As the owner of an after-school program, you’ve been through a lot this year. From completely shutting down to scrambling to make most of your services accessible digitally, the transitions you made have taken up valuable time, energy, and, likely, revenue. But you made it work! Now that the world is preparing to reopen, you have to plan for yet another big change. How can you reopen your after-school program in a way that maximizes resilience, safety, and profit?
Through helping dozens of our customers reopen, we’ve come up with a list of questions that we suggest any after-school program asks before finalizing reopening plans:
1. Are your services accessible in any setting your clients feel comfortable with?
Just because some parents are comfortable with sending their children to in-person programs doesn’t mean other parents are too. Not sure how your customers feel? Don’t be afraid to ask. Asking for customer feedback is almost always appreciated for what it is—a way for you to make your services better for them. For those who would rather keep their children enrolled in online programs, do you have the capacity to offer those services? How much does it cost you to continue offering these services? Does it take away from other streams of revenue (that are, perhaps, larger)? How much planning and effort does it take to maintain these online programs? If offering both programs allows for increased revenue, consider a hybrid in-person/online program. What a great way to address both needs at once! If the cost of continuing your online program takes away from what you could be earning, scrap it! Take a careful look at your numbers before making this decision.
2. How will you meet your increased staffing needs?
The demand for childcare is higher than ever, and you’re in the exact right position to meet that demand. However, with this increased demand, as well as the COVID protocols still in place, do you have enough people on your team to accommodate for this incoming influx of students? There’s an opportunity to be creative to meet short term or unpredictable needs: do your employees have to be there all the time? Are there certain times of the day that are busier than others? Are there certain times of the year when you feel shorthanded? If so, it may be worth thinking about hiring part-time employees or offering contractor positions.
If you do hire either full time or part time workers, it’s really important to know how COVID related employment law affects you. This checklist for California employers is a good place to start.
3. How are you mitigating the risk of reopening?
It may feel like the pandemic is behind us, but we’re not out of the woods yet and it’s important to stay vigilant. Reopening comes with its risks, and in-person programs run the risk of getting shut down completely if you don’t consider certain precautions. If you’ve chosen to run a hybrid in-person/online program, that’s one form of risk management. Maintaining your online operation can ensure that you have a steady (if reduced) stream of income in case of separate incidents of outbreak at your in-person operation.
How can you further reduce the risk that exists in the in-person portion of your program? You could try staggering your employees’ shifts, actively encouraging sick employees to stay home, or any of the other recommendations offered by the CDC. By separating your employees and limiting their interactions, you create the possibility of continuing partial operations even if one group needs to be quarantined. This will require meticulous planning and upkeep: constant sanitization, enforcement of rules that keep certain employees in their designated areas and forbid mingling during breaks, and reduced capacity. But if it’s done right, it could mean the difference between completely losing a stream of income for at least two weeks and being able to salvage a large part of it.
Consider your capacity limitations. If space allows, consider dividing up your students into separate pods and keeping them in separate, designated areas. If you’re offering daycare, after-school, and online school services, think about keeping each of these separate in different areas of your operation; they each have different infection risk levels and separating them could mean containing the spread in one group while allowing the others to operate as normal.
You’re going to want to have clear and written policies for your new and existing workers on expectations to help mitigate the risk of COVID Infections in your business.
4. Do you have a clear COVID plan in place?
Even with all the planning and precautions you’ve executed, some things are just out of your control. In case things go south, do you have a plan? How will you notify parents? When will you resume operations? How will you protect your employees? Although grim, these are things you need to be prepared for in case the unspeakable happens so that you can bounce back stronger. Having this plan will also help in other future situations. Ready.gov offers great business continuity resources to build this plan.
5. Do you have technology in place to minimize risk and maximize revenue?
Once you have your plans in place for the services you will offer and how your operations will run, it’s important that you set up the tools and technologies that will allow you to get your time back to focus on the business. How have you set yourself up to collect revenue remotely? Do you have an invoicing system with standardized pricing with all of your services? Do you have a system to email all of your customers in case you need to cancel a class? There are several solutions out there for this—and Finli is one of them that is made especially for after-school programs like yours.
For your convenience, here’s a checklist summary of the questions you should consider before reopening your after-school program.
- Revisit your service offerings
- Keep or scrap any online programs
- Consider hybrid in-person/online program
- Revisit staffing plan
- Consider part-time employees or contractors
- Put Risk Mitigants In Place
- Stagger your employees’ shifts to minimize risk of exposure
- Create rules and policies to keep employees and their pods separate
- Create rules and policies to keep students who utilize different services (daycare, after-school care, online class supervision) separate due to their different levels of risk of COVID infection
- Create or update Business Continuity Plan
- Update technology to minimize unnecessary contact and allow for new revenue models
When you’re being extra careful about reopening your after-school program, you’re likely going to offer services that you hadn’t before, and daycare services and online classes probably don’t cost the same! If thinking about keeping track of who’s taking what and for how long and who’s already paid and who hasn’t gives you a headache, check out Finli (or request a demo) at finli.com. Finli lifts the burden of busy administrative tasks off your shoulders and makes sure that you’re getting paid on time so that you can bring your after-school program back as quickly and safely as possible.