It's late spring, early summer 2020. If you are the head or owner of a private K-12 school, you are coping with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. Academic year 2019-2020 was going so well until everything stopped in March. You sent students home. You sent teachers home. In a matter of hours, your in-person classroom instruction became online instruction. Your old way of doing things was predictable and full of cherished traditions that made your school what it was. Your brand had dozens of metrics that proved to potential families that your school was worth the fees you charged. Your mission to educate the whole child that depended on personal interaction and watchful supervision was rarely questioned. Your brand and your mission have not changed. But the way you deliver them has most definitely changed. So, how does a school like yours survive the aftermath of this terrible pandemic? By living in the moment with a cautious, clear vision to the future.
In this video, a doctor explains what COVID-19 is.
On March 1, 2020, the Coronavirus or COVID-19, as it is named, has begun spreading worldwide. In the opinion of most reliable news reports, it is only a matter of time before the virus spreads widely here in the United States.
I am writing this article with small to medium size private schools in mind. Larger schools will have health professionals on staff or on call. For a variety of reasons, mainly financial, small schools won't have these health resources readily available on site.
I am not a health expert. What I have done here is to gather all the information I can from trusted sources such as the World Health Organization to help you cope with the virus. I strongly recommend that you monitor your state and local government's recommendations and advice, as well as information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Suggestions for families
Signs that your school might be failing don't suddenly appear all at once like a flashing neon sign. Instead, they appear gradually over weeks, months, and years. I am targeting small private schools with these remarks and suggestions with the hope that you will see telltale signs of concern long before they become major troubles.
As you and your board of trustees review the list which I have set out below, I would suggest scoring each item on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the low end, and 10 the top. So, for example, as you look at your enrolment data for the past 5 years, if the trend shows a deterioration in enrolment, you would score that item 5 or less. And so on. Then tackle the items on the list which need the most attention. The following video discusses signs that a business is in trouble. Many of these will apply to a private school which is, after all, a business.
Let's start with enrollment. Filling your school's seats is essential for balancing your budget. If you are having trouble doing that, then you need to find out why you are not able to fill all your seats. If you are a seasoned enrolment professional or have one on your board, then seek his advice and follow it. Enrollment professionals will look at a host of things which impact filling your seats. Among them will be determining what market your
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 made many changes which impact charities and not-for-profit organizations such as private schools. Large private schools have expert tax advice at their disposal, as well they should. However, small private schools may not have a fulltime accountant on their staff. The point of this article is to encourage the administrators and trustees of small schools to discuss The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 with tax and legal professionals at their earliest opportunity. These small schools need to understand what impact the new tax code has on their operations.
Here then are five items which I offer as talking points for your discussions.
1. The Impact On Charitable Giving
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act – What Nonprofits Need to Know by Sandra Cyr in Philanthropy Journal News offers some insight into how the Tax Act might impact charitable giving. I use the verb "might" advisedly, because it is too soon as of this writing in July 2018 to know what the real impact on charitable giving will be. We will have a better idea about that in the spring of 2019. In the meantime, I suggest that you discuss giving with your board and try to develop a realistic plan. Don't assume that giving will stay the way it has been. Assume that it will change and be prepared for that change.
2. Doubling Of The Standard Deduction
The major change which impacts not-for-profits is
Years ago I ran a small private school with 110 students in grades 9-11. I know how many demands consume a busy administrator's attention and time. I also know firsthand how difficult it is to get the owner of a private school to spend money on even the most critical items. With that in mind, I offer the following talking points for the small private school owner and her board of trustees.
How exposed is your school?
When I asked the question which is the title of this article, I had in mind your exposure on three fronts:
- IT infrastructure
- Public relations
I am not going to scare you off with a lot of tech-speak as far as your IT infrastructure is concerned. But I will highly recommend that you hire an IT expert to review your school's IT infrastructure and make recommendations. By recommending this approach, I am being a practical business person. Let's say your IT backend crashes, and you lose all your student and business data. And you have no resumption of business plan or data backups in place. You will have a tough time making an insurance claim as well as getting your school back up and running.
An impartial IT consultant will confirm that your technology infrastructure has kept up with the times. Sadly, many organizations are still running Windows XP for which support ended in 2014. Those Windows XP computers are easy targets for hackers.
You cannot treat technology like a whiteboard.