From the COVID-19 frontier: Lessons learned from a Seattle independent school vol. II

Expert Insight

From the COVID-19 frontier: Lessons learned from a Seattle independent school vol. II

A conversation with The Bear Creek School’s Patrick Carruth

The following is a transcript of an interview by Pete Talbot, Managing Director of Strategic Research at EAB with Patrick Carruth, Head of School at The Bear Creek School. Some questions and responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

EAB: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us this afternoon, Patrick. Let me start off just by asking you if you could give us the basic story about Bear Creek: tell us a little bit about your school, where you’re located, number of students, that sort of thing. And then it would be great if you could give us the timeline in terms of when you shut down face-to-face operations and moved to online instruction.

EAB: It’s certainly helpful to understand the context in how this all unfolded on your campus. We have a number of topics to cover today, but I’d love to start with the revenue questions that are particularly pressing for independent schools now. Of course, independent schools need to determine how to seat the next class and model what this is going to do to enrollments in the coming year, as well as demands on financial aid and what to do about things like offering refunds. Those topics are a little bit more urgent given the sustainability implications that it has for schools. I’d love to hear any lessons you’ve learned or how you have approached these topics.

EAB: Can I ask a question about that? Does the bridge policy vary by scenario or is it a set policy about either how much or how long?

EAB: Can I ask, if you’re willing to share, when you look at the numbers did you translate that back into percentages in terms of the best, medium, and worst case?

EAB: Have you enrolled anybody?

EAB: That’s very interesting. I’ve speculated about that. If your entry points are middle or high school, and you’ve got kids who are in the public schools that you were planning to enroll next year, you should be reaching out to those public school kids and offering to let them join the classes now. Again, either at a fee or for free because you will practically guarantee their enrollment

EAB: Shifting gears a little, I’d love to hear a bit around what you all are doing for community engagement or morale.

EAB: It sounds like you all are really keeping community alive in a number of ways. I’d like to talk for a moment about your plans and policies for how you’re tackling COVID-19 specifically. I was on your website today, and I saw that you had a statement about somebody who was exposed. Have you come up with contingency plans for confirmed cases, illnesses, hospitalizations, etc.?

EAB: That makes sense. And where are you with respect to putting together any kind of reopening protocol checklists or anything along those lines?

EAB: We haven’t talked much about online instruction, so happy to touch on that if there’s any lessons learned that may be helpful to others. Or anything that I haven’t asked about that you want to highlight?

EAB: Will this accelerate or change the way you think about what’s next on that progression for you all?

EAB: Very, very interesting. My brother-in-law is a math teacher up in New York City public schools, and it’s interesting getting his perspective on this. He said there are so many things that are better about what he’s doing right now. Instead of prepping for five sections, and teaching all the kids the same thing, he’s now recording the best version of himself teaching the key concepts and kids are able to watch it, rewatch it, use it while they work on a problem set, or view it at a different time if they were absent.  In some ways, it’s easier for both him and the kids – and a better experience for the kids. I think it’s going to be fascinating to see how much of this sticks around post COVID-19 and really does accelerate a move towards flipped or blended events, which I think have a lot of promise.

EAB: Well, Patrick, this has been incredibly helpful. I so appreciate you taking the time when I’m sure you’ve got a million things going on, and I know these insights will be of great use to our partners.

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