Private schools forced to adapt

School closures caused by the Covid-19 crisis have not led to substantial cost savings, the private education sector has said.

Linda Parker, head of school at Bermuda High School, said that although BHS had been closed since March 18 “no significant savings have been realised”.

She added in a letter to parents this week: “Although regular maintenance has been put on hold during that period, we had to arrange for deep cleaning of the campus.

“Utility costs have gone down, but so has our rental income for the same period.”

Ms Parker said that the school understood the “unprecedented impact” of the pandemic.

She told parents: “We realise that you have many questions about tuition for the current term and next year.

“This process is not complete because a strong response requires careful restructuring.

“We recognise, though, that it is important now to assure you that the board is responding to these unprecedented circumstances with the aim to support our BHS families.”

Ms Parker said the board of trustees was working to restructure the school’s 2020-21 budget and that families who faced financial problems should contact the school.

Sue Moench, the principal at Mount Saint Agnes Academy, said the school had “not been able to realise significant savings as a consequence of operating remotely”.

She explained: “Those savings we have been able to achieve have been offset by unbudgeted items such as the need to have our campus thoroughly cleaned and sanitised, and the loss of revenue from facility rentals that would normally occur.

“In addition, we have incurred increased technology costs in order to prepare for and support remote learning.”

Ms Moench said that MSA also appreciated that many school families had been hit hard by the crisis.

She added: “It is our top priority to support these families to the best of our ability.”

Ms Moench highlighted that an emergency bursary fund was being set up and that planning for the next school year was in progress.

She added: “At this time ... there are no plans to increase tuition for the 2020-21 school year.”

David Horan, the principal at Warwick Academy, said the school had seen some “small savings” as a result of the campus being closed.

But he added: “This has been quickly offset by the dramatic drop in rental income from no longer being able to lease our facilities, as well as costs attached to moving online into a remote learning environment, keeping the campus sanitised with deep cleaning, and purchasing Covid-19 supplies.

“Sundries such as lunch orders and the like, have already been refunded to parents.”

Mr Horan said that tuition fees for this school year remained unchanged and that revenue was being put towards remote learning for pupils.

He added that the school had relaunched its Student Rescue Fund, which was set up after the 2008 global financial crisis.

Mr Horan said: “This will be directed to families in need to alleviate the immediate financial hardship they are experiencing over the next three months.”

He added that the school’s bursary fund would help families during the next school year and that tuition fees had been frozen.

A spokesman for Saltus Grammar School said that the school also continued to charge full pupil fees.

He added that “many concerned families” had been in touch with the school to talk about payment options and that some had asked about whether a tuition refund or discount was being considered.

The spokesman said: “While we understand that our virtual learning programme cannot replace being physically at school, our teachers and staff are all working tirelessly to deliver a high-quality virtual programme — one that allows for all our students to continue their learning and complete the year with full assessments and a final report card.”

He added that the school had not seen any cost savings since moving to online learning.

The spokesman explained: “Our staff continue to work virtually and the buildings must be temperature controlled and kept secure.

“We also have extra costs associated with the necessary sanitising and deep cleaning that is taking place, to ensure our campuses are safe for reopening, as well as other costs, due to cancellation of many of our events and activities.”

The spokesman said that the school had suspended its requirement for a term’s notice for withdrawal of pupils.

Deryn Lavell, the school’s head teacher, said that Saltus had also decided not to increase tuition fees for the next school year.

She added in a letter to parents: “Additionally, we have waived the monthly finance charges on late payments for April through to June with a view to extending this into the 2020-21 school year if needed.”

Ms Lavell said that the school’s Saltus Fund, which provides financial assistance to pupils, was needed “now more than ever”, and asked families who could to contribute.

Somersfield Academy did not respond to a request for comment.

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Published Apr 26, 2020 at 2:09 pm (Updated Apr 26, 2020 at 2:09 pm)

Private schools forced to adapt

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