by Dr. Mark Beadle , Guest Contributor
Schools are often attacked and maligned for not doing the right thing. During this 2020 pandemic, the public has often seen things schools could have done better. Certainly, we have all adjusted and schools have been schooled like many of our institutions and businesses-churches, libraries, hotels, airlines, …
But there is a group of schools that have done many things right. I wanted to write about these Christian schools and will start with a quote and a story:
“We prayed all along, but since March we have chosen to open a new school in every way. We have started over!” Southside Christian School is in Simpsonville, South Carolina and has grown by 100 students this year. Their Sup ’t, Dr. Sam Barfell, calls it a surge. They have 1160 students, 45 of which are enrolled in virtual classes that are offered as live video versions of a face to face class. They have waiting lists at most grade levels. They invested $630,000 to achieve these results but that seems to have already paid off! They are doing things right!
On April 15, 2020, Bill McGee of Legacy Christian Academy wrote: “DON’T WASTE THIS PANDEMIC.” He modeled a mindset that allowed Godly change and growth. No school could afford to stay the same or just plan to return to normal. ACSI, CSI and other leaders offered resources to help with this change so that a school did not have to do this alone. Some schools embraced the crisis as an opportunity. The Wall Street Journal reports that some private schools grew and some lost enrollment.
What were three right things that schools did?
Communicate- successful schools developed internal and external communications to let parents know what plans were being made and how safety was going to be ensured. They overcommunicated. They attracted new students with a new message. They re-assured current parents.
Bill McGee (noted above) said- “The three things Legacy Christian Academy did right in response to the pandemic were 1) communicate, 2) communicate, and 3) communicate. We greatly increased the frequency and transparency of our communications with our parents, faculty, and staff. We expanded our communication strategies to include video messages and live town hall meetings, during which parents could submit questions on-demand and receive immediate answers. We also invested many hours in developing brochures, charts, decision trees, web pages, and other graphics that have helped our families understand and navigate expectations and protocols.”
This was undoubtably hard and required time and effort but Andy Stanley says: "People crave certainty, but as a leader, certainty is beyond your control. The next best thing is clarity."
Planned to change- Change is always hard and most of us did not have any choice this time around. But by pulling together parents, faculty, and school leaders, schools could plan the change that they wanted. It has been interesting to see the huge variety of options (p.5) that has resulted. If a school listens to their “customer” they certainly have a better chance of succeeding than “just” diligently working to get things back to the way they were. Successful schools were open to change and worked the plan to get there.
“We have been on a roller coaster all summer regarding plans to start school in the fall. Each time the plans have changed, our staff has not flinched. They reorganize, re-evaluate their programs, and move ahead without complaint. Our prayer life together has improved and provided much solace.” --San Francisco Bay Area School Leader
Added online options- Schools had to have a solution when a face to face option did not work for a family or the school. Many schools trained their teachers in delivering online content. “Getting Smart” suggested it was time to think about partnering with an online provider and many schools did. Sevenstar (an online partner for face to face schools) experienced record enrollments from Christian schools and even more partnerships with leading schools.
Here is a quote from a school with 309 new online enrollments: “We have honored our families in these uncertain times by offering a solid Biblically integrated program of online courses. Our students are learning right where they are and getting the benefit of a high-quality education.”
The bottom line- The biggest thing private schools did right was re-open! The public schools are still figuring it out and people are noticing a difference. After deciding to re-open, they communicated, planned and added online options.
Dr. R. Mark Beadle is CEO Emeritus of Sevenstar. He loves seeing Christian schools change so they succeed, and students are helped.