How private schools fare when the coronavirus enters a new wave.
Entrepreneur New Years Leader
Get inspiration from the business resources in our guide and help you meet your goals in 2021.
4 min read
The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur's contributors are their own.
Private schools have not been immune to the school closings required for public schools since last spring. In most countries, public health instructions were in place for private and public schools. While public schools knew they would open again and again, private schools lacked the same level of security. Many parents pay in monthly installments or at the beginning of the school year and there have been concerns that they would suspend payments until their children return to face-to-face tuition. Some predicted a massive wave of private school closings.
Fortunately, these terrible predictions have not come true. According to a report published in October by the Cato Institute, 111 private schools were closed in 2020 due to the pandemic. There are more than 32,500 K-12 private schools in the United States, so these closings meant a marginal reduction in private school supply (about 0.3 percent if you do the math).
Related: 3 Education Stocks To Fill Your Stocking With
But with another wave of school closure orders underway or on the horizon for the winter, the question is whether further closings are likely. The evidence suggests that this is an unlikely scenario. Indeed, the distance learning experiment could increase access to private schools specializing in distance learning.
First, let's look at the threat to private schools. The study by the Cato Institute shows that no private schools have closed since September 1st. This is good news as most schools require prepayment for the semester. Parents had all summer to decide whether to continue paying a premium for private school tuition without expecting their children to go back to school in person.
If the parents did a mass exodus from private schools, evidence would likely have surfaced in late summer and early fall. Instead, the schools that serve parents on shaky economic grounds seem to have been the most vulnerable. These parents were hardest hit by the economic decline caused by the pandemic. These schools also tend to be more reliant on monthly payment plans to ease the economic burden on parents. The schools that served them appeared to be hardest hit in the first wave of the pandemic.
Related: 6 Distance Learning Resources for Working Parents
It was found that no schools have closed since September 1, indicating continued demand for private schools in the fall semester. Schools must have received most of their prepayments from parents in hopes that the fall semester will include some return to normal. While this may not be the case for many schools, in most cases these prepayments are non-refundable, providing schools with financial stability if they are forced to stop personal education again.
Related: Why Private School Overseas Franchises are on the Rise
A dark winter with COVID-19 could come, but the promise of multiple vaccines gives hope for the future. Many, including myself, are calling for children to be given priority over vaccines, as it is important to re-educate them personally and get their parents to work.
Still, some parents may face further economic struggles. Some parents may also have withdrawn their children from private school after moving to distance learning. Why pay a remote learning premium that doesn't offer a clear benefit?
In fact, the evidence shows that there are newcomers to private education – schools that specialize in distance learning. In the meantime, private schools are improving personal health and safety protocols so children can get back to class.
Private schools have prevailed against the pandemic. They have maintained their financial viability, improved their distance learning, and prepared for the children's safe return to class. Private schools have shown that they are able to adapt and innovate in the worst of times.