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10 FAQs on the 21st CCLC "non-school hours" waiver

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10 FAQs on the 21st CCLC "non-school hours" waiver

On Friday, September 18, the Department of Education put forth the waiver request form for the 21st Century Community Learn Center program to operate during non-school hours as a follow up to the earlier notice in the Federal Register. This allows states to begin the application process now.

Below are 10 FAQs that may help you and your state navigate this important flexibility and allow programs to serve the needs of children and families in this emergency and throughout the school year.

1. Where is the Waiver Request found and what does it say?

The waiver request can be found here: https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=ED-2020-SCC-0141.The waiver allows state education agencies to submit waiver requests which waive the definition of Community Learning Center(s) for implementation of services during “nonschool hours or periods when school is not in session (such as before and after school or during summer recess) for 21st CCLC programs in school year 2020-2021

2. How long is the waiver for?

The waiver is limited to the 2020-2021 school year

3. Why is the waiver necessary?

The waiver request states “the flexibility offered through a waiver will enable SEAs and subgrantees to better meet the needs of students through more nimble 21st CCLC programs.” Since its inception, 21st CCLC has provided funding to local afterschool and summer learning programs in order to ensure lower resourced students have the academic, enrichment, and social and emotional supports they need during the hours when school is not in session. With schools establishing entirely virtual or hybrid schedules with at least some days off-site, the issues of inequity are no longer limited to the hours after the school day. 21st CCLC was not designed with COVID in mind, and like many federal grant programs has specific, important provisions that the funding not be duplicative. Therefore, program funding was intentionally limited to non-school hours during pre-COVID times. The waiver allows programs to adjust to current realities by operating as a supplemental learning resource during virtual learning days, as well as afterschool and before-school, to ensure as many students as possible are given equitable opportunities to succeed in all settings. This flexibility is in line with flexibility offered by the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and USDA Meals programs to support this unprecedented time and need.

4. Would this be duplicative or supplanting other funds?

No. Schools cannot both operate remotely and physically be present for students to provide the space, safety, technology and interpersonal connections students may need to thrive. They need partners, especially for working families, or families who struggle to connect with virtual curriculum, to help them succeed. 21st CCLC programs will not replace or replicate the school day – states, districts, and teachers are responsible for designing and delivering school day curriculum across all learning models. But programs do have an important role to play. 21st CCLC programs have always had the opportunity to meet the law’s purpose to “advance student academic achievement and support student success including with mentoring, technology, and activities to support credit attainment. This flexibility permits them to perform these activities at times now when students and their capacity to learn may be most vulnerable – hours when they would have had access to the in-person staff and resources of the school building and no longer do as a result of virtual learning.

5. How can states apply?

On the Regulations.Gov site you will find forms and instructions, including the waiver template and the supporting statement. The waiver template is the simple form needed for states to apply. It has two check boxes, one which ensures the agreement is only for the flexibility specified in the waiver, and the other that asks states to verify they notified the public and local LEAs of the waiver request with an opportunity to comment.

6. Can I encourage my state to apply?

Friends of afterschool, parents, and local program providers can reach out to their state education department, including their 21st CCLC director and state superintendent, and encourage them to apply for the waiver. If your state has already decided to apply, and is in the public comment period, you can also submit a comment. We have a draft comment letter here that you can feel free to tailor and use for either outreach.

7. What if I and/or my Department are unsure the waiver is needed?

The waiver provides additional flexibility for the 2020-2021 school year for SEAs. It does not require states to implement any particular policy or program as a result of obtaining that flexibility. While many states and 21st CCLC programs have been eager to have this waiver available to them and may be applying right away, others may not have considered any benefits the flexibility may bring. Given the uncertainly of the pandemic and the need to respond effectively to changing educational needs and support students and families in new ways, having the waiver available at the state level as the year continues could provide an opportunity for all states to employ all resources at their disposal when/if the time arises.

8. What kinds of activities can programs do with a waiver?

21st CCLC programs have always been designed to be responsive to the needs of student support at the local level in ways that:

  • “reinforce and complement the regular academic programs of the schools attended by the students served
  • are targeted to the students' academic needs and aligned with the instruction students receive during the school day
  • offer families of students served by such center opportunities for active and meaningful engagement in their children's education”

To that end, the law states, “each eligible entity that receives an award may use the award funds to carry out a broad array of activities that advance student academic achievement and support student success” and includes a list of possible activities such as academic enrichment learning, well-rounded educational activities, cultural activities and physical activity. This list is not exhaustive and programs have shown great capacity to innovate based on their collaborative design with schools, students and families. 

9. What does afterschool during the virtual or hybrid school day look like?

In addition, a significant number of state school reopening plans have included thoughtful ways for afterschool and school day programs to operate collaboratively during this school year. See the blog and brief here for some additional ideas of how coordination is taking place around the U.S.

10. When can a local 21st CCLC utilize the new flexibility provided by the waivers?

Once a state education agency (SEA) applies for a waiver and the waiver is approved by the U.S. Department of Education, local 21st CCLC programs should work with their SEA regarding the how they can adjust their program hours and activities as a result of the waiver. State Education Agencies have discretion in how they implement the waiver and local grantees must consult with their state’s 21st CCLC coordinator prior to making any adjustments to their operating hours. 

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