Supporting Kids and Families During COVID-19 School Building Closures

Last week, in his first Coronavirus update State Superintendent Paulo DeMaria challenged Ohio educators when he said, “We are so used to staying in our lanes and playing by the rules. This is a time when we have to be creative and innovative and figure out other ways we can accomplish things – and maybe get outside of our lanes a little bit to make sure that we are delivering what our students need.” 

In the spirit of this challenge, the EnvisionEdPlus team is offering ideas for how afterschool program professionals can be creative and innovative in supporting students and families during this challenging time. 

We know young people in our afterschool programs are at-risk, especially now. Some struggle to adapt to changes in their schedules or expectations. All are away from a large part of their support systems – teachers and afterschool professionals who care about them, structured learning and fun activities, their friends and peers. They need our support more than ever.

It’s clear that programs should not be meeting in person. That would not be consistent with the CDC recommendations, the governor’s stance nor the department’s direct guidance. Here are some suggestions that are in the spirit of the governor’s and state superintendent’s messages so far and certainly in the spirit of what’s good for kids.  And remember, flexibility and adaptability are key. We expect changes as more information and guidance becomes available. 

Academic support

At-risk youth are likely less prepared to be successful with online and at-home learning options provided by their schools. Youth serving programs can creatively support students with distance tutoring, school work help, and general encouragement to help them stay focused and on track with their learning. Program staff have relationships with these students and have been helping them in these ways all year. Stay connected – kids need you. 

Family Engagement

Families need all the support they can get in adapting to having their children at home 24/7, especially if the adults still are working (in the home, or out of the home). Youth serving program staff can be resourceful in how you provide that support in safe ways via phone, text, video conference calls, social media and other creative means. Now, more than ever, families need linkages to community resources, guidance for structuring at home time, and general outreach so they can support themselves and their children. Be resourceful – families need you.

Youth Development

At-risk youth are now separated from many adults who build Developmental Relationships with them every day: peers, teachers and afterschool staff who care about them, the structure that school and afterschool programs provide; social and emotional learning support; and much more. Program staff can be imaginative in supporting students with goal-setting, behavior management strategies, wellness checks, and youth-development activities (such as online yoga practice, art instruction, games, and discussion groups – all using tools such as phone calls, text, webinar, videos, conference calls). Be creative – we all need you. 

Funding Ideas and Resources for Support


  • Check out the new Serve Ohio community resilience grants – immediately available.
  • Contact your local community foundation or United Way. 
  • Call or email your local bank manager – they might have small grants.
  • Check EEP’s Grant Guru webpage for more grants. 

Resources for Programs and Families:

We know nearly all programs are uncertain how to move forward with their mission, staffing and funding.  This is uncharted territory for everyone – program staff, classroom teachers, families and state/federal officials. Move forward, in good faith, to continue the invaluable support you have been providing to young people all year. Be creative and do your best to make the most of the resources you have on hand – your staff, your phones and your relationships with kids. 

Reassure yourself with the words of State Superintendent DeMaria in a recorded address on the department’s website: “This is uncharted territory that we all are navigating together.”   DeMaria also told us, “We are working to provide answers but rest assured that we are committed to working with Governor DeWine, the legislature and other stakeholders to provide as much flexibility and latitude as necessary to accommodate these circumstances.”

Keep his words in mind. If we maintain our commitment to students, first and foremost, our actions can’t be very wrong. 

PS. If you find other great resources, activities or funding ideas – please share them with us via email, Twitter or Facebook. 


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