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Let’s Get Started!

Congratulations on your commitment to students and families as you begin the planning process. There are numerous benefits associated with starting an afterschool program. The Harvard Family Research Project has documented the positive outcomes of afterschool and summer programs in the areas of academics, social/emotional, prevention and health and wellness. Getting started requires a significant amount of planning and preparation. This section will provide information to assist you.

Forming a Planning Committee
In order to strengthen your efforts in developing the program plan, it is important to form a planning committee. Members of the planning committee will work together to bring knowledge, experience, and a variety of perspectives to the planning process. It will also create buy-in from stakeholders. The associated groups, including the school, will also have a greater interest in the program’s success. In addition, this group will be important in expanding access to resources necessary to develop and implement the program. The size of your community will influence how many planning committee people needed. Potential planning committee members may include parents, school administrators/teacher(s), local government representatives, park and recreation officials, representatives from area postsecondary institutions, business leaders, or other community members. Once you identify and invite committee members to participate, your first meeting can be scheduled.

Considerations for Organizing a Planning Committee
Once you have identified planning committee members, schedule regular planning committee meetings. Your committee members may have busy schedules, therefore, setting the meeting times and dates ahead of time will be important. Consider the schedules of your committee members when setting meeting times and dates. For example, school administrators and teachers will need to meet after school. You may also want to avoid busy times of the school year, such as the first few weeks of the school year or during assessment dates. Prior to each meeting, send out a brief reminder and agenda. Start and end the meetings on time and follow the agenda. Designate a person to take notes during the meeting. Encourage all committee members to voice their opinions. Be sure to delegate responsibilities as needed. After the meeting, send a brief summary of any decisions and follow-up items. Be sure to thank committee members for their time and efforts that will ultimately benefit  students and families in your community.

Needs Assessment
The first task of your planning committee is to assess the needs of your students, families, school, and community. First, the team should review any recent needs assessments completed in your community or school. You may also want to develop and administer your own.

Information from the needs assessment should help your planning committee identify community needs, needs of families, identified needs of school administration and educators, and students. The results of your needs assessment will move you in the direction of the next step, building a vision.

Building a Vision
Based on the results of the needs assessment, the planning committee should collaborate to build a vision for the program. The following questions may be useful for discussion:

  • What are the anticipated program goals and objectives, based on results of the needs assessments?
  • Who will the program serve?
  • How will the program be structured?
  • How will you integrate your program into the school’s vision and mission, if applicable?
  • Where will the program be housed?
  • How will the program be funded?
  • How will the program be evaluated?

Building a vision will keep you focused as your team begins planning. Keep in mind that the planning process is on-going and your team will want to continually making adjustments as the program evolves. For this reason, it is recommended that the planning committee meet on a regular basis. The vision may change over time to meet the evolving needs of the school, community, families, and students.

Quality Program Development
There are various types of afterschool programs and a variety of program schedules. Quality programs often provide a wide variety of activities to meet the interests of diverse student populations. Your planning committee should consider many different options as the potential program schedule is drafted. Most programs include time for homework assistance, physical activity, a healthy meal or snack, and enriching program activities that are aligned to school day learning objectives.

TheNebraska State Board of Education approved a Policy for Expanded Learning Opportunities in September 2013. Expanded learning opportunities build on, support, and enhance learning during times when students are not in school (before and after school, weekends and summer) and are, therefore, a critical component of Nebraska’s educational landscape and one that should be intentionally supported and developed in communities across our state. Quality expanded learning principles include the following:

  • School-community partnerships and resource sharing
  • Engaged learning
  • Family engagement
  • Intentional programming aligned with the school day program
  • Diverse, prepared staff including certificated educators
  • Participation and access
  • Safety, health, and wellness
  • Ongoing assessment and improvement.

Meals/Snacks
It is recommended you participate in the applicable USDA nutrition programs to receive supplemental funding for the cost of meals/snacks. Consider offering a daily, nutritious meal or snack that meets the requirements of the USDA National School Breakfast/Lunch Program (NSLP), Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) or Summer Food Service Program (including meal supplements) based on their hours of operation. (Participation is required if you administer a 21st CCLC program.) Meal/snack recommendations are as follows: 1) before-school (daily, nutritious breakfast), 2) only afterschool (daily, nutritious snack), 3) both before and afterschool (daily nutritious breakfast and snack), and 4) non­-school days (daily nutritious breakfast, lunch, and/or snack, dependent on hours of operation). For applications, technical assistance, or information regarding any of these programs, including the After School Meals Program, contact Nutrition Services, Nebraska Department of Education, at 800-731-2233 or 402-471-2488 or their web site.

Costs and Funding Sources
The planning committee will need to consider the costs of running an afterschool program. Many programs rely on grants to support program costs. The following websites provide information regarding available grants and other resources for funding afterschool programs

21st Century Community Learning Centers Program (Nebraska)
Provides information on the Nebraska 21st Century Community Learning Center program, a federally-funded competitive grant program that supports establishment of community learning centers targeting schools in which at least 40% of the students qualify to receive free or reduced-cost meals.

Afterschool Alliance
Provides a funding database, grant writing tips, expert advice on funding issues, sponsorship ideas, and resources on partnerships.

Grants.Gov
Provides information and links to over 1,000 grant programs, articles, reports and information on planning strategies.

Wallace Foundation
This site includes an online calculator to determine the costs of a variety of options for high-quality out-of-school time programs.

Youth.Gov
Provides federal funding sources, grant writing tips and information on how to finance and sustain your program.