Jacksonville, FL. -- Back to school has never felt more consequential than right now, as thousands of former virtual learners return to classrooms around Duval County. With the full return of in-person learning, quality afterschool programming has once again resumed its role as a critical support for the students of working families.
This year Kids Hope Alliance (KHA) is funding 95 afterschool program sites around Duval County, providing a safe and structured environment where thousands of local children and youth can receive academic assistance, enrichment, and build positive relationships.
“Youth who attend high-quality afterschool programs experience improved academic outcomes, social-emotional learning skills, and access to new and enriching experiences,” shared Kenneth Darity, Kids Hope Alliance Chief Programs Officer.
All KHA-funded afterschool programs meet rigorous academic and safety standards; but with so many available options, the process of selecting the right program can be overwhelming. Darity says parents can identify the right fit for their student(s) by asking the following seven questions:
What are program hours?
If you work until 6 pm and can’t pick up your child until 6:30, a program that ends at 6:00 pm will be problematic. So, a first great place to start is to look at program hours.
Is transportation available?
Not every afterschool program is school-based, and not every school has an afterschool program on campus. If you are looking for something away from campus, then you must consider whether transportation is provided from your child’s school to their site. Otherwise, you will have to provide it, which may be inconvenient for working parents.
Can I tour the facility? Attend an orientation?
This can help with peace of mind. Seeing where your child will be spending out-of-school time hours, along with meeting the adults, teachers, and mentors that will be supervising and influencing the students, will give families a better feel for whether the program is what their student(s) needs.
What are the safety policies and procedures?
This question couldn’t be more important in 2021. All KHA-funded afterschool-programs must follow CDC guidelines, and many have additional prevention measures in place. Some programs require masks 24/7, while others only encourage them if social distancing is not an option. In any case, each program can tell you more about what they are doing to ensure students stay safe.
Is academic assistance offered?
When do most students do their homework? Afterschool! Many students need assistance with their assignments. Asking about academic assistance options will give you a better idea of how much help your student will have available to them.
Does the program offer a variety of engaging enrichment activities?
Afterschool programming is about more than just a childcare option; it’s a great opportunity to expose students to a spectrum of extracurricular activities- from fine arts and drama to robotics and community service. There are several options and camp specialties provided by KHA-funded Providers.
What is the program’s dismissal procedure?
Having clarity on the dismissal process is critical for parents and caregivers. While some Providers may offer transportation options, others require parent pick-up of students. Be sure to consider this information when choosing a program.
The pandemic has presented unique challenges to afterschool providers all over the country and complicated the lives of families everywhere, especially those in need. Kids Hope Alliance is grateful for its funding through the City of Jacksonville and remains committed to continued investments in local programming for children, youth, and families.
A great place to begin your search is the Kids Hope Alliance’s Afterschool Program Locator tool, which will identify KHA-funded sites in and around your zip code.
Written by Robin Franks