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6 Steps to Start an After School Program

After school programs provide many benefits for children and their families. While they enable parents to maintain regular workdays, they provide kids with structure and enriching activities once the school day is done. A quality program provides a safe, nurturing environment where school-age children can participate in activities, receive guidance with homework, and engage in safe social interactions.

For these reasons and more, starting a successful after school program is a profitable venture for many childcare professionals and daycare directors. However, starting one is no easy feat. It requires a lot of thought and planning to build a solid foundation. If starting a successful after school program is a dream of yours, follow the steps below to learn more about how to achieve it. 

Secure a Space to Host Your Program

One of the first steps in considering how to start an after school program is understanding how to secure a space to host it. The top two factors to keep in mind when choosing the ideal location are travel and convenience. 

The best locations are ones that are conveniently accessible to parents and within close proximity to the school where your prospective students are enrolled. Consider scouting affordable spaces like local churches, libraries, schools, and recreation centers. 

Conduct Research

Starting an after school program is always going to seem essential, but before you proceed with plans to start one, you should conduct research to determine whether it’s a truly feasible venture. Many factors can impact the success of your program as well as its profitability. As you conduct research, consider the following questions:

  • What do parents and students desire to see in an after school program in your area?
  • How high is the demand for an after school program in your area?
  • How much commercial space is available for an after school program in your area?
  • Are there enough qualified childcare professionals in your area to staff your after school program?
  • Are there local businesses in your area that you can collaborate with to offer a range of services?
  • How large is the school district in your area?
  • Is it feasible to offer unique services like bilingual tutors or computer programming classes in your after school program?

Take your research a step further by conducting a needs assessment through interviews, surveys, and focus groups to understand what types of programs are needed in the community. These assessments can also show you where to leverage existing resources and how to identify and establish additional systems and supports.  

If, after conducting the relevant research, you find that your after school program can fulfill a significant demand in your area and has a unique edge over any local competition, you can feel confident that you’ll be able to build a solid foundation.  

Create a Business Plan and Set Goals

Learning how to create an after school program also requires you to understand how to create a business plan and set goals. During this phase, you’ll develop policies, curriculums, values, objectives, and more to help solidify your program’s foundation and set it up for success. 

Before you create your business plan and start setting goals, it’s important to research the market. By analyzing the competing after school programs in the area and assessing their curriculums, you can get a better idea of the community’s needs. Local parents can be a valuable resource for information about what’s missing in the local market. 

Once you’ve gathered all the information you need to make your after school program a success, you can start planning its essential components and create your business plan or proposal. This is a necessary first step for sharing your ideas with public and private investors. Consider the following details when creating your business plan and setting goals:

  • Program design, including location, staffing, administration, transportation
  • Core values 
  • Mission statement
  • Policies and procedures 
  • Curriculum
  • Legalities, including insurance, licensing, reporting

Make a Budget

Figuring out the startup costs for any business is a challenge. Chances are that you’ll need some startup funding to get your after school program up and running. With the right investors and an accurate budget that’s strictly maintained, your program is sure to enjoy long-term success. While adding an after school program to an existing daycare won’t be as expensive as starting one from scratch, anyone planning to start an after school program will need to create a detailed budget. When creating yours, consider the following startup and operational costs:

  • Location and whether you’re renting or purchasing
  • Professional third-party fees, including construction, lawyers, printing
  • Licensing and permit fees
  • Training costs 
  • Insurance
  • Materials and equipment costs
  • Hiring costs and salaries
  • Maintenance
  • Third-party services and vendors 

It’s helpful to look into local, state, and federal funding as well as private donations designed to support after school programs

Download free templates

Hire Experienced Employees

One of the most important steps in understanding how to open an after school program is learning how to hire experienced employees. A high-quality program doesn’t stop at hiring experienced personnel but also has systems in place to provide ongoing training and consistent communication for staff after they’re hired. Continued education and training help ensure your staff feels empowered and encouraged to be the best. Consider offering ongoing training and education benefits, such as bonuses for staff who gain advanced degrees or complete additional training programs. 

Hiring a qualified and passionate team is essential for instilling confidence in parents that their children are receiving an outstanding level of care. In your search for the best educators, consider targeting staff members and teachers at local elementary schools who may be looking for part-time after-school positions. 

Your program and the people you hire to staff it must be properly licensed and satisfy state regulations. Be sure to research your state’s specific requirements and keep up with new laws, policies, and regulations to ensure that your program provides the highest level of care. 

Maintain a Positive Environment

After school programs should provide a secure environment for kids, which is why it’s crucial to enforce safety policies and security measures while setting students up for success. Consider security solutions like electronic check-in with fingerprint pads, secure door controllers, and keyless entry to control unauthorized access. 

Provide all staff members with a detailed copy of your program’s policies and procedures. Ensuring that all staff members are aware of the policies and understand the procedures is critical to maintaining your program’s security and success. It’s a good idea to hold regular meetings to ensure everyone is updated and on the same page.   

While it’s easy for founders of after school programs to feel overwhelmed by all the duties and essential tasks that come with running one, starting a program doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Follow the tips above to start a successful after school program. 

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