What to Look for
There are many questions to consider when you choose an out of school time program for your child. Consider the following guide when selecting a quality program:
When is the Program Open?
Programs may or may not follow school districts schedule. Does the program operate during teacher workdays, holidays, etc.?
How is the Program Staffed?
A quality program often employs a site director who is in charge of the whole site and often has a college degree or combination of education and experience. Best Practice ratios for staff to student are 1:15 or less. (State standard is 1:23). Also look for the use of school teachers, community professionals, providers and volunteers. Additional questions: Are background checks completed on staff and volunteers? How are volunteers selected?
Do You Have a Parent Handbook?
You need information on the program. As much as the program needs to know about your child and how to reach you, you need to know just as much about the program. Who do you contact in case on an emergency, and how? What are policies on late pick up, absences, discipline, medications, etc.?
Can I Have a Copy of the Schedule?
A schedule provides an outline for teachers, students and parents to know what to expect for the afternoon. A good program often uses themes or project based schedules to build student’s knowledge. Each afternoon includes time for snack, homework support, physical activity and enrichment.
What’s For Snack?
There are many hours between lunch and dinner, especially if your child eats before noon! Most programs offer snack. A quality program offers a variety of healthy and balanced snacks. If applicable, communicate your child’s food allergies.
How Does Your Program Link to the School Day?
After school and summer programs intentionally connecting to the school day offer an informal setting where learning continues. After school programs staff need to establish communication and build relationships with school’s faculty. This link ensures the academic and enrichment activities offered, reinforce the learning during the school day and reaches students with a variety of learning styles.
What Happens During Homework Time?
After school programs dedicate time to homework completion. A high quality program does this by scheduling an appropriate amount of time for students to complete homework with trained professionals to ensure accuracy. An appropriate time frame is based on students grade level. A high quality program provides one on one tutoring or small groups; materials similar to the classroom (i.e. math rubrics, sight word lists, pencils and paper); and alternative activities for students who complete homework early.
When and What Do You Offer for Physical Activity?
After school is more than child care and getting homework done. It is important to ask what kind of games and activities your child will participate in. Are there opportunities for youth to learn and improve skills? Are the games all competitive or is there a mixture of collaborative games? A balance of activities means that all children will be encouraged to be physically active, regardless of their ability to win.
When Do You Hold Community and Family Events?
A good program will hold events (usually in the evening) where you can: see what your child has learned; participate in an adult learning activity; or simply share a meal. After school programs are often the strongest link between a parent and the school because parents see after school staff every day. A good program strengthens that connection by offering activities that get parents and community members involved.
What Fees Are Charged?
Many programs charge by the week, month, semester, etc. and have discounts for multiple children. If you think the program is a good fit for your child, but the fee is too high, ask about scholarship opportunities. Many programs have funds set aside specifically for scholarships or you may be eligible for assistance in other ways. Some programs may not charge a fee, but remember someone is paying for the program. It may be the South Carolina Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Center or private foundation. If this is the case, please do your part by participating in surveys and giving feedback. Your feedback helps your program continue to be accessible in our community.