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Eyes on afterschool: 5 key points from our fall 2020 program survey

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Eyes on afterschool: 5 key points from our fall 2020 program survey

Throughout the entirety of the pandemic, the Afterschool Alliance has been conducting ongoing surveys to track programs’ current situations, concerns, and needs. While programs across the county all are facing difficult situations and continuing to be an important part of their communities, different areas of the country are having different experiences. A recently-released dashboard shows the findings from the first three waves of data (spring 2020, summer 2020, and fall 2020), separating out by region to highlight some of these differences, as well as similarities across regions.

In digging into the findings from our program provider survey conducted between September 28 and October 27, notable differences arose in terms of programs’ operating status, services offered, concerns, staffing changes, and worries about the future. Specifically:  

  1. Programs in the West were the least likely to report being physically open; however, across all regions, roughly 8 in 10 programs that are physically open were providing in-person services to all children.  

While nationwide 68 percent of programs were physically open last fall—an increase from 49 percent in the summer—programs’ operating status varied between regions, with programs in the Midwest most likely to report being open (76 percent), followed by the South (70 percent) and the Northeast (66 percent). Programs in the West were the least likely to be open (59 percent), and compared to the summer 2020, saw the least change in operating status, with 54 percent of programs reporting being open at the time. Programs in the Northeast and Midwest saw the greatest change in the percentage of programs that are physically open from the summer 2020, jumping 24 percentage points each, from 42 percent in the Northeast and 52 percent in the Midwest. Among programs that report being open this fall, most were providing in-person services to all children.

Additionally, programs in the West were the most likely to report having had to shut down in-person programming (36 percent) compared to the South (30 percent), Midwest (29 percent), and the Northeast (24 percent). Among programs operating in person, programs in the West were most likely to have a waitlist (48 percent) compared to the South (39 percent), Midwest (37 percent), and Northeast (29 percent).

  1. Across regions, programs stepped up last fall to provide a safe, supervised learning environment for students during virtual learning days.

Programs continued to step up last fall to support children, their families, and their communities. Roughly half of programs across regions report providing a safe, supervised learning environment during virtual school days (West - 56 percent, Northeast - 53 percent, South - 53 percent, and Midwest - 49 percent). Among programs that report extending their hours to best meet students’ needs, close to 3 in 4 programs across all regions extended their hours during virtual school days.

Other services varied slightly by region, with those in the West most likely to serve youth remotely (61 percent); those in the Midwest most likely to deliver meals or serve as a meal site (57 percent); and those in the South most likely to report connecting families with community resources (51 percent).

  1. While nationally the top student concern reported among all programs was students’ mental and emotional health (84 percent), the top concern in each region varies.

Similar to last summer 2020, the top concern reported among all programs last fall was once again students’ mental and emotional health (84 percent).

When digging into the regional differences from the fall, however, each region has a slightly different top concern. At the two coasts, the number one student concern reported was students’ mental and emotional health (85 percent, all). In the South, though, programs were most concerned with their students’ experiencing learning loss (83 percent), and Midwest programs were most concerned with their students missing opportunities for social interaction (87 percent).

  1. Programs in the Northeast were most likely to report staff changes and concerns regarding staff members in the fall 2020, however, across all regions, the number of programs reporting staff changes has declined since the summer.

Staffing issues affected programs in the Northeast more so than programs in other regions last fall. For example, while not the most likely to report having to lay off staff and faring better than they were in the summer in regards to staffing issues overall, Northeast providers were the most likely to report that they had to reduce staff hours, hire fewer staff, and furlough staff members, as well as were most concerned with having to lay off staff.

That said, providers were less likely to report staffing issues across all regions compared to summer 2020. Nationally, 25 percent of programs report reducing staff hours, 36 percent report hiring fewer staff, and 15 percent report furloughing staff members, compared to 31 percent, 44 percent, and 20 percent in summer 2020, respectively.

  1. While programs across the country remained concerned about the future last fall, they were more optimistic than back in the summer of 2020.

Nationwide, 53 percent of programs reported being optimistic about the future, slightly higher than the summer of 2020, when 47 percent of programs reported being optimistic. Looking at differences by region from the fall, programs in the Northeast were the least likely and Southern providers were the most likely to report optimism about the future (Northeast - 46 percent, Midwest - 53 percent, West - 55 percent, South - 57 percent).

Thinking about fall 2021, nationally, 32 percent of programs were concerned they would not be able to provide services, either in person or virtually. Programs in the Northeast were most concerned that they would not be able to provide services next fall (38 percent) and the most likely to report that if the pandemic continued into 2021, they would likely have to shut down if they do not receive funding (24 percent) compared to the West (33 percent and 15 percent, respectively), South (32 percent and 18 percent, respectively), and the Midwest (25 percent and 12 percent, respectively).

By looking at regional differences, these findings help paint a picture of how programs across the country were faring at the beginning of the school year, and how program experiences can vary in different parts of the country. While situations have largely improved since the beginning of the pandemic, different rules and regulations, as well as infection rates and other region-specific factors, affect programs’ ability to operate in person, programs’ concerns, and what supports programs need most.

A fourth provider survey was conducted in the spring/winter 2021, and when the data is ready, the dashboard will be updated with the new results. When the next wave of data is released, we will get a better sense of how things have changed midway through the school year, and how these situations in different parts of the country may have changed as schools and school districts have started to reopen and rules and guidelines have continued to shift.

View the full dashboard here.

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