Dear Athena Families,
It is with great humility and vulnerability that I feel the need to have a level of transparency with you that I don’t normally reveal about the business of Athena. It is important to me to keep the majority of my work behind the scenes, hoping that teachers and families alike can just experience the joy of being part of a school community, and not think about it being a business. But at this time, I need to pull the curtain back slightly, and let you in on the reality of our financial situation.
I did not lay off any teachers while our students were at home when we had to close the school. I never stopped paying them, and I never stopped paying for their health insurance. They are my priority. I know that in order to have our families and children well taken care of, my teachers and administrative team need to feel loved and cared for, supported, and valued.
I applied for and received PPP money to cover payroll for 12 weeks last spring, and I also offered our families a 25% discount on their final tuition payment since we had to go virtual. We were unable to offer our full summer camp program, which decreased our income in the spring and summer, yet I kept my commitment to pay our teachers and staff in full per their original contract. I added a sixth classroom in order to spread out the students and honor the enrollment of everyone who committed prior to the pandemic, and hence, had to invest in new Montessori materials, furniture, and additional faculty. I also invested extra funds into classroom and playground dividers, personal protective equipment, sanitation and airflow equipment, and hired a public health/Covid consultant.
Now, we are enrolled at a very limited capacity, and we are operating the business at a significant loss. I have enough in savings to make payroll and expenses until February.
We’ve been working hard to come up with creative and out-of-the box solutions not only to cut back on expenses, but also to increase revenue, in a time where most of our regular options for additional revenue are not available due to Covid restrictions, including larger Primary class sizes, Early Arrival, After School, and Extracurricular Programs. The safety and health of our community members is of top priority to me, and so is keeping Athena alive for the future.
Here is my plan to get us to break-even by the end of this school year:
- By January: Add one student to each pod (Primary classes only), bringing the Primary pod sizes to 11;
- January: Assess a per-semester Pandemic Relief Fee of $500, as needed, only during the pandemic (during limited class sizes and lowered ratios); families will have the option of spreading this fee out over the five months of each semester;
- By April: Enroll a minimum of 100 students for Summer Camp 2021 (Summer Camp registration fee is due in April to secure a summer spot; summer tuition is due May 1).
We feel that adding one student per pod is safe, given all the comprehensive precautions and protocols we have in place. The fact that we have not yet had any positive Covid cases in our community is testament to our strict adherence to these protocols. We intend to continue to monitor best practices for health and safety protocols in moving forward.
We typically also count on fundraising each year towards a special cause and collect this money at our annual Casino Night event. We know that these times are financially difficult for many people and are therefore uncomfortable hosting a fundraiser per se, but if any of you are in a position to donate money this year, we will be eternally grateful. Funds donated will go towards sustaining the business of Athena for our community.
As usual, in December we will begin re-enrollment of current families, then enrollment for siblings, at which time we will collect the regular Enrollment Fee for next school year from enrolling families.
I am anticipating the possibility that we may need to plan for another school year under similar conditions with respect to the pandemic. If we are still advised to maintain limited class sizes and lowered ratios next school year, we may also need to assess a Pandemic Relief Fee in the fall of 2021 and spring of 2022. This fee can be seen as an as-needed semesterly payment (or can again be spread out over the five months of each semester) for the premium of maintaining these low numbers, while we are limited in our operations due to the pandemic.
We will also be increasing tuition next school year by a higher percentage than is typical for Athena. We have always worked hard to maintain a tuition rate that is fair and competitive while also offering the highest quality programs possible. The tuition will likely need to increase by 8-10% for the 2021-2022 school year. This price increase will allow us to sustain our business in this current model.
The path forward is full of unknowns, but I know that together, we can make it through this unprecedented time. I am enormously grateful for the opportunity to serve you and your children and have faith that we will persevere and that Athena will stand strong.
Lisl Friday, Founder