After-school programs are a great way to keep students engaged and encourage their development outside of the classroom. With the number of programs available today, many parents may find it difficult to seek out the one that best fits their child’s needs.
Here are a few factors for parents to keep in mind during their selection process.
1. Find a Low Faculty to Student Ratio
A low adult to student ratio is an important characteristic for fostering meaningful relationships between a program’s students and staff. After-school programs provide staff members with the opportunity to mentor students and offer their guidance in a more informal setting. With lower adult to youth ratios, greater individualized attention and support is available. An increase in direct contact allows staff to develop more personalized relationships with the students, building off their interests and setting appropriate goals for them.
2. Consider the Program’s Structural Balance
After-school programs are valuable in themselves as they help provide organization and consistency in a child’s day-to-day schedule. While it’s beneficial to have activities planned throughout the duration of the program, it is important for students to have freedom within this time frame as well. After a day in school, students should have the chance to have fun and relax. Additionally, this unstructured time is helpful in allowing students to explore their own interests and develop socially.
3. Review Retention Rates
High retention rates among both staff and students are a key indicator of the quality of the program. A low turnover rate, as well as a high attendance record, emphasizes a program’s ability to keep adults and youth involved and engaged. To encourage satisfaction, it is important for both parties to feel that they have a voice in the program’s overall operation and their individual development.
4. Inspect Safety Measures
Parents entrust staff within these programs to care for and keep their children safe. Staff members should be well trained in managing students’ behaviors and being prepared for any emergency situations that may arise. As an added measure to ensure students’ safety and wellness, facilities should be kept in good condition with routine cleaning and maintenance. Food handling and nutrition also fall within this category as snacks are often served to students during this time.
5. Look For the Proper Licensing
The licensing requirements for after-school programs vary by state and the age groups that they serve. Programs traditionally are evaluated by factors mentioned above, such as child to staff ratios and building cleanliness, as well as factors like sign out requirements and activities offered to participants. Proper licensing also implies the hiring of staff members with strong educational backgrounds and experience within the field of child care. Licensing requirements play an important role in assuring parents of the reliability and quality of an after-school program.