Three Challenges Facing OST Programs – and How to Address Them: A Webinar Recap

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Out-of-school time (OST) providers encounter some of the most complex challenges when running their programs – particularly in today’s environment. In this webinar, Procare’s before and after school experts – Jan Gilboy and Brie Post – dive into some of the biggest challenges we’re seeing in the OST space, and how providers are tackling them. While the challenges discussed in the webinar were issues before coronavirus hit, they’re becoming even more conspicuous as we deal with physical distancing and lockdowns.

Challenge #1: Check-in/Check-out

The check-in/check-out process can seem fairly simple, but in all actuality, there’s a lot of room for error. And, given COVID-19, there’s something to be said for a less manual, less risky and less physical approach. Brie noted she still sees a lot of reliance on paper attendance and enrollment forms, requiring staff to not only check kids in and out on a daily basis, but also to keep these documents updated and accurate – while still managing their day-to-day duties.

“One of the larger school districts I worked with found that each of their sites had a different process to check kids in and out,” said Brie. “This was leading to inaccurate information, missed check-ins, missed check-outs and a lot of conversations with parents they don’t really want to be having.”

To solve for this, Jan discussed technology that allows parents to use their smartphone to check their kids in and out – no paper needed. “What’s great is that it’s zero touch, which is incredibly important in today’s environment.”

Brie added that she has seen centers embracing new technologies that are able to track children’s activities/movements, which is helpful for OST programs that feature a varied curriculum.

Challenge #2: Manual Processes

There is a lot of manual work happening well beyond the check-in/check-out process. For example, many programs still do paper registration. According to Jan, these programs typically have parents fill out a form and then request them to bring it in physically or scan and email it.

“There is so much room for error when that information must be keyed in,” said Jan. “And, families still call staff to ask questions, so it takes up a lot of time.” 

To address the cumbersome work that comes with using manual processes, Jan talked about ways OST programs can take their registration online and configure registration forms specifically to the programs being offered.

“Whether it’s before or after care, drop in, summer camps, or even signing up for enrichment or athletic programs, there’s technology out there that makes registration easy for both schools and families,” said Jan. “Through child care management software, families can easily input all their information, including waivers, emergency contact info and medical info. Billing is set up at the same time, allowing for an easier way to collect tuition.”  

Challenge #3: Parent Engagement

The “secret sauce” to any good child care program is parent engagement. Yet so many still struggle with it – especially given social distancing and the fact that it’s hard for centers to visit with parents face-to-face.

According to Jan, It’s all about access. With the right technology, you can provide updates to parents, enable online registration, offer easily-accessible forms and more – either online or via a mobile app.”  

Brie added that creating a parent portal using child care management software gives parents one central location for all of their needs – they can make one-time payments, set up autopay, update child and parent information, as well as get daily activity updates and photos.

“Directors who go digital love that within a minute, they can email or text the whole center, a specific classroom or grade, or an individual family,” said Brie. “It all becomes so much quicker and easier.”

To learn more about the top challenges facing OST programs, and the solutions to those challenges, you can view the webinar in its entirety here.

To see how you can streamline all of the manual processes in your before or after school program, click here.

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