As a school’s chief executive, a principal faces a long list of responsibilities and challenges on a daily basis. It’s the principal who parents want to meet with when there is an issue with their child, yet that same administrator is responsible for personnel, a facility, curriculum and the safety of hundreds – sometimes thousands – of other students.
The role of school in children’s lives is expanding. Now, more working parents depend on schools for before- and afterschool care. Many administrators want to turn that afterschool time into something more meaningful and engaging for their kids. But among principals, who has the time and resources to establish and run afterschool enrichment programs?
Principals like Diantha Swift of Sligo Creek Elementary School in Silver Spring, Maryland, have found that a strong, trusted partner can manage an afterschool program and help reduce their headaches. Swift’s school partners with Flex Academies to run its afterschool program. Flex handles all aspects of the program, from working with the PTA to determine the activities that will be offered, to screening vendors, to registration and even the day-to-day logistics. Flex’s onsite coordinator is at Sligo Creek every day to make sure that everyone is where they’re supposed to be.
“We have been very happy with it from the standpoint that there is an onsite supervisor that manages the program, that takes attendance, that is responsible for all of the things that we as a school don’t have to be responsible for,” says Swift.
Swift talks about the hectic dismissal process and the role that Flex Academies’ onsite coordinator plays in making it smoother. “At dismissal I’ve got close to 700 kids that go on 19 buses to multiple places after school. Many of those children are staying with us for an afterschool program. Where do they go once we let them go and release them into an afterschool program?”
Swift says that the Flex onsite coordinator has the attendance roster, and knows where each child needs to be. If there are questions about a child’s whereabouts, they are quickly resolved.
“That tight accountability, that security piece is important, because we do have kids that may decide that today I am going to go home with Ted down the street, I’m not going to the afterschool program. We know it in a split second and parents trust us,” says Swift. “They want to know that their kids are safe and the onsite coordinator is the person that makes that happen.”
Principal Trish McGuire of Julian Curtiss School in Greenwich, Connecticut, describes her school’s partnership with Flex as “a positive one.” She says, “I love the fact that there is one monitor.” She talks about the fact that in the past, there were different monitors running the school’s enrichment program and that, as principal, she often had to become involved. She says that in the past, “People weren’t as prepared to deal with the day-to-day business” of managing the program.
Principals who work with Flex Academies agree that safety is the primary concern of both administrators and Flex. And child safety experts also see the need for that layer of protection Former National Coordinator for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction Francey Hakes, says, “Schools don’t think about safety and protection in the afterschool hours, when schools are still liable,” but they should. She emphasizes staff training and screening, both steps that Flex takes to promote student safety.
But what about all the other factors that go into launching and managing a high quality afterschool enrichment program?
For Principal Chris Nardi of Thomas Pyle Middle School in Bethesda, Maryland, quality and cost of offerings are important, too. He says that “the variety of courses and opportunities” provided make him a strong supporter of Flex Academies.
“With the cooking and the robotics and the computer pieces and the physical activities the kids are offered, the programs are selling out within about five minutes of going live,” Nardi says.
“I think parents have loved it!” he says.
Nardi says he gets phone calls from parents asking how they get their kids into the program. And Flex has kept costs low while providing his school with a high-quality program. “Affordability has worked for us,” says Nardi.
Flex Academies Founder and President Joshua Chernikoff sums it up best. “Flex frees up principals to address more pressing tasks while providing them with peace of mind,” he says.
Flex is currently working with 23 schools in four states to launch and manage safe, high-quality afterschool enrichment. Click here to read what other administrators have to say about Flex Academies.