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An afterschool survey revealed a growing waitlist since summer learning programs reopened. 

An online survey of afterschool providers commissioned by the Afterschool Alliance and conducted by Edge Research from June 2 through June 28, 2021 revealed even though just 2% of summer learning programs are currently closed, there is not nearly enough capacity to serve the children who need them. The survey included 937 providers representing more than 6,400 programs in 49 states and the District of Columbia.

More than half of programs serving students in person this summer report having a waitlist and operating at reduced capacity due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols. And four in five providers are concerned children in their community who need summer programs are not able to access them.

Results from the survey show roughly 83% of programs are open physically this summer. Those who run them express high levels of concern about their students. Seventy-seven percent of program providers report being very or extremely concerned that students’ mental and emotional health is suffering and 74% are concerned that students are experiencing learning loss. Seven in ten report being very or extremely concerned students are missing opportunities for social connections. While disturbingly high, those figures are down slightly from surveys conducted earlier in the pandemic.

Last summer, a much larger percentage of programs serving mostly children from high-income families were operating than programs serving children from mostly low-income families, but that is no longer the case. Now, 87% of programs serving mostly low-income children are open in some capacity, compared to 76% of programs serving most higher-income students. But costs are rising for programs, which poses an equity problem and may make it more difficult for children from low-income families to attend.

“Summer learning programs are doing heroic work right now, serving children and youth who urgently need the academic and social supports they provide so skillfully,” said Jodi Grant, the executive director of Afterschool Alliance in a statement. “This new survey contains good news, in particular that the vast majority of programs expect to open in person this fall. When we conducted this study in June, fewer than one in five programs reported receiving public COVID-19 relief funds. We believe that is picking up now, which is essential as providers report waiting lists and concerns about being able to meet the needs of their students and families. Ensuring that federal COVID relief funds get to summer and afterschool programs is critical to students’ recovery from the pandemic.

More findings from the afterschool survey:

  • Programs are providing a host of services and activities this summer. Ninety percent are providing academic enrichment; 86% time to interact with peers; 83% outdoor activities; 82% opportunities for physical activity; and 77% time for young people to talk about their feelings and emotions with their peers or staff members. Two-thirds are providing snacks and/or meals.
  • The number of programs with waitlists has grown. During the pandemic summer of 2020, 40% of programs that were physically open had waitlists. Today, 52% of programs do.
  • Cost has increased. Forty-three percent of programs report cost-per-child for in-person services has increased. Of those reporting a cost increase, 43% say the increase is 1 – 10% and 34% say it is 11 – 25%.
  • Summer program providers have concerns about meeting the needs of students and families. Even as 80% of providers report feeling optimistic about the future, 77% report being extremely, very or somewhat concerned about their program’s future. More than half (57%) express concern about being able to hire enough staff and 45% about addressing the learning loss students are experiencing.
  • Nine in ten programs (89%) expect to open in the fall. Eighty-four percent expect to open mostly or entirely in person; 6% on a hybrid schedule; 3% mostly or all virtually; and 7% of providers are unsure.

Read the full survey results.

Brittany Howard

Brittany is the editor of Community Rec Magazine. Reach her at brittany@peakemedia.com.

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