broaden their perspectives, acquire essential life skills, foster social connections, and provide a safe and structured environment that mitigates stress and anxiety. 

The positive impact also extends to the wider school community, fostering a sense of unity, participation, and camaraderie. Parents, too, enjoy peace of mind knowing their children are in a nurturing and productive setting after school hours.

Starting and running an after-school program can be tough but very rewarding. It takes a lot of research to find the best activities for students and understand the school community’s needs. It also requires careful planning, like budgeting, finding staff, and making a schedule. 

In total, eight million students are enrolled in after-school programs, but demand for these services significantly outpaces supply, with nearly 25 million more students looking for out-of-school-time programs than available opportunities.

Whether you’re interested in creating learning programs for students or fun after-school events for any age group, this start-up guide will provide you with a roadmap that walks you through each crucial step, from initial conception and planning to the execution and management of the program. In addition, we will explore how to leverage tools like iiQ Events to prepare for after-school activities efficiently.

Key Considerations When Starting an After-School Program

Starting an after-school program involves several key considerations. 

We will guide you through the most important things to think about, from understanding your students’ needs to planning activities and handling logistics. We’ll explain why each step matters and give you tips on how to do it. Ready to make your after-school program a hit? Let’s get started!

Secure a Designated Childcare Space

Finding the right place for your after-school program is one of the first things you must consider. 

Using room reservation tools, like iiQ Events, can simplify the search for an appropriate space to hold an after-school program, eliminating double bookings and ensuring that the reserved space has the necessary equipment in place when your after-school program meets.

Select and Follow an Approved Curriculum

High-quality after-school programs ideally follow a board-approved curriculum, setting the stage for enriched learning and development. 

Incorporating a professional development plan and quality standards into your start-up guide can significantly improve your program’s appeal to prospective funders and local businesses interested in partnerships. 

Such a business plan, complete with a thorough needs assessment, can open up various funding opportunities. A robust toolkit, ensuring proper staffing and licensure, will further enhance the quality and credibility of your childcare or after-school program. Remember, whether you follow an approved curriculum or not, meeting the needs of your community while providing a safe and nurturing environment is the cornerstone of any successful after-school program, summer learning initiative, or other school events.

Recruit Teachers, Staff, or Volunteers

Launching a successful after-school program requires a solid team that understands their roles and responsibilities. Start by identifying key positions for staff, parent representatives, and community volunteers. Know exactly what you need from these individuals regarding skills and commitment, ensuring they align with the program’s vision and purpose.

Don’t limit yourself to looking in-house. Engaging community members or high school students can add a dynamic element to your program and foster a sense of community involvement. Remember, each person you bring on board should share your commitment to providing a nurturing, safe, and stimulating environment for the children in your program.

Provide Ongoing Training

The quality of a childcare program relies heavily on the qualifications of its staff, their experience, and most importantly, their ongoing training. Trained caregivers are better equipped to foster the physical and mental health, safety, and cognitive development of the children under their care. 

Every state and territory has its own set of requirements for individuals aspiring to become staff in a licensed child care program or a family child care provider. These requirements often cover initial training or education, minimum age, and specific roles in the childcare setting, such as a teacher, lead teacher, director, or volunteer. 

Another crucial aspect of childcare training is ongoing health and safety education. Federal law mandates this training for staff members caring for children who receive federal financial assistance.

Take Safety and Security Measures

Safety and security are crucial in any childcare program, especially after school. As providers, you must take necessary measures to ensure school-age children are safe and secure. 

Consult with school safety personnel to create a safety start-up guide or toolkit for your program’s development and deployment.

Prioritize Communication

Good communication is crucial when running an after-school program. Internal communication ensures teachers, staff, and volunteers are all on the same page. It helps them understand their roles, know about any changes, and work together effectively.

External communication is equally important; keeping parents informed makes them feel involved and ensures they’re aware of any vital information, such as upcoming events.

Leaders can leverage school-focused text platforms, like Remind, or student management platforms, including Canvas, ParentSquare, and ClassDojo, to communicate with students and parents. 

Use Registration Software to Simplify the Process

Successful after-school programs are not ad-hoc affairs. They are carefully planned and well-documented, especially during registration. With significantly higher demand than many schools have the capacity for, clear communication and registration processes are critical to ensure fairness, efficacy, and efficiency at every level.

Whether leveraging comprehensive software solutions or free options, like Google Forms, digitizing registration simplifies the process for students, families, and leaders.

Final Thoughts

Starting an after-school program in any school district is a significant endeavor. A new program will undoubtedly present its challenges, but the payoff for students and the community can be enormous, providing a place where kids can thrive even after the standard school day is done. 

Incident IQ’s event reservation and facilities management solutions can significantly mitigate these challenges. The tools provide a solid foundation for any after-school program, and make the process significantly more manageable and efficient. Streamlining the tasks involved will allow stakeholders to focus more on the enrichment and growth of the students in their program. 

To learn more about how these tools can aid in developing your district’s after-school programs, request a free demo and learn more about Incident IQ’s built-for-K-12 solutions.