3 Benefits of Hosting a Hybrid Summer School Program
A guest post by: Bob Kraft, Director of Program Growth at Sevenstar.
Why would you even want to entertain the idea of starting or expanding your summer school program? After all, summer is a time to slow down and recover from the school year! True. However, you may be missing a great opportunity to:
- Raise the academic bar at your school
- Build loyalty with current families/students
- Connect with new families/students to grow enrollment.
We understand there is a legitimate shortage of energy and resources during the summer. That is why we propose structuring a hybrid summer school where you offer a mixture of on-campus mini-events and a combination of online and/or traditional classroom academics. In other words, gain the benefits listed in the first paragraph above without taxing your staff and facilities.
(1) Raising the Academic Bar
Summer is a great time to offer academic options that can improve the quality of every student’s academic experience. Think of these three strategies using a hybrid summer school that can raise the academic bar:
- Offer advanced academic options for new credit to motivated students who want to get ahead. Why hold back students who want to run in terms of pursuing advanced academic options? Online options are particularly valuable in this case because the advanced options can be offered with academic support from the teachers through providers like us. These students can strengthen their resume for college acceptance by seeding their academics with advanced options such as AP or college courses. Often summer is not the best time to pursue such options so they may need to make room for the fall, which leads me into the next bullet point.
- Free up schedule challenges for the school year by allowing students to pursue credits over the summer. If your school’s graduation requirements can cause nightmares for scheduling given students’ interests in other areas such as fine arts, then offering online options over the summer can help. These days, students relish the opportunity to concentrate credits in areas of interest or passion. If your school is intentional about providing strategies to free schedules in the fall to allow students to meet graduation requirements while pursuing their passion, such as fine arts, athletics, or STEM.
- Strengthen academic foundations in certain subjects through credit recovery options that focus on re-visiting un-mastered concepts from last year. Since learning builds, concept upon concept, students who struggle to grasp concepts during the school year find themselves without the proper foundation for moving to the next level of that subject. The pace during the school year may not afford a student to slow down to really get a handle on key foundational concepts. We offer individualized online credit recovery options that are driven by pre-tests that only present lessons on concepts that were not mastered during the school year. This strategy improves the narrative to your current and prospective families. You can excitedly tell them how your school is intentional about making sure their child is ready for the next step in every subject, even if they struggled in that subject the previous school year.
There is no doubt that your school has intentionally designed a rigorous academic program. Enhancing it with online options that your current staffing or scheduling cannot accommodate through online summer options can only allow your program to shine as families consider returning or joining your school.
(2) Build Loyalty with Current Families/Students
Families and students are seeking schools that offer the best/most opportunity for their children. Attracting and keeping families requires continuous improvement of your school’s spiritual and academic experience.
According to Dr. Steve Robinson of SAIS, in his presentation on Developing the Value Narrative for Private School Sustainability, the perceived value of your school is the one thing you have the most control over when it comes to retaining and attracting families. As you think about your school’s future, please consider expanding services like summer school to raise the perceived value of your school.
Dr. Gene Frost, Head of School at Wheaton Academy challenges schools to pursue new opportunities with passion in his webinar, Does Your Christian School Have a Future?
If applicable, think back to your time as a parent of student at a particular school. Didn’t you love hearing about opportunities available for your child, whether academic or extra-curricular? Online courses can greatly expand the academic options for the students at your school.
The biggest impact you can have starts with listening for your student’s needs (often presented by parents). Once you confirm that you understand their need, working to meet that need in a creative and cost-effective way that meshes with the greater vision for your school. When you meet needs, customer loyalty grows!
Why not expand your vision for summer school to be a valuable time for families? You could make it a wonderful experience where students needing to recover credit receive an individualized course that just focuses on strengthening their particular areas of weakness in understanding. What if you could open the door for motivated students to pursue credits over the summer that allow them to pursue areas of passion?
Think of the word-of-mouth advertising that could come from meeting your families’ needs!
(3) Connecting with New Families/Students to Grow Enrollment
Let me repeat: Families and students are seeking schools that offer the best/most opportunity for their children. Attracting families requires continuous improvement of your school’s spiritual and academic experience.
Offering a robust summer program adds to the value narrative of your school. Families seeking a school for their child are definitely comparison shopping. Any time you can describe unique opportunities available at your school, you can edge ahead in the race to be selected as their family’s school.
In addition to raising the perceived value of your school for families searching for a school, hosting a hybrid summer school can open the door to connect with students in at least two other avenues:
- Connecting to students from other schools in your community. Start by assessing the landscape of summer school opportunities in your community. You may notice that there is a void of summer opportunities due to cutbacks by other schools and your local school district. If this is the case, you have an opportunity to serve students from other schools who need to recover credit or want to gain new credit over the summer. If you find that there is a wealth of summer opportunities in your community, the opportunity is to get into the game so your school does not fall short in terms of opportunities for students, which could be costing you enrollment growth.Once you find if there is a market, then your next move is to connect with the Principals and Guidance Counselors in your community to provide a clear explanation of your summer program. In person visits will be most effective, and a phone call or two can also work well. When speaking with these potential “recommenders,” include what is offered in terms of academics and the structure/logistics/pricing. Make sure you provide an easy way for them to send information home with their families including an easy registration/payment process.The key aspects about your hybrid summer program to promote include:
- Academic rigor of the courses
- Academic oversight services you will provide
- NCAA, UC (California) and College Board (AP) acceptance
- Flexibility of schedule from your online options.
- Connecting with students through local churches and homeschool groups. Summer school students can also come through connecting with Pastors at local churches. They can promote your summer program church-wide or through pockets of homeschool families/groups residing in their congregation. You will want to connect in the ways mentioned above and promote the keys mentioned above. Additionally, focus on your summer program’s alignment with their Christ-centered mission. This could open doors, for example, to summer Bible courses for students attending the local public schools as a supplement to strengthen their faith.
Structuring Your Hybrid Summer School for Success
Your plan for executing your hybrid summer school can be the difference maker in terms of how well you build loyalty with current families and connect with new families.
Be intentional in the following areas:
- On-campus orientation. This is a great way to welcome families to your school. You get a chance to show-off your campus and, most importantly, your people. Make the orientation appropriate in terms of length, information shared and a spirit of hospitality that helps people see Christ.
- Clear explanation of what to expect in terms of the learning experience. Share the nuts and bolts of how the summer school experience will play out. Share about the on-campus schedule and the independent study (off-campus) opportunities. Explain the sequence of events from signing-up through getting started in their courses.
- Set expectations about commitment to working regularly, explaining the academic policies for late work and grade/progress monitoring procedures. Also, explain the refund policy in the unlikely event of a need to withdrawal.
- Design a summer school closing program where transcripts can be distributed (or the process/timeline for receiving transcripts). Share other helpful information about your school such as upcoming events or other academic and extra-curricular opportunities.
- Appropriate the right amount of resources (time, money, personnel) to make your hybrid summer school a quality program that leaves a smile on the faces of the participants when they think about your school. Partnering with a provider like us will allow you to design academics completely facilitated by our team, or, if your staff has capacity over the summer, they can be involved in the academics. This can enhance the experience in terms of building relationships with students.
- Arrange value-add services such as scheduled or on-demand tutoring, which could be fee-paid or built into the summer costs. This support will can enhance the experience and success rate.
- Count the cost ahead of time and structure your price points for various levels of engagement in your summer school to cover costs without pricing yourself out of the market. We can lend strategies and expertise in these areas.
We have helped hundreds of schools implement hybrid summer schools that serve the needs of their families and/or families in their community. The best part is that we can handle the academics, allowing you to minimize resources to deliver a robust and academically sound summer school. We will be glad to share our experience and academic products/services to make your vision a reality.