Covid and Fall Enrollment at BS

Our child is a full pay student at BS. What are your thoughts regarding enrolling for the fall with the possibility they will be online again? He wants to go back and loves his school but the cost of tuition for online classes is hard to come to terms with especially since we are both out of work now.

The idea of no school in the fall worries me…my only is dying having just us around all day. It would suck to pay for online school again but compared to the LPS and LDS here she is getting a much better education with her bs online program.
My husband still has his job and we have tuition set aside for this upcoming year. If those things were different I don’t know what we would do. I have told my daughter that we plan on her attending but that could change if my husband loses his job. I have also let her know that things may be different the following year and that we are going to have to take this year by year.
It is definitely a stressful decision with all the unknowns.

Start by contacting the financial aid office and let them know your circumstances have changed.

In speaking with a few parents from different private schools (day and boarding), I think this experience is making them rethink high school and college choices. Very difficult situation for so many.

How could it not? It is very difficult to make any decisions in the absence of real information though which is why we are pushing everything out as long as possible. Our boarding school has already acknowledged the uncertainty (likely prompted by tons of parental inquiries) and is extending a commitment deadline for the fall till July 1st. So you can walk away losing just the deposit until then. Hopefully by that point it will be more clear how fall is going to look like for them as well as for the LPS, which is really the only potential alternative on the table for us. So we are taking wait and see approach.
As for the college kiddo, I hear rumblings about taking a term off if they can’t go back to campus but that too depends on what if any alternatives are available at that point.

No one really knows. But it’s likely the schools and kids will go with the flow. I did hear during a call that if people’s financial situation has changed they should contact the school. After all, it’s likely that most things will be back to normal by September. If they are not, there are going to be a lot more people unemployed.

That’s great to know @417WHB about your school extending it’s decision deadline until July1st. I think that is very helpful to families to extend the commitment date or decision date. Do you know which other schools have extended it that far out?

But on the prep school forum the parents were saying the lost deposit could be $6000! That’s a lot of money.

I know that George extended the decision and deposit date, knowing that families are experiencing a lot of uncertainty right now. Of course, it doesn’t make a huge difference if you are deciding between them and a school with an earlier date!

But my guess is that for some families, especially those who may be reconsidering BS altogether and for whom George was a top contender, this helps.

Imho, the uncertainty is going to continue, at least in waves, into the fall. But maybe we all will find ways of dealing with it that feel more comfortable.

Please read carefully the enrollment contract before you sign it. Most of them allow you to cancel up to early July. If you cancel afterwards, then you will be forced to pay the full year’s tuition regardless of whether your child enrolls or not.

I am wondering where your minds are now in terms of the chances of in person schooling next school year?
I’ve been expecting that the chances for a fall campus arrival are pretty slim. Still, I thought, 7/8ths of the overall experience will be great.
And now I am learning that a number of large companies have cancelled (gone virtual) for all larger in-person meeting through much of 2021. It just makes me wonder if they know more than we do, and if it is a pipe dream to think that BS will back in person for winter or spring semester. I guess I’m suddenly thinking: what if the entire school year is online?

On the bright side, my DD2 is taking math through the local high school, and their distance learning is so bad it is making me angry, so I do sit here and think: well even if BS is virtual, I’m sure it will be WAY better than what she would get at the LPS here. (Not that it matters, but just to give credit where due, the LPS middle school virtual schooling has been fantastic! Gosh I’m so happy and impressed!)

While it kills me to pay full tuition for online, I agree with @Calliemomofgirls . I have one in the LPS as well, and the online learning compared to what my son is getting from BS is not even comparable.

While nothing is certain for next year, our HOS presented a plan for returning to campus next year that I am very happy with.

@Calliemomofgirls I share your concerns, and have thought about that scenario myself. I am also having a similar experience as @vwlizard regarding online instruction - my BS kid is getting quality online courses, while my public school 8th grader is getting crappy instruction. We live in a good school district and every kid is supplied a Chromebook. But school was closed all together for 3 weeks, and the action plan they came up with during that time leaves a lot to be desired. The poor districts in our region have suffered terribly. Lack of access to technology, and kids who do not have support or a stable environment at home to complete courses on their own.

My long term thoughts on all of this is that the federal and local governments are going to be bullish in getting K-12 schools opened, on campus, in the fall. Of course there will be variations depending on the region and the current status of the virus in some areas. But if the service economy is going to make any attempt to get back to a “new normal”, then we need parents to be able to return to work and not have to stay home because schools and daycares are closed. My husband works for an essential business that employs low-wage service workers. There is still work for these employees, yet some have a hard time keeping their full schedules due to small children at home. Thankfully the company has adopted a flexible policy during these times, and is working with these employees as much as possible.

Regarding businesses cancelling large scale events until 2021 - I just think that many businesses have figured out effective, virtual ways to hold those events. There may still be social distancing requirements for many businesses in the fall, and it just doesn’t make sense to take the risk to even plan for large scale events.

Boarding schools have the unique challenge of having a residential community that is going to come from all over the world. I am really curious to know how they will address the residence halls and social distancing. I could see spreading out classes across rooms and even the dining hall experience - but I am not sure how you do that in the residence halls. The other question will be is whether the international students can get visas, and if they can, will they still come? If you make them quarantine for 2 weeks before coming in, what does that mean for breaks? Do you make them stay in the US with host families? Tell their family members to come here for breaks and make arrangements? Will enrollment for the fall be so low that many students could have single dorm rooms next year?

Given that boarding schools are selling the community, on campus experience, I feel like are going to make every effort to find a way to open on campus in the fall. If they don’t they risk losing a huge population of students because parents will decide the cost is just not worth it. If our 3000+ public high school can find a way to open in the fall and social distance, then I think a 500 person campus can also find a way. Its going to take a lot of creativity and resources, but I think there are ways. We’re sticking with BS for next year no matter what, because I have seen for myself what the alternative is.

I think boarding schools have a better opportunity to mitigate the virus from entering. A lot of it will be depend on testing the entire student body, faculty and staff. “Drop off” would have to handled a lot differently…but once a “healthy” student body is on campus the boarding school would have a better chance to keep the students healthy. That would obviously require major changes to visits, sports and socials/formals…As has been said before “normal” going forward will be completely different than the “normal” pre-virus.

As long as wide scale testing is available, I think smaller schools can get people back to campus and then “lock down”. I picture them leading a fairly similar experience to pre-COVID minus sports. I really don’t know how they are going to do sports.

I totally disagree with this. Look at the nursing homes, in spite of total isolation in terms of visitors and serious staff testing and monitoring every day the virus still keeps getting in. At a boarding school, with staff, faculty and day students going home every day with family members working elsewhere, kids going to public and other schools, there is constant exposure from the outside. This is not any different than other schools or workplaces or anywhere else really. The main difference are the residence hall with communal bathrooms where any virus spreads very quickly (see the flu threads from the past winter), so once virus does get in taking control would be a major challenge. What is the protocol when students and/or staff inevitably get infected?

Agree with @417WHB – there is no way to completely lock down a boarding school campus. Not remotely possible. There’s staff that live off campus, there’s faculty spouses living in dorms but working off campus, there are deliveries from vendors, day students, etc etc etc And there is liability! If one student gets severely ill and the school “should have known” there was risk – boom. See the Munn case.

The things that will allow boarding, and other, schools to reopen in person are medical advances so catching COVID becomes like catching the common cold, or there’s a vaccine to prevent it, or there is SUPER widespread testing and contact tracing. But all those things are completely out of BS’ hands.

I agree that BS - like college campuses - are essentially impossible to lock down. Maybe a very small, very, very rural/remote campus with no day students, but even then…

As for Fall, I think it’s 50/50. The good news is that we should know soon, for better or worse. Most of the articles about this question focus on colleges, but they all seem to say the same thing: they need to decide by late June/early July, depending on school start date. It’ll certainly mean some scrambling on travel/logistics, and int’l students will face an additional set of issues, but, schools have to make the call in the next 8 weeks or so at the latest, and may choose to do so sooner - as have some colleges e.g Cal State Fullerton - to remove the uncertainty.

@Calliemomofgirls - the companies shutting down gatherings definitely pinged my radar. In particular, when Facebook announced no gatherings of 50+ people through June of 2021…that was an eye opener. The paranoid in me says that FB may literally know better than anyone on earth given the volume and breadth of data they continually have access to. Also, my kids’ summer camp is run by Johns Hopkins and they just cancelled the session that runs from mid-July - early August. Again, who’d know better than JHU?? (I’m keenly eyeing their Fall semester plans…)

Still, the optimist in me remains hopeful, and, in addition to the fact that it’s a 4 year thing, as others have observed, we’ve also found the alternatives no better than “way worse than remote classes from BS.”

We have a little bit of a wildcard option in that we have an EU passport in the family, so theoretically we could move to Europe and enroll the kids there for a year as a language and cultural immersion. But that also presupposes that BS would let us defer for a year, that Europe is meaningfully better off than we are by that point, open for travel, etc. I’m entirely remote for work so it’s hypothetically possible. But even then as a family we may prefer remote BS classes…

I have a feeling we will see a lot of regional variations.

There may also be a pattern of a few weeks on campus, followed by a few weeks of distance learning. I know that public health experts have considered that kind of “pulsed” approach where we take our foot off the brake, see how things go, then re-impose strict measures as needed.

I do have a gut feeling that smaller, more isolated boarding schools might be more likely to re-open in the fall since it would be easier for them to close off their campuses to outsiders. That’s what Thacher did during the 1917-1918 pandemic more than 100 years ago. That same strategy might be trickier at a school that is closer to town or that has more day students who aren’t faculty kids living on campus with their parents.

Next year’s freshmen are likely to have a very different onboarding experience. At some schools, that is a very big deal because of the extensive traditions, programming, and structures in place to make first-year students feel at home and connected. At Thacher, this year’s freshmen were already “robbed” of one big culminating experience, Big Gymkhana, the cowboy-style contests and races that all freshmen and many upperclassmen compete in through three school-wide teams, Green, Orange, and Blue. Sigh.

I have no idea how this plays out, and the decision tree seems to be growing extra branches every day.

Healthy Younger people seem to get strokes. Anti-bodies may not make people immune.

Now that the weather is nice, I am seeing packs of teens roaming around my neighborhood, completely non-compliant. There is no way kids living in dorms are going to socially distance properly, no matter how thoughtful they are about this.

Tiny isolated schools still have permeable borders. Lots of adults come and go throughout the day.

How do we calculate the acceptable level of risk - can we even, when everyone has their own set of circumstances? Heck, I don’t the answer for myself and my kiddo — how do boarding schools possibly navigate these decisions? I would probably be ok with kiddo going back because I don’t think he is much safer here than there. But nobody knows that, and I might answer differently tomorrow.

The bummer is that the schools have to make their decisions soon, and in these days of covid-time, everything could change in 3 months.