How has COVID-19 Impacted Playworks Communities?
Due to COVID-19, all of the schools that Playworks was serving closed as of March 15. While our organization remains in operation, we had to suspend all of our in-person programming due to these school closures.
We immediately began transitioning to serve kids, schools, and communities through virtual experiences during this traumatic time. We launched Play at Home, a new service dedicated to helping families and teachers serve kids remotely. We also provided three months of free access to PlayworksU to all of our partner schools nationwide to ensure that educators could develop skills and prepare for returning to school.
How has COVID-19 impacted Playworks?
Every kid deserves the opportunity to play every day.
That’s why Playworks exists and why we attract so many talented folks to join in the work for our mission.
Due to the financial strain resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve had to make a series of choices to ensure that Playworks can continue to partner with schools and support kids’ physical and social/emotional health. These decisions over the past several months were challenging, especially because we had to make them while so much is still unknown. I am sure that when we reflect on this time in the future, we will conclude that we got some decisions right, and others not.
We don’t know what school will look or feel like for kids next year yet. Additional CDC and state health agency guidelines will directly impact how Playworks can engage with kids in school. And we are watching as state education budgets are impacted for next school year, so we can understand how those financial decisions will trickle down to districts and schools.
We are hearing from principals that they want and need us in their schools and hope to have the same support for safe and healthy play for all their students as they return.
Playworks is committed to serving as many kids and schools as we are able to this coming school year, especially considering increasing needs for support for the social and emotional realities of school post COVID-19. We also know that financially we’ll be constrained in our ability to respond to all of the schools who need help. In some cases we won’t be able to continue the breadth of support we’ve provided in the past and in other cases we are adapting to digitally-based services that can reach kids when are closed.
It is our commitment to continue fulfilling our mission to the best of our ability in the 2020-21 school year.
To make this possible, Playworks must respond to the realities of the past several months. With schools being closed since mid-March and uncertainty nationwide about how and when schools will open in the fall, we have made the decision to layoff or furlough a significant number of our team members. We are managing our finances to be as small an organizational size as we can, while we gain clarity about where schools and districts will have their fall plans in place and financial capacity to partner with us.
This is not a reflection of our team or the incredible efforts they have made to support kids in schools across the country. It is a reflection of the times and our reality.
Our teammates are the most inspiring, thoughtful, talented, mission-driven individuals you may ever meet. I hope that one day we can ask many to return to Playworks and continue serving kids with us. Decisions were made with an equity lens and operational realities with a focus on getting to a smaller organization size so that Playworks can continue to ensure kids get to experience safe and healthy play every day. Our hope is that our teammates will stay engaged in our alumni network and benefit from those connections to help guide them toward their next roles.
The decision making process has been all the more difficult because our people are so talented, care so deeply about our communities, and want to achieve our mission.
We engaged in a four day leadership retreat to consider how the organization could be structured differently to achieve a budget that reflects both known and unknown financial realities. The executive team considered feedback from the leadership team, equity team, and strategy council internally and created a financial model to reflect the plan that they proposed. This plan was presented to the National Board of Directors for their review on June 11. We were transparent and communicated often with staff throughout the entire process.
For our departing employees, our HR team collected a series of resources to help in the job hunt, hosted webinars on resume and interviewing tips, and will continue to provide new resources to our teammates throughout the summer.
Over the next few days, some of our teammates will be saying goodbye to each other and getting used to new realities. I know that in typical Playworker fashion we will all be there for each other.
This year, together we impacted 1,250,000 kids. Every single team member contributed to making that possible. The world is a more playful, joyous place because of them and kids were able to develop critical skills with their support.
If you are a recent employee of Playworks and have questions, please email human resources at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who do I contact if I’d like to get in touch with Playworks?
Are you an educator? Contact email@example.com.
Are you a former staff member? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where can I get up to date resources about COVID-19?
Please visit cdc.gov for up to date information and resources.