DC Action and the DC Out-of-School Time Coalition met with District education leaders and school leaders on February 9 to discuss the important role OST programs have continued to play in supporting students and families throughout the pandemic and distance learning. One of the concerns brought up during the meeting was a need for improved communication and collaboration among schools and OST partners. To follow up on the meeting, we sent the following letter to school leaders on March 3.
Dear School Leaders,
Thank you to those who were able to attend the DME COVID-19 School Leader meeting on February 9, where OST leaders were able to present how we’ve continued to play an important role in meeting District students’ academic, social and emotional, and enrichment needs outside of the traditional school day during the pandemic.
During the panel discussion, we emphasized the need for strong partnerships between your schools and OST programs. As your schools begin to reopen and you start making plans for the summer and fall, we encourage you to leverage all of the opportunities and resources available to help you meet the needs of your students and their families. OST programs are not only a critical ally in stemming and reversing learning loss, but we support young people needing to heal from the loss and trauma they and our communities have experienced during the pandemic, so they can thrive inside and outside of the classroom.
We recognize that the current situation with the ongoing pandemic, virtual learning, and school reopening discussions can call for special, temporary adjustments to the management of OST partnerships. Following are some recommendations to consider as we navigate this time of planning and transition together.
Ask OST programs that previously or currently partner with your school to help address specific needs for your students. Many of these programs are currently under capacity and eager to serve students and families. If programs are not doing so already, they would be more than happy to create visual, multilingual materials about OST options for principals to share easily with families in their school community. With your support, they can better communicate and target students who can most benefit from their support.
As you plan for your school’s summer programming, remember that OST programs have many summer activities that are beneficial to students’ various needs and interests. Reach out to the OST programs that were and are based at your school to ask what type of programming they plan on offering. Many have ongoing virtual opportunities, and others are ready to provide safe, in-person, outdoor programming at your school if they can be granted access to your facilities. They can also serve as an OST representative for all of the partner groups at your campus and help provide strategic thinking on the ways the OST can play an integral role in summer efforts.
While we do not know what the summer and fall plans will entail, invite an OST partner to join discussions about reopening for in-person learning.
Ask your OST team to develop, design, and lead elective enrichment plug-ins. For example, Kelly Miller Middle School has a clear, set schedule with open time blocks that are effectively treated as elective time, that students use to participate in OST programs. Programs are willing to work with school administrators to provide desired programming.
Offer attendance incentives (including community service hours for high school students) to students who attend both school and an OST program.
We know that as a principal, you have a lot on your plate. Consider designating another senior leader to coordinate with OST partners and respond to immediate questions and requests. Delegating the school’s collaboration with OST partners to a trusted AP, coach, or teacher leader who you meet with regularly and who has decision making authority, can help keep these partnerships strong and productive.
Strong partnerships between OST programs and schools have been a key component of the District’s education landscape since before the pandemic, and will continue to be as we look to the future. Following are some recommendations to strengthen the long-term collaboration between your school and your OST partners.
Invite OST programs to provide virtual programming opportunities during professional development Wednesdays or other open times on charter school students’ schedules.
If you are interested in connecting with a new OST program to support new or changing needs in your school community, please reach out to the OST coalition by emailing Ryllie Danylko @RDanylko@DCKids.org. We will work with you to find a program that fits your needs.
OST partnerships can and should be a key component of your school community’s conversations around academic and social and emotional recovery for students. Among the 40-plus organizations represented in the OST coalition, there are many examples of positive and productive partnerships between school leaders and OST partners. If you haven’t already, we encourage you to reach out to your OST partners as soon as possible to start a conversation about how to strengthen this critical alliance in this crucial time for student well-being.
To learn more about the out-of-school time landscape in the District, who it serves, how it’s funded and what impact it has on the lives of young people we encourage you to read our policy brief.
Kimberly Perry Ryllie Danylko
Executive Director Policy Analyst
DC Action and the DC Out-of-School Time Coalition