The afterschool field is an essential part of communities’ response to the coronavirus pandemic. Programs are innovating their services to support youth, families, and communities, pivoting to

  • Support essential workers by providing safe, enriching activities for their children
  • Provide free meals and food support
  • Offer virtual programming to keep youth active, engaged and learning
  • Find new ways to stay connected with youth, and to support families with resources on food assistance, unemployment, healthcare, and more

Programs are also planning ahead, so that they are ready to re-start operations and provide the critical afterschool and/or summer programming that youth will need to re-engage, re-connect, and thrive. However, 3 in 4 programs report that they are at-risk of laying off staff or closing. Navigating recovery legislation and pressing for investments in future recovery funding bills will be critical for the survival of these essential programs. To help make sense of the situation, this resource site offers guidance, resources, and examples from programs addressing the broad range of issues the field faces today. 

We’re concerned for our kids, and what they are missing. In afterschool, kids get time with friends and mentors, hands-on learning, creative enrichment and expression, a chance to lead, explore and create without stress. That space has been taken away. We fear that the opportunity gap we were helping to close is widening.

We are confident we will get through this crisis together, and when we do, the afterschool field will be ready. Youth will need expanded support to emerge from this crisis strong, resilient, and hopeful - and we’ll be there to help them do so.

  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 IdahoOhio, 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.

Importance of Including Afterschool in School Reopening Plans


When schools reopen this fall, it won't be business as usual. New health and safety standards developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic necessitate a radical rethinking of the way we serve students.


Virtual Town Hall: #Afterschoolworks to Support Learning & Recovery


The National Town Hall celebrates the many ways afterschool programs have risen to the moment to help their communities respond to the pandemic, and looks ahead toward afterschool and summer learning programs' critical role in recovery. Read the follow-up Q&A document here.


Facing Inequity with Youth and Families During the COVID-19 Era


The COVID-19 pandemic is exposing and widening existing social justice gaps in education broadly and out-of-school time is no exception. Given this unprecedented time, we focus on real-time approaches that afterschool and summer learning programs can use to move the needle on issues of equity and access.


Safely Engaging Youth in a Virtual World


With the quick transition from in-person to virtual learning environments, afterschool providers are quickly adapting to serve young people in this new virtual world. But sifting through all of the resources that have flooded the field can be a tough task. Instead, we can learn from experts who have years of experience preparing educators to engage students in a virtual environment.


Policy Supports for Afterschool and Summer Programs during the Pandemic


State and federal legislation and guidance around education, child care, human services, and child nutrition policy are rapidly changing under the COVID-19 pandemic. As these policies and guidance shift, it is critical to keep track of where things stand and what's coming up.


How Federal COVID-19 Response Bills can Support Afterschool Opportunities


Many afterschool providers are struggling to provide opportunities for young people and families in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and financial assistance and flexibility is often needed. We will talk through opportunities included in the three major COVID-19 response bills, as well as a glimpse into what’s proposed for next round of legislation.