Afterschool in the Time of COVID-19: Survey Results Find Programs In Jeopardy but Rising to Meet Needs

February 4, 2021

Jen Rinehart, vice president, strategy & programs, Afterschool Alliance

Since schools and childcare centers closed in March, afterschool and summer programs across the country have found creative ways to continue to serve students, families, and their communities. From virtual programming to caring for children of essential workers to providing and delivering meals to families in need, I have watched as programs have stepped up in these uncertain times to provide for children and families who are facing unprecedented challenges in all aspects of life.

Nonetheless, afterschool and summer programs have not been exempt from the stress and economic strain of the pandemic. In our new survey of nearly 1,000 program providers, conducted May 28 through June 30, 84% report that they are concerned that they will not be able to provide services in the fall. 45% report staff layoffs or furloughs, and among those, half report having to layoff or furlough more than 75% of staff. More than half are concerned they will have to permanently close their program (61%).

Click to view survey results

Despite the challenges and uncertainty, 70% of respondents report that they are serving students in some capacity, including serving youth remotely (60%), serving as a meals site or delivering meals (48%), or connecting families with community resources (47%). These numbers are even higher among 21st CCLC programs and programs that serve more than 75% students from low-income families.

During these unparalleled times, programs have once again proven to be incredibly valuable to communities nationwide, and they are going to continue to be an essential piece of the puzzle when schools begin to reopen this fall. As many schools and districts are looking towards implementing staggered schedules, hybrid learning, and virtual learning, it is inevitable that students will be spending more time in the out-of-school time-space. As we redesign what the new school day will look like, we need to remember that learning does not just happen during school hours—afterschool programs can provide a safe space with added support and resources needed for all children to thrive in this new virtual learning world, as well as help parents return to work knowing that their children are being cared for.

Overall, a collaboration between schools and programs is going to be key in successfully re-opening schools this fall. This summer, 61% of respondents said they are offering some form of summer programming, whether it is in person (30%), virtual (39%), or a hybrid model (27%).

Schools will directly benefit from the knowledge and experiences that afterschool and summer providers have gained while operating in the midst of the pandemic. Although 62% of respondents shared that they are in conversations organized by the school district or schools about how to reopen schools in the fall, we are hopeful that this number will go up. To be helpful in those conversations, the Afterschool Alliance has released “A Blueprint for How Afterschool Programs & Community Partners Can Help.” Together, schools, afterschool programs, and other community partners can help ensure that students’ academic, social, and emotional needs are best being met as we emerge from this pandemic.

As we look forward, a lot of uncertainty lies ahead; however, in an effort to continue to best serve the field, the Afterschool Alliance and the National Summer Learning Association are currently conducting a second wave of our program provider survey that will examine the state of summer offerings and how programs are faring this summer, as well as plans for the fall. The findings from the first wave of the survey are being shared with federal policymakers at the moment—right in the midst of important decisions about federal funding. Help us continue to inform the field and keep the story up to date by completing the follow up survey.

The survey should take no more than 10-15 minutes of your time and your responses will be anonymous. To thank you for your time, 50 respondents to the survey will be randomly selected to win a $50 cash prize.

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If you need assistance completing the survey, please contact Lydia Redway at If you would like more information about the research, please contact Nikki Yamashiro at