On behalf of the St. Stephen's Board of Trustees, we hope this message finds you and your family healthy and safe. As we come closer to the end of the current school year and begin looking forward to the next, we understand you may have questions about what exactly the next year holds for our community. Below please find answers to some questions that have been raised.
We provide this FAQ as a starting point in the dialogue, not an ending point. We are not only Trustees; most of us are also fellow parents of SSEDS students. Our work and planning for the uncertainty COVID-19 brings is being guided by the single question Silvia asks herself, her administration, her faculty, and us as Trustees when faced with any decision: "What is best for our students?"
We realize the importance of transparency in these uncertain times and are all available to speak through any thoughts, questions or suggestions you may have. Please feel free to reach out to any of us. Our contact information is included below.
Q: What will the school year look like next year?
A: We cannot predict, but we can plan. As Silvia highlighted in her May 12 email, the faculty, staff and Board are preparing for 3 scenarios:
All students on campus, Monday through Friday, with health, safety, and social distancing protocols in place.
A hybrid model of the above, where remote learning is a part of teaching and learning at SSEDS, due to campus closures or a student's inability to attend.
All students at home Remote Learning.
And important to stress, the planning and support of all scenarios will continue throughout the school year and the summer as we realize that perhaps the only constant in the foreseeable future is change.
The plans for each scenario are detailed and in-depth and beyond the scope of this FAQ, but please feel free to reach out to any of us to hear more if there is a specific question you might have.
One important higher-level detail that is worth highlighting in this FAQ is that SSEDS will be one of a small number of schools in the nation even in a position to offer the first scenario. Silvia and her team have identified 39 rooms on campus that can be used as classrooms, allowing for class sizes to range from 8 to 11 students per room, so that all students can indeed be on campus five days a week while still observing social distancing best practices.
Q: If it turns out that either the hybrid model or the 100% at home remote learning option are invoked at some point during the school year, will there be some sort of credit or reduction in tuition?
A: Regardless of which scenario(s) are in play during the upcoming school year, the vast majority of the school's expenses will be unchanged. 70% of our costs are our faculty and staff, and we as a Board firmly believe any reduction in headcount would have an adverse impact on the quality of our students' education.
Another 13% of our costs are related to the facilities, which will actually see an uptick due to the preparations we are making to deal with the pandemic.
12% of our costs are for necessary and untouchable operations such as technology, insurance, accounting and legal, and the like.
This leaves 5% of the costs that are potentially variable, and every effort is being made to control these costs as much as possible without impacting the quality of the education.
Finally, important to keep in mind, SSEDS, like most private schools, relies on fundraising to help keep tuition costs lower than they would be without such fundraising. Consistent with other independent schools, each year the Board budgets to a small deficit before any contribution from the Annual Fund, SHA contributions and the like. In other words, historically (and intentionally) our tuition already does not cover our annual costs.
Q: What is the risk that total enrollment will be down to the extent the school does need to make more draconian cuts to its budget?
A: Between payments already received and the depth of our waiting list, not to mention our endowment, SSEDS will be operating business as usual (whatever that may end up being) for the next school year and beyond.
Q: Will there be after school enrichments or aftercare offered?
A: As of now, we are not planning to have after school enrichments, but after care will be provided for parents that work.
Q: I have more questions. Who can I contact?
A: As always, Silvia and her team are available to answer any questions or provide any insights. However, we as the Board also offer our time. As Board members as well as fellow parents, we are both in your shoes as well as part of the team working on all the preparations to make sure our children continue to receive a world-class education while prioritizing their safety and well-being. Please feel free to contact any of us with your thoughts, questions or suggestions. We realize the importance of transparency in these uncertain times. We are dedicated to providing just that.