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?
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.
Great article! We at Chicago Christian have found this pandemic to be a great opportunity to reach out to many families who have come that would not be here without a pandemic affecting their public school. It’s not easy and there have been many challenges but we believe we are following God’s call in a time of great uncertainty by providing that something that is certain…God’s Sovereignty over all!!
You nailed it! Communication, communication, communication. Communicating the plan is certainly an initial key! We have comforted our families with COVID planning and reached new families we couldn’t before during this pandemic. A personal touch with targeted social media posts, parent notes, conversations, and best of all word of mouth have gone a long way. Our new students didn’t know what they were missing at their former schools until they joined us. What a blessing it is to now have our classrooms filled with new students who are enthralled with Christian education. They are learning about Jesus! The excitement they bring to our community and share with their former public school counterparts is filling our school. We’ve had to borrow desks from another school. First they are glad we are open, then they realize the value of God’s providence. No question, God is working among us and has this under control. What an awesome opportunity to serve!
Thanks Karen and Steve. PS. 100. May you be blessed as you serve others!
This article is a great encouragement! I am in Australia in a Christian school and we have seen a similar response from our community, both existing and incoming. Similarly, communication and remaining open have been actions widely appreciated and there have been great opportunities and increased freedom (given greater autonomy from state education boards) to consider how we increase the authenticity of our student engagement in navigating the uncertainty of this past school year. Wonderful to see these points of connection and resonance from across the ocean. 🙂