Child care and community ed programs around the country remain in unfamiliar territory at the hands of COVID-19. A constant theme throughout this time is that COVID-19 is impacting us all in a unique way. Districts in select states are busy providing emergency child care services for healthcare and emergency service personnel, while a significant number of programs have reached a point of wondering what comes next. However, there is no playbook for this.

After initial shock, reaction and communication, districts are moving into the next phase of their current situation. While it’s critical to maintain important communication with their community, programs are forming plans to move forward.

The Current State of Things

Because there is no playbook for this, we surveyed a handful of districts across the country to discover what this new phase of COVID-19 looks like for community ed and child care programs. We found that 65 percent have continued working but have transitioned to fully remote, adding another degree of unfamiliarity. What are they undertaking to engage their communities and remain top-of-mind during COVID-19?

Communication — 80 percent of districts we surveyed mentioned still regularly communicating with families regarding cancelations, vouchers, future program schedules and more. When thinking about future initiatives for your program, it’s important not to experience a dropoff in communication to your community.

E-Learning — 60 percent of programs we spoke to referenced online learning as their next initiative. Whether teaching classes through Zoom or creating YouTube activity videos, programs are adapting and shifting what courses they can online.

Emergency Meal Services — While many are providing emergency child care services – as required by some states like Minnesota, Kentucky and Vermont, another way districts are assisting their communities is with emergency meal services through delivery or pick up locations.

Getting Started: Elevate Your Community

Just because your program cannot physically bring people together, doesn’t mean you can’t engage and drive progress. Even though they’re apart, your community needs to be brought together, and no one does that quite as well as community education. These initiatives, along with internal projects that we will touch on later, will help position your program to begin rebuilding your community when it’s safe to do so.

Share Your Story — We know that over the past few weeks, community education and child care programs have done amazing things to support their districts. Share this important story with your community members. Sharing these types of stories in today’s world is great for community morale. In addition, it will keep your program top-of-mind and lead to your community members supporting you when social distancing is no longer. A quick, two-minute video sent out or hosted on your YouTube channel or a mention in your newsletter are great platforms to accomplish this.

E-Learning Continued — As mentioned, programs are quickly adapting to our new remote environments by offering a variety of virtual and online learning options for youth and adults. Live enrichment courses, like yoga classes, second-language courses and more, are moving to tools like Zoom where attendees can answer questions and receive feedback in real time. Digitally-focused courses like “Mastering Excel”, “Graphic Design Essentials”, “Certificate in Web Design” and “Google Analytics 101” can seamlessly be moved to digital formats. And many courses are being turned into YouTube activity videos. Additionally, we’ve seen programs turn to online course providers like ed2Go or LERN’s UGotClass offerings.

“Currently I am trying to run two classes through Zoom to see how it goes. We are figuring out some marketing campaigns, fun ones, to stay connected.”

Moving your curriculums digitally may seem like a daunting task, so take it one step at a time. Start with your spring and summer (if combined) catalogs. Go through each course to determine if the subject can be taught online. Then, determine the best format and resources needed. Can the course be pre-recorded and sent out to attendees? Or is live instruction still the best format? Answering these questions helps you narrow down the tools you need.

As your communities shift to online education and socialization, you will find that many have the technology and at-home set ups in place to participate in your online courses.

Empowering Activity at Home — When speaking with districts, it became clear that one avenue to engage with families is to empower and invigorate their learning and activity at home. “We’re sharing resources on art, music, physical engagement, and STEM activities to do at home. Creating take home activity packs to be distributed at the food and supplies pick up.”

“We’re sending home ideas for crafts/activities while promoting online courses with our partner program.”

If moving your curriculum online is not an option for your program, creating take-home activity kits is a great alternative to engage families. Your programs are a resource for fun and activity outside of the day-to-day. Providing your families with fun, innovative ways to spend time together ensures them that this resource is still there.

Additionally, researching and sharing online resources is a great way to achieve this with less investment. Create a dedicated place on your website and use your social media channels to share fun activities and learning resources families can utilize at home.

Think Outside the Box — Host regular brainstorming sessions with your staff and encourage them to think outside the box. Already, we have seen organizations plan virtual day-long scavenger hunts or host isolation bingo. Do you normally host a community barbeque or yoga-in-the-park? Think about hosting it on Instagram Live. Were you planning to host any running or bike races? Many organizations are moving to virtual options.

Your program has significantly changed for the time being, but that shouldn’t limit what you’re capable of. You may not be able to control outside circumstances, but you can control the fun, engaging activities your program offers during this time. Doing so sends a message to your community that you’re here and you’re ready to connect.

From Team Management Guidelines: Projects to Position Your Program

In our discussion on team management, we highlighted a few initiatives programs can tackle to keep momentum and move forward, despite these uncertain times.

Here are some potential projects you can tackle now to make your next registration period the best one yet.