OST Coalition Meets with The District’s Top Education Leaders
Out-of-School Time programs have proven to be a pivotal resource for children and families during the COVID-19 pandemic, but several systematic barriers have kept programs from serving even more young people. The DC Out-of-School Time Coalition, which represents close to 50 OST programs and youth advocates, discussed these challenges, along with actionable solutions, with two of the District’s top education officials.
The coalition met with Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn and District of Columbia Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee on Wednesday, March 24 at a virtual convening of 50 attendees from the OST sector and the DC education community. The officials heard from several OST leaders about how they have continued to provide high-quality academic, social and emotional, and recreational programming to students throughout the pandemic, despite the challenges they encountered. DC Action Executive Director Kimberly Perry shared a common concern that program operations were often hampered in the past by lack of clear, consistent communication from their school partners. OST leaders offered solutions to address these challenges and strengthen the partnerships between OST programs and schools.
To create more collaborative partnerships in the future, the coalition presented the following requests, for Chancellor Ferrebee to:
- Meet with the coalition quarterly. In response, the Chancellor said he is open to a summer meeting with the OST coalition to check in on fall reopening plans and collaboration with principals. The coalition will follow up with his office to schedule this meeting.
- Communicate with principals this spring about collaborating with OST programs. He agreed to work with the coalition to draft a communication to principals, which is in progress.
- Convene a multidisciplinary group of DCPS leadership to work with OST programs. He did not commit to fulfilling this request, and suggested that OST programs continue to meet with principals and the School Partnerships office, with whom the coalition is already connected.
Kimberly Perry also presented DC Action’s budget priorities, which include increased funding for OST programs in FY 2022. DC Action is requesting the Learn 24 budget allocation be increased from roughly $14 million to $18 million. Kihn asked about how the funds would be spent and expressed an interest in scaling up current OST programs to serve more students in the District with an emphasis on social and emotional learning. The coalition is working on a detailed set of recommendations to send to the Deputy Mayor for Education.
Perry previewed an upcoming DC Action report based on a survey of OST providers about their experiences operating programs during the pandemic. The full report will be released in mid-April. Preliminary findings include the following.
- 60% of OST programs connected with a school disagreed or strongly disagreed that they have been updated about how and when schools plan to reopen and when facilities will reopen for OST programs
- 77% of programs said they offer some type of academic support to their youth participants
- 50% of programs reported that they could currently offer more programming to students who need it
- Programs shared reactions they have received from parents they work with, who have described their programs as “invaluable,” a “lifesaver,” “a safe space for students to process stressful situations,” helpful for mental health, and a space for “keeping [students] socially connected, hopeful, grounded and purposeful.”
The meeting was a productive first step in ensuring better collaboration between the OST community and the education system moving forward. The coalition is working with the DME and the Chancellor’s offices to address these challenges so programs can best serve students and families.
Click here to read more about the DC OST Coalition.