Dear Good Shepherd Families,
"Our Future Is Strong" is a series of brief, informative emails/posts which began on April 30, 2020 to keep the community informed about our preparations for our return to campus. We plan to return in July with on-campus summer camps.
In our second edition of “Our Future Is Strong,” we offered a high-level look into the financials of the school as they have been affected by the pandemic, sharing several ways in which revenues were reduced and expenses were increased. Some of you might still be wondering, “Isn’t it less expensive to provide distance learning than it is to provide an on-campus experience?” Unfortunately, the short answer is distance learning is not less expensive. Here’s a peek into why:
Our Business Model - Labor costs account for 77% of our overall set expenses for the school year. Our community values high-quality faculty and staff who are experienced, well-educated, caring, and excel at personal relationships. It takes dedicated teachers to design and lead learning that is up to your standards and ours. Unlike some industries that can scale labor with ease, we must be significantly more selective about who comes into our classrooms and who we deem as qualified to teach. If we have several weeks or months when we need additional teachers, we cannot call a temporary agency to send part-time employees to teach our students. Instead, we must go through an intensive hiring process to ensure we have all the teachers we may need for the year, no matter the learning scenario. When you consider the faculty and staff salaries, along with our other fixed costs, we have only a very small 3% of our budget that allows for adjustments in times of economic distress. In a COVID-19 environment, that 3% is offset by the decreases in revenue and increases in expenses we discussed previously.
Our Sustainability - We want to be the GSES you know and love, even after the pandemic. Our goal is to continue to serve your children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren, with a unique, high-quality, faith-based education for the next 60 years and beyond. Cutting programs, staff, or faculty to make distance learning less expensive would impact our ability to emerge from the pandemic as the school we are today. For example, we could eliminate our Classroom of the Earth program to reduce costs in a distance-learning environment. This would cut out the annual costs of trips, and also the higher, ongoing costs of personnel and annual training to keep them up-to-date on the latest safety protocols, but we would be left without a program when the pandemic is over. Along the same lines, we could scale down quickly and lay off or furlough many of our faculty and staff, but we would not be able to rehire the caliber of people with whom you are used to interacting in the short period of time needed to get operations back up again. In other words, unless we are willing to sacrifice who we are and what we offer after the pandemic, there will be costs to sustain programming, facilities, and more.
Our Mission - We are responsive to our community’s needs. One example of being responsive is the Tuition Guarantee Program, created so families can have predictability in their tuition. While this means the school does not see as much of an increase in revenues year-over-year, we are committed to maintaining a healthy and in-tact community and know this program is a key component. We also hear our community’s pain during this pandemic, and our mission calls us to respond. Our community is not immune to the recent financial stresses of furloughs and layoffs. Our response has been to make additional Tuition Assistance dollars available as emergency, one-time awards to those families in need so their children will continue to thrive at Good Shepherd. Without these programs, our school budget would look different, but they are key to providing for our community.
Our Possibilities - There are additional costs associated with preparing our campus for COVID-19 prevention. The parent feedback has been that you would like the educational experience in the 2020-2021 school year to be more like the traditional Good Shepherd experience you have come to know and love, even in a distance learning or blended learning environment. We are looking into several possibilities which would assist us with that alignment. These new and innovative possibilities will add to our expenses, but they might be a necessary component for next school year as we fully live our mission.
No matter what the pandemic brings, there will be additional costs associated with the technology and staffing required to follow CDC, state, and county recommendations. As we look to a possible blended learning scenario upon our return to campus, we are evaluating the staffing needs to properly social distance and teach your children. We will likely need to create smaller groups, possibly necessitating additional teachers, and with that, additional salaries and benefits. We hope this synopsis has helped to reveal some of the constraints we have as we balance our budget. Thank you for your continued support of GSES, our faculty, and our staff during these unprecedented and unpredictable times. We look forward to seeing your children engaged, energized, and excited to be back on their campus this summer and in the fall. We will share our fall plans with you in future editions of “Our Future Is Strong” as details are finalized.
Please expect the next edition in this series in two weeks, or sooner, if there is information to report. We will also post the series on our Coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage for your reference.
Together we are #gsesFutureStrong,
Julie McLeod, Ph.D.
Head of School