COVID-19: Considerations for the Afterschool Field

The outbreak of COVID-19 raises questions and concerns for all of us. We're gathering examples of effective guidance for programs, and issues you might want to consider. Please send any guidance you have received, questions you have, suggestions, best practices, questions you are struggling with and we will share them here.

  1. For now, the Federal Department of Education has not issued official guidance on 21st Century Community Learning Center Programs. We will update you on this page with a link if guidance is released.
  2. Fortunately, states are moving with their own guidance in the meantime. The Afterschool Alliance has identified 18 states with 21st CCLC guidance for the COVID emergency. Guidance topics include ensuring programs know they may continue to pay staff during the crisis, as well as lists of activities programs may engage in with on-site programming closed, such as virtual learning, meals support, family outreach, and professional development. See our blog on this guidance here
  3. While we do not endorse any specific policies, for some examples of state issued 21st CCLC Guidance, take a look at Ohio, Oregon, and Montana, which specifically mentions that programs are encouraged to continue to pay all staff for their efforts during the shutdown to alleviate potential financial instability and hardship for employees. If you cannot find your states guidance on your state COVID webpages feel free to reach out to your state 21st CCLC office directly, or email us and we will see if we know of any guidance in your states.

There are many things afterschool programs can do to ensure the safety of their employees and students.

Follow and share guidance from the CDC on practices such as hand washing, social distancing, and limiting contact. Providers also should review and follow CDC's guidelines for child-care and youth-serving organizations.
Remind families that if children or parents have symptoms, they should not attend the program. Step up your cleaning and disinfecting, and communicate your actions to families.
Check local guidance. Make sure you know local guidance and processes, such as who to contact if you have a scenario involving quarantines, possible infection among parents, staff, or children. Check with:

Keep up on local policies that may be changing. For example, some school districts are now asking children to stay home for 72 hours following any fever.
Emergency Contact Information: Take time to review and update emergency contact information for each child enrolled in your program
Think ahead: Make sure you and your staff know what to do if a parent, child, or staff member is diagnosed or quarantined, and contingency plans should your program need to close. Keep an open dialogue with staff.

Afterschool programs can play a vital role in providing in ensuring eligible children continue to receive meals while schools are closed. The USDA Food and Nutrition Services has issued a number of waivers to assist afterschool programs and other sponsors in serving meals to students. Issues covered in these waivers include guidance on:

  • serving meals in non-congregate settings,
  • elimination of the activity requirement in afterschool programs,
  • allowances for parents and guardians to pick up meals and flexibility to distribute more than one day's worth of meals at a time, and
  • meal pattern flexibility.

To learn more about how afterschool programs can work with community partners to provide meals, check out this webinar hosted by the Afterschool Alliance, the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) and other partners. Additionally, this FAQs document provides additional guidance on how to safely provide meals, as well as answers to specific questions on serving meals through the Summer Food Service Program and the Child and Adult Care Feeding Program.

In the age of free video conferencing platforms, we certainly recommend taking advantage of the tools that can help to keep staff engaged - whether when used for regular check-ins, structured meetings, professional development workshops, or for a quick coffee break. 

In running an effective virtual meeting, Harvard Business Review has compiled a list of 12 best practices to implement to ensure that your meeting is running as smoothly and efficiently as possible.


For remote professional development opportunities, see our COVID professional development section.

Determining whether or not to close your afterschool program is a difficult decision. There are a number of factors that can go into that decision, including direction from local and state governments, school districts, and health authorities. We encourage you to consult with local, state, and federal guidelines in making the decision of whether or not to close your program.

Child Care Aware of American created a chart to help their member programs make the difficult determination of if or when they should close.

Many organizations are offering free or low cost professional development opportunities for youth development staff. Many statewide afterschool networks offer free webinars or other web-based trainings on a variety of topics. Some networks are in the process of developing new trainings, so be sure to periodically check your state's website for more information.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education's You for Youth technical assistance site has a robust offering of professional development modules. While designed for 21st Century Community Learning Center programs, these trainings cover topics any youth development professional will find important; including literacy, SEL, family engagement, and developing strategic partnerships.

Many cable providers, such as Comcast and Spectrum, are offering free or reduced cost internet access to low income families. Check with your local provider to see what options exist for your community.

Look into alternate services you might provide - some programs have offered to staff grab and go meal sites, deliver activities for students, or provide virtual programming. Read more about how programs are adapting.

To help parents seeking online learning and enrichment, and  ways to keep their kids active, consult the resource list on our Remote Services & Learning page.

To help support the financial and emotional well-being of families, check out resources compiled on supporting wellness during COVID.

There are many community organizations that can help support families during periods of economic hardship.

Local United Ways are providing a wide range of supports during this time. Visit your local United Way page to see the supports available through the United Way in your area. Feeding America has a national list of local food banks.

For more resources, visit the Supporting Students, Families, and Staff page.

Statewide Afterschool Networks Resources

Many statewide afterschool networks have created a COVID-19 pages with state specific information. We will continue to update the links on this map as more information becomes available.

Covid-19 State Resources Alaska Hawaii Alabama Arkansas Arizona California Colorado Connecticut Delaware Florida Georgia Iowa Idaho Illinois Indiana Kansas Kentucky Louisiana Massachusetts Maryland Maine Michigan Minnesota Missouri Mississippi Montana North Carolina North Dakota Nebraska New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico Nevada New York Ohio Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas Utah Virginia Vermont Washington Wisconsin West Virginia Wyoming District of Columbia