Charleston, W.Va. – Afterschool programs help keep children safe and engaged in productive activities when the school day is over and during the summer months. The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) in partnership with the West Virginia Department of Human Services Division of Early Care and Education, and the West Virginia Statewide Afterschool Network through West Virginia University Extension, is hosting the inaugural West Virginia Afterschool Quality Conference Friday and Saturday, March 8 and 9, 2024, at the Holiday Inn and Suites in South Charleston.

Each day, the unmet need for afterschool programs in West Virginia is evident. According to the West Virginia After 3 PM Report by the national Afterschool Alliance, for every child that has access to an organized program, four children are on a waitlist and possibly unsupervised.

The percentage of students needing afterschool care has increased from 23% in 2004 to 46% in 2020, according to the Alliance. This leaves 107,609 West Virginia children who would enroll if an afterschool program were available to them.

With working families needing to coordinate quality childcare for their children, availability, cost and transportation often prohibit them from accessing safe and nurturing environments for their students between the hours of 3 and 5 p.m. According to the report, 41% of parents surveyed reported a lack of programs, 50% said the programs were too expensive, and 51% reported a lack of transportation.

The Quality Conference explores opportunities for existing programs to expand services and ensure they provide high-level, engaging enrichment. While a safe environment is essential, these offerings also provide academic, artistic, leadership and social emotional supports for children (and more).

“Afterschool programs offer safe, nurturing environments by knowledgeable and caring staff,” said WVDE Coordinator of the WVDE’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program Sherry Swint. “Reliable high-quality afterschool is a pillar for a robust workforce, and they also give working families assurance that their children are engaged and thriving in these settings.”

“Not only does juvenile crime increase between the hours of 3 and 5 p.m., but crimes committed against children do as well,” said Coordinator of the WVDE’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program Loren Farmer.  “Regardless of where you live in our state or in our country, afterschool programs give children access to essential supports such as healthy activities, nutritious foods, positive peer interaction and leadership development.”

The West Virginia Youth Ambassadors program was also introduced at the conference. These students have grown up in afterschool programs and/or continue to participate and mentor in these settings. The Youth Ambassadors offer a unique perspective regarding the benefit and importance of afterschool programs during the school year as well as in the summer.

The conference continues Saturday, March 9, 2024, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

For media inquiries, contact Christy Day, West Virginia Department of Education Office of Communications, at 304-558-2699 or

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