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Tracey Lay featured in Education Week article "Coronavirus Upends After-School World"

May 7th, 2020


This story was originally published by Education Week on May 6, 2020 and can be found, in its entirety, here

Coronavirus Upends After-School World

‘Greater Need for Services’

In Connecticut, another provider, EdAdvance, is doing its best to keep staff on the job because they’ll be needed when schools there eventually re-open—and the programs will need people prepared to work with youth.

The regional education service center, which provides before- and after-school programs for nine school systems in the western part of the state, has kept staff immersed in training sessions, preparing for next school year, said Tracey Lay, the organization’s chief talent and collaboration officer and director of before- and afterschool programs.

Staff members are meeting with small groups of students using Zoom, delivering physical education lessons, and checking on their social-emotional status. They are also connecting with school district food service departments to provide grab-and-go meals in towns, such as Torrington and Winsted, that are hit hard by COVID-19.

EdAdvance has tapped its reserves to keep staff on the payroll, but the job loss in the industry has been widespread, advocates said.

Employees from other organizations are taking temporary part-time gigs, such as delivering packages, until they can get back to work. With those employees making comparable money elsewhere, program directors are concerned they will not come back when the spread of coronavirus begins to slow, said Grant, the executive director of the Afterschool Alliance.

“It’s a field where it's hard to get quality people to begin with,” Lay said. “We need them when we're ready to gear up again. And we knew that from the beginning that eventually we'd be going back.”

Before this week, there was even a slight chance that EdAdvance staff would be working with children again this school year. That was until Gov. Ned Lamont made the call Tuesday to keep school buildings closed for the rest of the academic year, making Connecticut the 47th state to make that call.

The eventual reopening of schools could arguably be the most essential complication to overcome for economic recovery. Many parents simply cannot go back to work if their children are still home; the typical 9 to 5 shift does not align with school bell times.

Yet governors are increasingly lifting the lockdown restrictions that kept many workers at home.

“There’s going to be a greater need for services as people get back to their lives,” said Warner of the National Afterschool Association. “Many of these [out-of-school] programs are going to have to figure things out even before schools do.”

Before the pandemic struck there were an estimated 10 million children enrolled in after-school programs.

If some of the proposals floating around to reopen schools—such as one-day-on, one-day-off schedules or staggered half-day shifts—become reality, an even greater demand could emerge. More children will need a safe place to stay when classes are not in session and the need to maintain social distancing could force some programs to hire even more staff, so that children can attend programs but remain insulated in smaller groups.

“It's a scary challenge, but it's going to be something that people are relying on us for,” said Lay of EdAdvance.

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