CCSA 2021 is here!
We are happy to attend this year’s CCSA Conference for so many reasons.
The CCSA Conference has become a tradition for all of us in the charter school space. We mark our calendars and look forward to this time of year. You know everyone in the industry will be there. You know there will be a great venue, hosted by a great organization, with a ton of content and events. There are always so many inspiring people joining together to collaborate, educate, learn, introduce, partner, and develop.
All are coming together to fulfill an essential and necessary mission – to serve students. It’s one of those weeks that you’re usually exhausted by the end of, but you but feel like you have so much work to do because you just met so many amazing people doing such great work, and you need to keep up.
What Once Was
In a pre COVID world, we would be gathering in person at a conference center in Sacramento or San Diego. There would also be a build-up to the event with shipping materials ahead of time, making travel arrangements, booking hotels, setting up booths, and saying goodbye to our families for a week before we depart.
We would be reaching out to familiar faces and scheduling meetings, checking the schedule of events, picking the break-out sessions to attend, the booths to go by, the morning, afternoon, and evening events to attend, and what restaurants you want to go to.
But this year feels a little different because we are not packing a suitcase, booking hotel rooms, and jumping on a plane. We are just heading into our offices because this year it is entirely virtual. And yet, it still has an air of excitement around it because there is so much going on in the California Charter space and so much work to do on so many levels.
Excitement, Anxiety and Anticipation
It feels like we have been living in a virtual world for a year now, and for the first time in a long time, it feels like things are moving towards getting back to normal. It feels close, and that is exciting.
Many schools are preparing to get back to in-person instruction again. Some of you didn’t miss a beat and had been doing that already. But there are so many things to think about to make sure your students, teachers, administrative staff, parents, and community are safe to do so.
How many students can you serve with the spacing available? How many hours of in-person instruction will you provide? How will symptom testing take place? How will the reporting of symptoms work, or what precautions taken when someone shows signs? What kind of personal protective equipment will you need? How will you clean the classrooms? How can you improve the air quality? And so much more.
Like you did not have so many things to take care of in a typical school year, but now you have all of these additional responsibilities and requirements to take on, it probably feels overwhelming. These new things can also create more budget issues, and you need to have a plan.
The Deferrals Are Here
Most of you have made some kind of financial arrangement to handle the deferrals, and some are still deciding which solution makes the most sense for them. The deferrals are here, and many are still trying to figure out how their cashflows are looking over the next few months as we head to the end of the fiscal year.
Due to reducing expenses over the last year, the Federal Government providing emergency funds, years of building reserves, and the Hold Harmless provision being in place, and a few of you received exemptions, your cash position is strong, and you can weather the deferrals.
For some of you, mainly the non-classroom-based schools, you may have experienced growth and are not recognized for that growth. So, for you, cashflows could be looking a little bit different. Many solutions can help you out in a pinch and can quickly jump into action for you if that is the case. And this is a good week to meet with those that can help.
Lottery season is open, and never has it been more critical to make sure you are filling all of the seats you projected for next year and building those waiting lists.
There is a trend taking place where the parents in California and around the country are making decisions later in the year now because they are waiting for direction from the Government.
The Need for Enrollment Marketing
Enrollment seasons seem to be extending further into the year, and many parents may be making decisions on where to send their kids next year well into summer now. That makes it harder for you to project numbers and prepare budgets until you know what that enrolment will look like. And to add to all of this, it is hard to knock on doors, hold open houses and hold community events to meet as many new families to help fill those seats. Marketing is a huge need right now, and you may have to implement some new strategies and ideas to maximize the potential for new students and families to find you. People rely far more on digital and social media channels, and you need to make sure you track every opportunity possible.
The Hold Harmless is going away, meaning those schools that may have experienced some attrition this year are trying to build back up to your FY20 numbers. Some of you have held steady and are in planning for growth in FY22. Each case can present a problem with cashflows, especially when there are so many unknowns out there right now. We don’t know what the Governor’s final budget will look like in the May/June timeframe.
Additionally, we won’t know if COVID will be a thing of the past, if the Federal Government will continue to provide relief funds, or if there could be additional delays in funding happening again next year. It is vital to have a plan in place for the “what ifs”. It’s better to be over-prepared and not need a. safety net than to be caught at the last minute and having to jump through hoops looking for one.
A Home for Your School
And then there’s your facility. Some of you have everything you could ask for with long-term permanent homes in place already. Others are searching for that permanent homes and have had enough of being bounced around with complicated Prop 39 agreements. Ensuring you have control of a long-term building to fulfill your mission is a significant undertaking and something that can weigh heavy on school leaders’ minds. There are some fantastic innovative solutions in the marketplace now that can make that dream a reality for many of you.
We are excited to be here, and we look forward to the opportunity to meet you all. We hope you stop by our booth to say hello and introduce yourself. We also hope you will join us at one of our break-out sessions if you get the chance. But mostly, we hope you are all safe and well. And even if we are not meeting in person to have a cup of coffee or lunch, we are very excited that we have the opportunity to do so virtually. We hope you have a wonderful week!