Now that your children's school has reopened for the academic year 2020-2021, a major challenge is hopefully out of the way. The planning alone for the reopening of school was arduous and time-consuming. Your school's administrative team spent countless hours over the late spring and summer planning how to reopen the school safely. To understand how complex the variables involved were in their discussions and deliberations, think about working a jigsaw puzzle with an impressionist picture in shades of blue and gray. Those variables included federal, state, and local guidelines involving just about everything you can imagine. Like all the rest of the parents, I know that you wondered whether the school could reopen at all. But it did. While things certainly are different from past years, a private school education's essential hallmarks are in place for all to see: a safe community and high-quality teaching.
Now, let's look at how you can help the school out during these unprecedented times.
Listen to your school's instructions.
This admonition is important because you may well hear conflicting advice and news on social media or television. For example, when somebody retweets a claim about wearing masks not being effective, follow your school's guidance. A private school community includes a wide range of age groups. Some members of the community are more exposed to the COVID-19 virus than others. The same thing applies to gathering in groups and maintaining social distancing. Don't plan a birthday or other celebration with friends and family to celebrate in person. That event, no matter how safe you think it is, could end up being a spreader. Indeed, it could end up forcing the school to shut down for a couple of weeks. Virtual events will be a staple in your life for many months, indeed, years to come.
This video from the Centers for Disease Control gives an overview of typical school safety protocols.
Help your school pay for the costs of COVID-19-required equipment and supplies.
If you own your own business or are an executive in somebody else's company, you know that paying for protection from the virus is unbelievably expensive. You also understand that none of these expenses were in the current year's budget. So, email the head of school. Tell her that you have decided to help out with some of the expenses. If a gift of $500 fits your financial situation, then give that amount. If you can afford a major gift of, say, $5,00, $10,000, or more, then do it. Let your friends, family, and colleagues know what you are doing. There is great strength in numbers.
What extra expenses does your school have? Deep cleaning and testing are two of the essential, expensive items that must be done every day. Before COVID-19, floors would be swept, bathrooms cleaned, and wastebaskets emptied. In addition to those tasks, all surfaces people touch must now be wiped down with antibacterial wipes. In some cases, frequently used surfaces must be cleaned several times a day. Your school probably hired a professional cleaning service to handle this kind of deep cleaning, as it is too much for your small janitorial staff to do.
Testing is another expensive item. Many schools have included regular fast testing in their protocols. Implicit in testing is contact tracing that requires a member of staff to carry out.
Another category of items not included in school budgets is PPE or Personal Protective Equipment. That includes things like masks, gloves, face shields, etc., for staff and students alike. Your healthcare professionals will probably need a set or two of isolation gowns if somebody gets sick at school.
These items are just the tip of the iceberg. Your school's specific protocols will determine the overall cost of all of these COVID-19-related items. And these are expensive and have not been budgeted for. As I have said many times in previous articles, I offer my advice with small to medium schools in mind. Large private schools will most likely have rainy day funds set aside for this kind of emergency. Small schools of 100 students or less are going to need some serious financial help. Do what you can financially.
You know why you have sent your children to private school in the first place. You wanted small class sizes, serious academics, highly-qualified teachers, athletics, the arts, extracurricular activities, and all the private schools can offer. Share your zeal for the private school your children attend. Talk up its strong points and unique features at every chance you get. Word of mouth marketing is always the very best form of advertising.
This video shows how professionals deep clean facilities.
Share your expertise.
If you are an executive of a company with employees working both in an office or other facility and remotely, share your thoughts and expertise with the head of school. While she is a very strong individual who has weathered many a storm in her professional career, this pandemic is unlike anything most folks have ever dealt with. She will be grateful for your insights and your encouragement in the weeks and months ahead.
Be patient with learning.
Flexibility is the watchword in 2020, 2021, and for who knows how much longer. Be flexible with the school. There will be times when schedules and plans will have to change on a dime. Have your contingency plans in place to fetch your children at a moment's notice. Be prepared to implement a robust remote learning program for your children. Most schools will do their best to provide in-person classroom instruction. But if necessary, they will offer a hybrid learning experience. Be assured it will be the well-prepared, well-planned teaching and lessons you have come to expect and, indeed, for which you are paying. Only the delivery format will change.
This video offers parents some tips for coping with online learning.
Stay in touch.
Communicate regularly with the school. Provide all the support and encouragement you can. Expect academic 2020-2021 to be different from anything we have ever experienced.
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