Managing an afterschool program is a complex undertaking that is made simpler by following a few tips and using the right software to simplify scheduling.
Afterschool programs are an essential component of the overall childcare environment. Often preschools and daycares accept only very young children. However, older children and adolescents require nurturing and direction, just like toddlers and preschoolers. Since the school day ends several hours before most parents are off work, there is a need to provide oversight. But kids need more than a babysitter; they need enrichment and assistance to make the most of their academic careers.
Your afterschool program provides that. But how do you appeal to parents to register? And how do you keep students engaged and interested? Above all, how do you manage the time?
The KISS principle rules when it comes to building awareness and encouraging registration in your afterschool program. Keep It Simple Stupid (a word that we don’t call other people). The easier it is to navigate your system, the more parents will get with the program.
- Use online registration and offer it 24/7/365. Let parents sign up at their convenience, not yours.
- Integrate a secure online payment system to take care of every step at once.
- Provide a catalog of activities for parents and students to choose from.
- Use the EZChildTrack calendar feature to simplify enrollment into desired activities.
Most people find long, complicated systems a turn-off. If you make them go through too many steps or contend with confusing navigation, they will give up.
Keep parental schedules in mind, too, when you devise your program. At some point, every parent needs to add, reschedule, or cancel on or more activities, sometimes at the last minute. Children become ill, or a family has an emergency. Make it easy for them to manage the schedule when the unexpected happens.
Be sure to offer and apply full or partial refunds or offer credit for those days when a child cannot attend. Allow your staff to use these solutions easily when a parent needs to cancel.
Provide flexibility in scheduling, too. Not every parent works full-time or traditional hours. If they only need your program a couple of afternoons a week, make the hours and days of participation part of the registration process and make it easy to modify it when needed.
Make Safety Job Number One
In today’s environment, parents want to know you take the appropriate measures to ensure their children are safe from the moment they check-in through the check-out process.
Establish digital check-in and check-out and pair it with a database of authorized signatures and photos of adults who may pick a child up from the program. When they register, ask parents for emergency contact information.
If one parent is not allowed to take a child, or if another individual unknown to you tries to take a child out of care, you need the tools to keep that from happening. If your facility must enter lockdown or there is some other emergency, you need to be able to contact parents quickly. A rapid text, email, or phone notification feature lets you tell everyone at once what is happening, where their child is, and when they can pick them up.
Respond to the Needs of the Community
Every community is different, and your afterschool program should provide activities and services that best fit the needs of that community.
As you plan the details of your program, consider what parents are interested in for their children.
Many afterschool programs provide academic enrichment in the form of activities geared toward STEM, tutorials to help with homework, and exposure to art and music. Perhaps the parents in your neighborhood are seeking technology education for their students.
Some programs seek to offer counseling and character development, while others provide drug and violence prevention programs. Find out what the students and parents need and offer it when you can.
At the heart of a successful afterschool program is time management. Plans span the length of a single session and across the academic year.
At the start of each day, spend a few minutes performing essential tasks related to the program and the day's offerings. Establish a system and process for setting up and moving the students and staff through the daily activities. At the beginning of the week, or the end of the previous week, make sure you have everything you need for the next several days.
Make it easy to determine when you need to replace supplies, gear up for a different activity, and track things like permissions slips. Batch similar tasks together and knock them out quickly.
The EZChildTrack calendar feature allows you to automate registration, enrollment, and payment for your afterschool program. The application scales from a single all the way up to the program level.
Schedule multiple sessions for every activity and assign teachers and staff. Review and restrict enrollment in simultaneous sessions. Manage session enrollment against pre-defined capacities for each session. You can even add and remove dates if you’re forced to reschedule.
Quickly transfer sessions from one activity to another and view the daily enrollment and total attendance.
Are you hosting a special event? Use the calendar to manage participation by parents and students. You can record the number of family members in attendance at each event to aid with planning future events.
The EZChildTrack calendar application supports pay as you go. When a parent registers and enrolls a student in an activity, they can securely pay at the time of registration. As the date for the activity grows near, you have a better idea of how many are expected to attend so you can adjust the location size and number of supplies needed.
Finally, set the system to remove holidays automatically from the schedule for all sessions.
A calendar application shows parents what’s coming up so they can plan for their child to participate.
Activity management for afterschool programs is complicated. You must take into account community needs, parental schedules, and what makes students want to engage.