As our team continues to monitor the local COVID-19 situation to make decisions for our community, the main focus of our discussions continues to be our people. The well-being of every member of our community has been at the center of every determination we have made during this unprecedented crisis.
Most recently, and with almost five weeks of distance learning data informing our deliberations, we revisited the issue of tuition credits. Initially, the decision of not crediting tuition in any grade level seemed to be the right decision. After all, our team of educators went above and beyond to transition our academic program seamlessly to an online platform. Synchronous lessons are being conducted in all grades and the prescribed curriculum is being delivered. Even when the mode of the delivery has had to change because of outside circumstances, we are ensuring that all skills and content are covered and evidencing student learning through assessments, hence, delivering the product covered by the tuition payment.
In the Early Childhood Program, however, this has not been quite the case. Our teachers have worked tirelessly and creatively to deliver instruction of literacy and numeracy skills in each grade and have scheduled appropriate contact time with the children. The curricula in these grades, however, are largely comprised of skills that cannot be taught or assessed virtually. From PPK to second grade, as part of the curriculum students are expected to learn and practice the following skills:
Attending to Basic Needs: In the pre-school grades, students practice using the bathroom independently, putting on shoes, tying shoelaces, setting up for lunch, putting materials away, and following classroom routines.
Fine Motor Skills: Students in these grades develop fine motor skills by using play dough, crayons, pencils, paintbrushes, and paint, and by cutting and pasting. They need to be physically guided to do so.
Listening Skills: Children learn to take turns while speaking by being in a classroom with other children. They practice remembering and executing instructions in a controlled environment and with constant teacher supervision.
Socialization and Conflict Resolution: In these grades, teachers orchestrate situations so that students practice playing with other children, sharing toys and materials, taking turns, and resolving conflicts independently when they arise.
Free, Unstructured Play: Teachers in these grades ensure that students have access to toys and materials and that they play independently, without a specific purpose, to help them develop language and creativity.
Regardless of the quality of distance learning for early childhood students, it is impossible to teach these skills virtually. As such we believe that crediting the percentage of tuition that corresponds to the percentage of the undelivered curriculum in these grades is the right thing to do.
Our Board of Trustees approved a tiered credit structure, where PPK parents receive a larger percentage credit of two months’ tuition. This percentage credit decreases according to the amount of curriculum that we were able to deliver in each grade, as follows:
PPK – 80% two-month tuition credit
PK – 50% two-month tuition credit
K, 1st and 2nd grades – 20% two month-tuition credit
Under the present circumstances, every parent—not only Early Childhood parents—has had to step in to perform some of the tasks that are part of a school day when our campus is open. That is the result of the pandemic and the reality of the lifestyle we have had to adopt for the common good. The credit is not compensating this parental time. Rather, it is a refund for essential curriculum that could not be covered in the Early Childhood grades.
During the next few weeks, parents with children in these grades will receive a notification from our business office outlining the dollar amount of the credit owed to them. Parents will be able to choose whether to apply the credit to next year’s tuition or to donate the amount of the credit to our endowment or scholarship funds.
The decision to credit tuition for these grade levels goes against the recommendations of all independent school associations, and it is not what other independent schools in Puerto Rico are doing to date. But the right decision is not always the popular decision. This decision is true to our mission; it reflects our focus on all of our people, our promise of transparency, our commitment to excellence under any circumstance, and our values of empathy and compassion.
I am beyond proud to lead an institution that truly lives its’ values, even in the most difficult times. I am blessed to work with and for a Board and an Administration that are not afraid to make and support the tough decisions. And I am honored to represent a community of families with unparalleled resilience and commitment.