Enriching Ideas

Do you cringe with anxiety when the clock strikes 3:00 pm? Does the sound of a dismissal bell at school ring in your head at all hours of the night? Do you have nightmares of kids running wild and unsupervised in school hallways?
Enrichment Matters - Transition Time Troubles
YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

For many Enrichment Coordinators (and dare we say PTA/PTO Presidents and front office staff) the transition from the end of the school day to the beginning of enrichment can be a troublesome time.

Many elementary schools struggle to find the right balance between on-site support, reliance on outside Providers and assistance from school staff to safely get their children to their enrichment classes.

EM encourages Coordinators and PTAs/PTOs to think through the following questions when designing their transition policies and procedures for the program:

  • Can your school support on-site volunteers each day of the program? Do you have sufficient parent availability and involvement to have volunteers there to assist with transitioning kids?
  • What role can safety patrols play in assisting with the transition time? Could they be trained to escort younger children to specified locations?
  • Is your timeline realistic? How much time is passing between dismissal and the start of enrichment classes, both in theory and in reality?
  • How do you communicate transition responsibilities and expectations to your Providers? What protocol is in place for the enrichment Instructors at the school to alert the Coordinator to concerns or suggestions from their perspective?
  • What is the contingency plan if an Instructor doesn’t show up at the appointed time?
  • How can school staff assist in moving kids without disrupting their other end-of-day procedures? Can teachers escort kids to a new location as part of their existing routine?

Mapping out and communicating transition policies and procedures, as well as contingency plans, well in advance are critical steps for any successful enrichment program.

Offering scholarships to families with financial need can be a great way to expand the accessibility of your program to all families in your community. Or, for schools where recruiting volunteers to help with the program is a challenge, scholarships can be an effective way to incent parents to help out.

Enrichment Matters - Decide

But there are many aspects of offering scholarships that need to be well-managed to ensure equitable access and appropriate use of this often rare commodity. Below we share some ideas that may be of help in your program as you work to offer scholarships fairly and effectively.

 

    • PTA/PTO-Funded.  Many PTAs and PTOs offer their own scholarships. Some raise money by asking all participants in the program to help fund a scholarship fund by charging a participation fee for the program or by providing the opportunity for families to make a monetary contribution when they register for classes. Others are fortunate enough to live in a community where the existing PTA/PTO budget can cover a certain number of scholarships each session. Creating internally-funded scholarships gives you the most flexibility in terms of awarding scholarships to families.    
    • Provider-Funded. More and more Providers are willing and able to offer a Provider-funded scholarship once a class reaches its minimum paid enrollment requirement. However, not every Provider is able to honor this request; between staffing, supplies, insurance, basic operating costs, and being asked to run classes below their minimums, Providers are often trying to just make ends meet. But, many will happily contribute a scholarship when able.    
    • Priority Registration. Part of the decision process about scholarships needs to include when scholarship recipients will be allowed to register. Some schools give scholarship recipients pre-registration, ensuring they can register for their given class even if it is one that tends to fill up quickly. Others see the scholarship alone as enough of an advantage and have the recipients take their chances equally with the rest of the community in terms of whether or not they can get into a class. And still others wait to see if a class meets its minimum or not before agreeing to enroll a scholarship recipient. There are advantages and disadvantages to the timing of registering scholarship students no matter which path you choose. Be sure to discuss which makes the most sense and seems most appropriate for your community.    
    • Full or partial scholarships. As Enrichment Coordinators field an increasing number of requests for scholarships at many schools, some are getting creative with how to stretch those dollars. For example, a Provider may agree to offer one full scholarship for its class. The PTA/PTO could opt to give out two 50% scholarships for that class instead of one 100% scholarship, thus making the class accessible to two families instead of one. Other PTAs/PTOs may offer a self-funded discount (for example, 20%) to some while awarding full scholarships to those who need them most.   
    • One family, multiple requests. Frequently, it is the same families at the school who request financial assistance. Each PTA/PTO needs to decide what they are comfortable with in terms of how many times per year a student can receive a scholarship, how many classes per session a scholarship student can take, and how many scholarships one family with multiple children can receive per session. Thinking through these questions in advance and creating a scholarship policy that outlines these issues can make the entire process much smoother and less stressful for everyone.

For those communities who do not have a significant level of financial need among their families, EM urges you to not request Provider-funded scholarships if possible. By forgoing a scholarship request at your school, you make it easier for the Provider to either fund a scholarship at a less affluent school, or to run a class below its minimum at a school that is struggling to establish its program.

But as every community may have some families who might not otherwise be able to take advantage of these programs, figuring out effective and equitable ways to get scholarships to the right students is a key aspect to expanding the reach of your program to all the students in your school.

Many area enrichment programs use a mix of both school teachers/parents from the community and outside vendors as Providers for the classes they offer. Sometimes schools may lean heavily one way or the other. But when deciding which way to go as a PTA/PTO, here are some of the pros and cons to each group that you may want to consider.

School Teachers & Community Parents

Pros:
  • Already on-site so low risk of a no-show.
  • Teachers are familiar with the students and have proven classroom management skills.
  • You always know where to find them if you need an answer to a question.
  • Often have very popular classes that are favorites among students.
Cons:
  • County regulations may prohibit or regulate teachers’ participation in the program as a Provider.
  • As an individual without a corporate Tax Identification Number, teachers (or parents) would have to supply their personal Social Security Number to parents seeking reimbursement from their Dependant Care Flexible Spending Account for enrichment classes. Understandably, they may not be willing to do this, which means parents would not be able to take advantage of this expected benefit.
  • Teachers and parents may not feel as obligated to abide by the policies and procedures established by the PTA/PTO on things like late registration, dismissal procedures, etc.
  • Over time, teachers and parents may come to feel “entitled” to have their class included in the program, even though demand for that class may be falling.

Outside Vendors

Pros:
  • These types of classes are a primary part of their business, so they bring a lot of experience and resources and offer greater diversity of classes.
  • Vendors are motivated to keep the PTA/PTO happy by the prospect of future opportunities at your school.
  • Businesses carry liability insurance which helps protect the school and PTA/PTO from risk.
  • Businesses have Federal Employer Identification Numbers that can be used for FSA reimbursement receipts requested by parents.
Cons:
  • Can initially be an unknown entity, and may or may not be a good match for your community.
  • May vary in their own policies and procedures making it harder to conform to individual school preferences.
  • Instructors have to travel to the school, and may arrive late or not at all in extreme circumstances.

As with all aspects of these programs, one size does not fit all for every school. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons for your program, parents and teachers and determine what balance of school teachers/community parents and outside vendors makes the most sense for you.

Do something special for your front office staff! These folks are critical to the success of your Enrichment Program to ensure space for your program, greet and direct first-time Providers at your school and often stepping up to help at a moment’s notice.

 

Enrichment Matters - Thank you

 

Here are a few simple, inexpensive ways to say thanks:
  • Write a handwritten thank you note
  • Bring in breakfast for the front office staff
  • Hand out $5 Starbucks gift cards, or better yet, show up mid-morning with their favorite Starbucks beverages, too
  • Have participating kids in the program sign a banner-sized “Thank You” poster to hang in the office
  • Bake up a basket of cookies, brownies, and other goodies for the school staff to enjoy.

It doesn’t take a tremendous amount of effort or funds to go a long way in making these vital allies feel appreciated and not taken for granted. Be creative, have fun, and most importantly, let them know how much you appreciate their efforts!