June 14, 2020
COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of our lives. We’ve received many questions from school leaders about how to pivot their offerings today and how to plan for the future.
We wanted to share some of our answers with you here. As the effects of the pandemic evolve, these answers may change. But we hope they provide some information you can use today to guide your decisions as you work throughout the summer and fall months.
Is It Possible to Reopen School Campuses in Fall 2020?
Reopening requires careful planning and preparation. The decision to reopen—and to what extent—will be a decision every school must make for itself. We believe every school that hopes to reopen must create a School Reopening Task Force and take action now to plan for the fall.
We recently partnered with AUXS to create the Road Map to Campus Reopening: A 90-Day Comprehensive Program. This program introduces medical and facilities experts to help you create a step-by-step reopening and repopulation plan for the next 90 days. If your school wants support to help shape your reopening plans, this program can help.
How Should We Adjust Our Budget in Light of COVID-19?
If you have already prepared a budget for the coming academic year, it may need to be rethought. Circumstances have changed and your plans should change to accommodate them. Develop your 2020–21 budget using several models, anticipating the multiple uncertainties you face.
Using this year’s operating budget as a base, create a plan for flat enrollment as a best-case scenario. Then produce possible budgets for declining enrollment. Use these scenarios to model any potential budget constraints, depending on what happens with enrollment and retention.
Hold your financial aid flat as a percentage of gross revenue. Even with aid increases, if you project a flat percentage for each budget, the numbers grow proportionally. Convert all fees to an average fee per student. All other hard income and fees will be reduced as enrollment declines. You should end up with a table showing what your revenue looks like for each scenario.
Next, look at next year’s anticipated operating costs. When you put this into your models, you can clearly see the budget deficit that must be balanced with every 10% decrease in enrollment.
Tune in to live webinars every week during the school year to get specific, research-backed insight you can immediately apply at your school.
How Do We Illustrate Our School’s Value Right Now?
In times of unrest, parents often reconsider their educational choices for their children. This can work in your favor if parents from other schools are unhappy with their child’s current school experience while learning from home. However, if you’re not actively demonstrating value, current families may also evaluate whether they want to remain at your school.
Unfortunately, we have seen schools close and expect more to close throughout this pandemic. But there are many opportunities for independent schools to thrive and showcase what they offer.
The best way to demonstrate value is through continual connection with families. As we finish the 2019–2020 school year, provide personalized updates on how children completed the school year. Reach out with information about what your school is doing over the summer and the steps you’re taking for the fall. When in doubt, communicate, communicate, communicate.
How Do We Remain Strategic While in Survival Mode?
Continue to review your strategic plan and decide what is still relevant and what should be put on hold. Some schools may not need to adjust any strategies; others may need to pivot significantly. You must determine what works best for your unique community.
When it comes to using your cash reserves, we recommend using this funding source to support your current families. Many families have experienced job loss or dramatic income cuts. Cash reserves give you the power to support your current families while we see what the future holds.
How Do We Approach a Reduction in Force With Care and Empathy?
While this is a scenario everyone wants to avoid, it may be something your school must consider. A reduction in force is emotionally draining, something a School Head must face with care and empathy. We recently shared how to conduct such a reduction to ensure you take care of your community during this difficult time.
We hope these answers provide some insight as your school continues to navigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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