Every child and every family in Virginia should have the opportunities they need to thrive. Out-of-school time (OST) programs, which includes afterschool, before-school, and summer learning programs, are proven through decades-long research to engage students in learning, and support youth in developing healthy lifestyles. Children in OST programs are kept safe, supporting working families by allowing caregivers and children alike to fulfill their potential.
Viewing the below map, we are able to view how many school-age youth live in each county of Virginia and compare that against known OST programs. We see multiple counties that are complete program deserts and several counties with one or two programs for thousands of children. Virginia’s Southside region in particular shows a staggering lack of OST programs, especially in contrast to it’s school-age populations. Program providers like 4-H, are present in more rural localities, but further investments are needed.
Even locations that on first glance appear to have wide coverage of programs, still face shortages of opportunity. Factors include transportation, cost, availability comparative to population density, and staffing shortages. For example, looking at the map, the Hampton Roads area appears to have a wealth of programs. However the education and childcare staffing crisis has caused programs to shutter their doors. In late 2021, Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation was forced to close 14 programs due to a staffing shortages, which affected approximately 300 children.
Viewing the Map Program Density
The lightest shade of blue indicates the areas with the least dense school-age population. Highland county is the least dense with approximately 242 school-age children. The darkest shade of blue indicates the most dense and will represent counties with school-age child populations of 37,687 and higher. Fairfax County has the largest school-age population with an estimated 227,347 children and youth. Our school-age population estimates were sourced from the School-Age Populations authored by the University of Virginia, Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, Demographics Research Group, July 2022.
In Virginia, for every one child enrolled in an afterschool program, four would participate if a program were available to them. In fact, unmet demand for afterschool programs has gone from 29% in 2004 to 51% in 2020. Only 12% of Virginia students are enrolled in afterschool programs, which is down from 15% in 2014. How can Virginians work together to see 602,302 children gain the safety and opportunity that OST programs provide?
Our other maps dive deeper into contributing factors that can help us examine which of communities have the highest needs. After gaining a greater understanding of need, we can view our legislative district maps to view which Virginia representatives we can better engage with the OST community.