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The good, the bad & what’s to come: Findings from the Afterschool in the Time of COVID-19 Wave 5 survey

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The good, the bad & what’s to come: Findings from the Afterschool in the Time of COVID-19 Wave 5 survey

In the second summer under the pandemic, prior to the rise of the Delta variant, we found more summer programs opening their doors and providing vital supports to students who have contended with remote learning, social isolation, and the stressors of a continuing pandemic. Thanks to the response from the field (if you participated in our Wave 5 survey this past June, this thank you is for you!), we were able to gain a deeper understanding of what programming looks like this summer. In many respects, what we heard from providers is encouraging in regards to summer programs keeping kids active, connected, and engaged in learning, however there are also prevailing areas of concern, the most significant of which is staffing. Below, we’ve broken out key findings into three categories: the good, highlighting areas of growth and promise this summer; the bad, which includes struggles programs are facing this summer; and what’s to come, reporting out on what providers are saying about this fall.

The Good:

  • Nearly 9 in 10 summer program providers surveyed reported being open in some capacity this year (88 percent), with programs that are physically open jumping from 49 percent last summer to 83 percent this summer.
  • Kids in summer programs are connecting with friends, staying active, and engaging in learning opportunities, with an overwhelming majority of summer programs that are open reporting that they are providing academic enrichment (90 percent), time to interact with peers (86 percent), and outdoor (83 percent) and physical activity (82 percent).  
  • Supporting young people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing is another way in which summer programs are stepping up services during the pandemic. More than 3 in 4 programs say that they are providing time for young people to talk about their feelings or emotions with program staff and peers (77 percent) and a majority report that they are providing additional social and emotional supports (51 percent).
  • Programs are also continuing to provide supports to families as the pandemic continues, with more than half reporting that they are serving as a meals distribution site or delivering meals or other resources to families (53 percent) or connecting families with community resources (52 percent).

The Bad:

  • Waitlists have grown this summer, with 52 percent of summer programs that are physically open reporting a waitlist, compared to 40 percent last summer.
  • A majority of summer programs are operating at reduced capacity (56 percent), with just 30 percent reporting that they are operating at pre-pandemic capacity levels.
  • A common refrain shared by summer providers was the challenge around staffing, including finding and recruiting staff, retaining staff, and staff fatigue.
  • Eight-in-ten providers report they are concerned there are children in their community who need summer programming, but are not able to access it.
  • Roughly 2 in 5 programs (43 percent) report that their weekly cost-per-child for in-person services has increased this summer, with nearly half (47 percent) reporting an increase of more than 10 percent.
  • Although summer program providers serving mostly children from low-income families are now more likely to physically open in some capacity compared to programs serving mostly higher-income children (87 percent vs. 76 percent), they are also more likely to be operating at reduced capacity due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols (61 percent vs. 44 percent).

What’s to Come:

  • Nearly 9 in 10 (89 percent) providers report that they plan to offer programming this fall, and among these respondents, most plan to serve students mostly or all in person (84 percent).
  • Most program providers (65 percent) say that they are involved in conversations organized by the school district or schools about how to best support students’ learning this fall.
  • Programs are on the whole optimistic about the future (80 percent), however, many report concerns about staffing in the fall (57 percent), being able to address students’ learning loss (45 percent), and meeting the demand from families (39 percent).

As Afterschool Alliance’s Executive Director, Jodi Grant said about these findings, “This new survey contains good news, in particular that the vast majority of programs expect to open in person this fall. When we conducted this study in June, fewer than one in five programs reported receiving public COVID-19 relief funds. We believe that is picking up now, which is essential as providers report waiting lists and concerns about being able to meet the needs of their students and families. Ensuring that federal COVID relief funds get to summer and afterschool programs is critical to students’ recovery from the pandemic.”

You can find additional information about Wave 5 through our data dashboard, which features both national and regional-level data, and learn more about previous waves of the survey on the Afterschool in the Time of COVID-19 survey page.

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