How to manage

Author: Katie McNeil

Demand for after-school programs has surged in the past decade. Nationally, 7 million school children attend an after-school program, but an estimated 24 million would enroll if a program were available to them.

Today's after-school programs offer more than just supervision between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. With technology-rich environments, successful after-school programs can expand learning opportunities, close achievement gaps and prepare students by providing opportunities to develop life skills for jobs of the future.

What is an after-school program?

After-school programs, also known as extended-day programs and out-of-school time, are extracurricular programs that provide child care and enrichment for students after the traditional school day. In addition to afternoon hours, after-school programming is offered during school breaks, holidays and summer. Programs can be school or community-based and offer a wide range of enrichment—from specialized skill-building and homework help to cultural activities and sports.

The importance of after-school programs

Most critically, working parents rely on after-school programming to fill the gap between the end of the school day and the end of the workday. More than 80% of parents say after-school programs allow them to keep their jobs.

But the importance of after-school programs extends beyond afternoon supervision. Successful after-school programs provide enrichment, offering subjects and skills not taught during the traditional school day. The benefits of after-school programs have been well researched. Attendance is linked to higher academic gains and fewer absences, and this cumulative effect helps narrow the achievement gap.

Common challenges to after-school programs

Despite the importance of after-school programs and high parent satisfaction rates, program providers face significant challenges, especially in the wake of the pandemic. These challenges include:


Demand for after-school programs far exceeds the supply. For every student in an after-school program, three are unable to enroll.

Cost and funding

Cost is the No. 1 barrier to after-school program enrollment for low-income families. While some programs rely on tuition for funding, publicly funded programs serve a critical need for low-income students. Unfortunately, federal funding hasn't kept up with rising costs, which limits enrollment.

Limited technology

Beyond keeping the lights on, funding is limited for technology and innovative science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum, essentially gatekeeping the skills students need for the jobs of the future. Only 64% of after-school programs offer access to computers, laptops and broadband internet.

Recruiting and retaining staff

Staffing is the No. 1 challenge for after-school program providers. Successful after-school programs rely on high-quality staff. Recruiting and retaining staff has only become more difficult since the pandemic.

Parent engagement and communication

With most time and resources dedicated to staffing and facilitating programming, providers can struggle to maintain strong communication with parents and caregivers.


Unless programming is on-site at the child's school, transportation to after-school programming presents a unique challenge. Over half of parents surveyed in a 2020 Afterschool Alliance survey stated their child doesn't have a safe way to get to and return home from programs.

How technology can help build successful after-school programs

A strong, reliable network and unified, modern communications tools are critical for building successful after-school programs. Technology enables programs to:

Expand internet access

An All4Ed report found 16.9 million children lacked sufficient home internet access to support online learning, while 7.3 million lacked access to a laptop, desktop or tablet. Lack of access is particularly notable among low-income, Black, Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native and rural families. Reliable access to the internet underscores the importance of after-school programs for these underserved populations.

Supplement in-class instruction

Children can rely on after-school programs for homework help, meaning educational technology tools like computer-based tutoring can extend learning beyond the school day.

Engage students

Research from the Brookings Institution suggests educational technology can accelerate student learning and increase learner engagement. Successful after-school programs can use innovative technology to bring engaging learning experiences to the student, regardless of location. Technologies like video conferencing, augmented reality and virtual reality can immerse students in learning without the need for transportation.

Communicate with parents

According to Pearson, communication between home and school is vital for student success. Whether through texting, emails or applications, technology enables after-school programs to communicate and engage with parents authentically and frequently. Better communication with parents translates to stronger support for students.

Manage data

Unifying enrollment, student information, attendance and payroll in one system can reduce the headaches of administrative tasks and allows staff to dedicate more time to what matters most—the students. Tracking program data can also prove beneficial when applying for grant funding.

Offer STEM enrichment

Jobs requiring STEM skills will continue to grow. After-school STEM can close the gap between demand for STEM skills and lack of qualified candidates by sparking interest in STEM careers, most importantly for underrepresented populations. A reliable network and robust technology are essential for STEM curriculum.

U.S. children spend only 20% of their waking hours in school. Successful after-school programs seize a significant opportunity to expand learning and opportunity beyond the school day, especially for low-income and underserved populations.

A robust, reliable network and technology from Verizon can help ensure your after-school program effectively communicates with parents and caregivers and offers enriching learning opportunities for all students.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.