Depending on which state or province you live in, some governments are not allowing centers to open at full capacity. Some are being told that they are only allowed to open at 50% capacity or even 25%. This can be really difficult as a director to handle, especially if you have more families ready to send their children back than you have space for. If you are in that position, here are a few tips to help you make that really hard decision.
Give priority to first responders, health care workers, and essential workers that cannot work from home.
If you have to choose between a family who has the option to be home but really wants to socialize their child and a family who have two parents who both have to be at their work facility with no other options, consider choosing the family with no other options. In this scenario, both families have a great reason for sending their children. Socialization is so important! But if it’s a matter of someone not being able to work unless their child can come, then it’s imperative to offer care for them.
Be sure that all of your existing families are well informed about how this will be handled. Consider sending a few surveys prior to opening to find out exactly what options parents have. Once you receive that data, you can organize the parents into categories of priority.
Give priority to already existing, enrolled families as opposed to brand new enrollments.
Even though this is usually the time of year where we are filling spaces with new enrollments for the next school year, you may want to first make sure your spots are filled with families who have already been enrolled with you prior to the pandemic. Loyalty should be honored, and as long as an existing family has communicated that they are definitely returning, then it would be important to honor that request rather than allowing a brand new family to enroll.
Give priority to full time enrollments as opposed to part time.
Since you are running a business and need to make hard decisions based on tuition and numbers, it would be a good idea to prioritize full-time students before part-time. Usually, full-time students tend to need care more than part-time anyway in terms of other options being available. Full-time enrollments bring in more revenue as well as more consistency in terms of when the children are in your care. The more a child is in your care, the less exposure to outside germs the child can have (as opposed to part-time children who could be anywhere when they are not in your care with unknown health precautions).
Consider having a lottery for families to return.
Some preschools run on a lottery system so that there isn’t a lot of subjectivity involved in the choosing process. You could have parents sign up to be part of the lottery so that parents do not feel that the center chose some families over others for any reasons. It can simply be a system where names are pulled randomly through a lottery generator. Those who do not get called in the lottery system can then be placed on a waiting list. This way of doing things makes it easy for not “hurting feelings” or causing parents to become angry with the program. However, it also doesn’t allow for you to have a say as to which families who have higher need get chosen first.
Consider a hybrid model for returning families to allow for everyone to return.
If you have the space at your center and do not want to have to choose between who comes back and who gets turned away, consider having half of your students come on certain days and half come on other days. This will require a lot of planning and organizing as well as more cleaning protocols, but this is the model that most public schools are using this fall. You can have group A come on MTW and group B come on TF, for example. This isn’t helpful for families who need full time, but it is an option to consider. You could also create a group C who can come all five days if they are special needs. This is the toughest option to plan for, but it may be a good way to appease all families.
None of these options are what any of us want to deal with or make decisions upon. We all wish that we could just accept all enrollments and go back to the way it was. So, please know that we all feel that way. Some of you reading this may be in an opposite situation (like me) who do not have restrictions on enrollment capacity and are struggling to have enough enrollments to keep your center going. We are all in different scenarios and all planning for things we have never planned for before. Let’s all support each other and think of creative ways to make these uncharted times work!
If you have other ways to figure out who to keep and turn away when capacity rules are in place, write in the comments below!