How Independent And Private School Leaders Can Tackle These Top 6 Enrollment Challenges

A student participates in a blended learning lesson at home.

Independent and private schools have always been uniquely positioned in their offerings and exposure, and with COVID-19 pandemic has also meant that these schools have faced unique challenges. While they may have more flexibility to deliver engaging learning, they also must navigate challenges around enrollment and funding. This spring, SMART, in partnership with Catalyst, have put together a series of events to connect with and support private and independent schools; at one of these recent events school leaders had an opportunity to work together to identify and brainstorm around shared challenges that they are facing.

Here are six key themes that emerged from that event:

1. Heightened Stress And Anxiety In Families 

  • The pandemic has created complex and difficult situations for many parents - it feels like levels of stress and anxiety are at an all time high.
  • It is important that school leaders acknowledge these new challenges and create conditions that are supportive for their entire community. Many schools provide support through community dialogue and involving their staff with mental-health professionals to work together with families as part of support groups.

2. Evolving Financial Barriers

  •  School leaders have heightened awareness of the financial challenges that many parents are during the pandemic.
  • Families have chosen various options that work for them in relation to safety and wellness during the pandemic. This can cause disparity, including families that did not want to pay the tuition for a fully online learning experience.
  • Helping parents become aware of the unique value that independent schools provide through personalized attention, extracurricular programs, and differentiated opportunities supports decision making.

3. Offering Virtual AND On-Site Programming

  • Adapting effective teaching and learning practice from in –person to online - and supporting parent who now have more insight to and involvement in their child’s learning is critical.
  • A human-centered approach that avoids “packaged” learning and leverages technology to truly engage and connect with learners learning helps to solve for this.

4. Recruiting, Retaining, And Training Quality Staff Members

  • Continuing to recruit high quality educators while ensuring continued support and development of existing staff members is important to ensure the quality of programming remains regardless of the changing environment.
  • Focusing on fostering a culture of collaborative communities for teacher support and development ensures a personalized, connected approach to professional learning that can be both formalized and flexible.

5. Remote Learning With Younger Learners

  • Young learners in remote environments pose unique and evolving challenges for teaching and learning.
  • To solve for this, creatively leveraging the learners’ home environment as well as implementing technologies best suited for these them is critical

6. Ongoing, Transparent Communication

  • It is important to be transparent with parents when plans don’t go as expected and to communicate frequently on plans for improvement.
  • Continued communication must be at the forefront of addressing challenges and ensuring string relationships with a school’s entire community.

Maintaining and Growing student Enrollment in Private and Independent schools during a pandemic can be challenging.

Download the full infographic to learn how leaders are tackling this challenge.