Today, more children than ever – over 10.2 million — are in afterschool programs.
A recent study by the Afterschool Alliance revealed that 75% of respondents believe that afterschool programs give parents peace of mind while they are at work. So when it comes to choosing someone to manage an afterschool program, Flex Academies President Joshua Chernikoff believes that “safety should always be the priority.”
“Parents want to know that their children are in a supervised, safe environment,” says Chernikoff.
Many management companies provide the framework for the program, but they don’t staff it. “Flex Academies knows that one of the keys to a safe program is a competent, communicating onsite coordinator,” says Chernikoff. “This is a person who is there, at the school, every day that the program is in session, to make sure that everyone is where they need to be.”
Carlie Parker is the Flex Academies onsite coordinator at the Bannockburn Elementary School. She describes her typical day. “My role starts as soon as the kids are dismissed at the end of the day, making sure that students get to the right rooms that they need to go to, especially those younger ones that sometimes get lost a little bit in the shuffle at the end of the day. It’s very busy,” she says.
“Next, I’m making sure that the vendors are all there to offer their wonderful programs for the kids for the afternoon. Then it goes to making rounds throughout the afternoon, making sure that everything is going well in the classrooms and then helping with the dismissal at the end, meeting all the kids, making sure the adults that are picking up the kids are the ones that are supposed to be picking them up, and making sure that any kids that don’t see an adult don’t freak out, so that they have someone to go to.”
Like all Flex onsite coordinators, Parker makes sure that all runs smoothly during the whole afternoon session.
Onsite coordinator Chantae Polite also knows she plays an important role in giving parents peace of mind. “I can address any problematic issues, such as the kids who have forgotten that they have enrichment that day, and hunt them down and communicate with the parents or possibly find them from wherever it is they have gone…usually another classroom.”
Parker says parents appreciate her role. “I think parents are just really thankful to have an onsite coordinator. They feel comfortable knowing that there is an adult there that really watches out for their children from the minute school is dismissed until they come to pick up their child. I think if that position weren’t there parents would be a lot more hesitant to maybe have their children participate in these activities.”
But it’s not a purely supervisory role. Polite says she spends a lot of time checking in on the activities during the afternoon as well as interacting with students and parents. She’s bonded with the families.
“I feel attached to these kids,” she says. “I feel attached to their happiness and their wellbeing. Seeing their excitement in return, and that just having me there makes them happy, is an affirming moment for me.”
A happy child makes for a happy parent. A safe environment makes a parent even happier.
And an onsite coordinator can make an afterschool program a happy, safe place.