*** SEE NEW GRAPHIC BELOW ***

The State of Connecticut has just issued its 50 page guidance document to help communities prepare to re-open schools in the fall. Right now is the time to reach out to school administrators to ensure after school is not an after thought. Here’s some tips and tools to help you get started:

STEP ONE: Write to offer your help

Start by reaching out to you school superintendent and principals, either by email, formal letter, or both. If you know the administrator well, you could also call them using the sample letters below as talking points. Here are a sample email and letter that make the case for including afterschool in discussions and planning around reopening schools to help get you started.

STEP TWO: Follow-up

If you don’t receive a response, follow-up by phone. Leave a brief message if they are unavailable, and continue to call every few days to express your interest in meeting with them and/or their planning group. Don’t wait long for them to respond – they have a deadline of July 24 to submit their plans to the State Department of Education and it’s much better to talk to them before the plans are submitted.

STEP THREE: Prepare to meet

Think through your own organization’s priorities and capacity. What is most important to communicate to the planning committee or administrator? Make a list of what you offer to help and what you would like from them. We all share the goal of safeguarding the health and safety of students and staff, but even some of the detailed decisions such as grouping students that attend the same afterschool program into the same class can make a huge difference in preventing exposure to the coronavirus. Share the attached graphic with administrators to help them understand the importance of considering all parts of the day, including after school.

Please let us at the CT After School Network know how your meetings go. What questions do you have as you are preparing to meet, or as a result? We’re here as a resource for you, so feel free to reach out to Ken kanthony@ctafterschoolnetwork.org or Michelle mdc@ctafterschoolnetwork.org and let us know how we can help you!

SAMPLE EMAIL

Dear Superintendent [last name of superintendent],

I am writing to offer my help and resources to [name of school or district] as you develop plans for reopening to serve students in the fall. I represent [name of afterschool program or network] that supports more than [#] local students and families.

I am available and very interested in participating in upcoming discussions about protocols and schedules that are being developed for instruction, transportation and safety procedures. Our programs are uniquely qualified to help you address the logistical and budget challenges our schools face. That includes re-engaging and supporting students who will return having experienced extreme social disconnection, trauma and significant learning gaps.

As a long-standing community partner that serves many of the same children and families you serve, we can offer immediate resources—including our facilities, staff, expertise, and connections with families and community partners. Students need to re-engage in academic, social and physical spaces again. Parents (including teachers) need to return to work. We stand ready to step up in new ways to help you reimagine the upcoming school year.

Thank you for your outstanding leadership. I look forward to finding more ways to partner with you on reopening and rebuilding stronger than before.

Sincerely,

SAMPLE LETTER [download Word version here]

Dear Superintendent [last name of superintendent],

We know you are grappling with the massive and uncharted task of bringing our students back into our school buildings safely, and we appreciate your work. As a long-standing community partner serving many of the same children and families you serve in your schools, we would like to offer immediate resources—including our facilities, staff and connections—to help address logistical and budget challenges schools are facing. 

Many of our local afterschool programs pivoted to remain open, continue to serve students and families today, and stand ready to help with your efforts to rebuild and return stronger than before COVID-19. We ask to be invited to your planning discussions and that you consider the following ways we can offer support:

  • Time – Afterschool and summer programs have always provided critical academic support and youth development services for K-12 students and their families outside of traditional school hours. For schools considering a staggered schedule, these wraparound services are more important than ever. 
  • Space – Our programs operate in a variety of settings, often moving between classrooms and community spaces. We can help schools expand learning and engagement to include community centers, parks, libraries, college campuses, faith-based locations and more.
  • Staff – We can provide additional staffing capacity, including professionals who are trained in positive youth development, online learning and trauma informed care. Having more hands on deck is especially critical to help students recover from learning loss and the social isolation forced by the pandemic.
  • Engaging parents and families – Many families are in crisis, need additional supports and are struggling to stay connected. This creates a serious challenge for communicating about new protocols and schedules that are developed for instruction, transportation and safety procedures. Schools will need to be more connected than ever with families and afterschool can help. We have deep relationships with families and community partners, and a long history of coordinating services to meet families’ economic, health, food and other needs.
  • Innovation – Afterschool programs are able to step in with flexibility and pivot quickly as school schedules and educational delivery systems shift. We offer safe, developmentally rich settings for learning and opportunities that engage students in meaningful projects and activities correlated to academic achievement.

What we ask of you:

  • Invite afterschool programs to your planning discussions, involving them early so they can identify the best ways to share resources and facilities, and ways to maintain student cohorts.
  • Collaborate with parents, teachers, students and community organizations to support needs-assessment gathering.
  • Establish a thoughtful distribution of resources between schools and afterschool programs to help alleviate budget constraints and ensure students’ academic, social and emotional needs are met.

Students are ready to be fully engaged in academic, social and physical spaces again and parents (including teachers) need to return to work to keep our economy strong. It’s more important than ever for school time and out-of-school time to work together as true partners. Together we can build a more coordinated, streamlined, cost-effective model of service across the full school and work day. The best part is, our students will benefit the most.

Learn more about our afterschool programs here: URL 

You may reach me at email, phone. I will also aim to follow up with your office by phone next week.

Sincerely,

VISUAL EXAMPLE OF COORDINATING THE GROUPING OF STUDENTS BETWEEN SCHOOL AND AFTER SCHOOL (please share with school administrators) [download pdf version here for full page version to print]