Getting There is (Half?) the Battle

Out of School time programs provide kids, families, and entire communities with innumerable benefits. However, sometimes the biggest barrier to accessing programs and the benefits we provide is literally getting kids in the door

Transportation access, or lack thereof, has an enormous impact on OST programs and the families we serve. Whether your program exists in a major city or in a rural community, a host of issues can make getting kids in the door challenging. Providers in urban spaces often lament the challenges of young people trying to navigate complicated public transit systems and unsafe walking routes. Rural providers commonly deal with long commutes for kids to and from program hubs - commutes which are often affected by inclement weather. No matter where you are located, schools and programs continue to feel the effects of the ongoing bus driver shortage. When we are lucky enough to have access to dependable bussing, it remains incredibly costly and often options are limited. At the family level, many Wisconsinites do not enjoy the privilege of access to a safe, reliable vehicle that they can use at their disposal. When taking all these factors into consideration, it seems like no small miracle that we manage to have any children arrive at all! 

We need not be disparaged by these barriers, however. Because transportation is such a widespread challenge many programs have implemented creative solutions  across the state. Walking, biking, skating, or scooting to program are options that will not only get our kids where they need to be but also provide physical exercise on the way, allowing our kids to arrive alert and ready to learn. Programs might consider organizing a walking bus or riding route so that families are assured their kids will be supervised and safe while getting to and from programming. Another solution that has become popular is ‘late bussing,’ wherein programs coordinate with school districts and/or extracurriculars to provide a second bus route that operates after activities and programs conclude. Your program might partner with the United Way and explore their 211 resource, which provides free or reduced cost rides among many other services. Additionally, communicating with families to organize a carpool is a great way for adults in your community to build supportive relationships with one another as they share the burden of transportation and build the proverbial village of care around their children. 

While many programs face issues regarding transportation, the details of those issues are dependent on the community in which you serve. Before making a plan about responding to the issue, be sure to collect data on the specific barriers folks in your program are facing. Consider using the Program Needs Assessment tool to guide your work and ground decisions in data. Remember to not let perfection be the enemy of progress; small steps are better than no steps. And remember that you’re not alone; there are many related resources from the Wisconsin Afterschool Network with more ideas, additional details on the above solutions, and the ability to hear directly from fellow providers doing the good work, just like you.  

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