snow day make ups

Amy said: Mar 13, 2015
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
50 posts

A local private school where some of my students attend announced yesterday that to make up snow days, they will be letting school out significantly later than their usual schedule every day starting Monday for the next three weeks until spring break. The new end time conflicts with lesson times for a few students. I want to be fair for the students and their families, but I can’t provide alternate lesson times that are convenient for everyone. (Really, there’s only one family that is super upset that I can only do lessons during the school day or after bedtime, and they also want me to guarantee that their current lesson time will still be available to them after spring break.) Part of me wants to tell them that the only way to guarantee that their lesson time will still be available to them is to continue paying for weekly lessons, and let the family choose whether it is more important to spend the whole day at school or to leave school early to do violin lessons.

The other significant factor from a studio perspective, is that my studio recital is in 2 weeks. I don’t want to tell the family that their boys can’t play in the recital if they choose to make school a priority, but I’m also not willing to let them play if they haven’t had a lesson in a few weeks.

Does anyone have any suggestions on appropriate studio policies in this situation?

Thanks.

Mengwei said: Mar 13, 2015
Mengwei Shen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Jersey City, NJ
119 posts

If I understand correctly, it’s something like this: school used to end at 2pm so they could do a 3pm lesson but for the next 3 weeks, school will end at 4pm instead and you are already booked 5-8pm.

I think grace should be extended considering the snow and school change. The burden should also be shared (that is, not that the teacher completely loses 3 weeks of income, which is the common scenario in a pay-per-lesson mindset). But I think this—”let the family choose whether it is more important to spend the whole day at school or…”—is not fair at all. School, their primary education, is different from another extracurricular activity, social engagement, etc. If other families are more flexible than this one, that’s great; thank them for their partnership, then get through this situation with the one family. At the extreme, if you do allow them to skip 3 weeks, consider it a learning experience for you and update your expectations at the next suitable time (for example, I do policy changes and annual reminders in the fall).

Regarding spring break, what would your regular policy have been, if not for the snow days? Has it been discussed in the past that weekly payment is required to continuously reserve the time? (Do you have someone else waiting who wants that time?) If not, it’s a bit of an unfortunate time to bring it up. If you “take the loss” for it, definitely address the subject before the next break.

Regarding the recital, my take is that if at 2 weeks prior, your recital piece is not so well learned that it’s likely to decline significantly in 2 weeks, then you should be playing something else. If they’ve been with you for a while, they are part of your studio; don’t cut them from the recital just for a short 2-week break. (If they’ve never performed before, never practiced performing at group class, etc., that’s a different story.) Then again, suppose you don’t normally charge a recital fee because you have the budget from your lesson fees to cover expenses (renting a place, printing programs, hiring an accompanist, etc.)…well, when a family skips lessons/payments, they’re not contributing their share, and I’d be inclined to charge a recital fee.

Melanie said: Mar 14, 2015
Melanie Barber
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Maple Valley, WA
24 posts

I don’t know if this helps, but when I was a student, I left school around 12:00 or 1:00 for lessons each week from age 8-16! My lessons were an hour away and I didn’t go back to school. It didn’t have any impact on me. I also have a few students who leave 30 minutes early from school for lessons and it’s never been an issue for them or the school.

Kids are already tired at the end of a regular school day. I don’t think that extending the school day is going to make much, if any impact on their education. Obviously the parent has to make the final decision, but I don’t think leaving 3x early from school will matter, especially because the school is making up snow days VERY unorthodox. You couldn’t do that in a public school.

Amy said: Mar 14, 2015
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
50 posts

I really appreciate the thoughts shared by both Mengwei and Melanie. Like Melanie, I’m inclined to think that the school schedule for snow make up days will at best have no positive impact on their education. (Both boys in this family are severely ADHD.) I am confident that one of the boys could do an admirable job in the recital even if he has no lessons between now and then, and I am equally confident that the other will be very sloppy regardless of how many lessons we have. I don’t have a waiting list, but I am nearly at maximum capacity. (I only have a couple open lesson slots, and they are both fairly late in the evening.) Historically, I have not charged for recitals, but on the other hand, I incur no expenses for recitals—a church donates space, I accompany students, the local print shop charges 6 cents per program to print. My studio policy this year (admittedly, I’m still working to find a policy that works really well for my studio) is to pay the same amount each month for weekly private lessons, regardless of how many lessons will be in the month. My students have been told that this is because I cannot afford to reserve a weekly lesson time for students who are not paying for weekly lessons.

Earlier today, I emailed the dad with all the times I could potentially be available to teach his kids, and also suggested a family he might want to call to ask about the possibility of swapping lesson times for the next three weeks.

I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for the comments.

Mengwei said: Mar 15, 2015
Mengwei Shen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Jersey City, NJ
119 posts

“I’m inclined to think that the school schedule for snow make up days will at best have no positive impact on their education”—I didn’t think of this but it’s a very good point. Personally I would feel uncomfortable giving the appearance of “forcing” a parent to choose though.

“pay the same amount each month for weekly private lessons, regardless of how many lessons will be in the month”—this is what I do and I also include approximately weekly groups. If students attend all available lessons and groups, the cost per class obviously works out to less than if they are absent a lot. From a business perspective, you could either charge the higher rate on a per-lesson basis or charge what amounts to a lower rate on the flat rate basis. The former is a lot more administrative hassle. I’d rather price and schedule in such a way that they view lessons as a year-long program, and if it works out that they get some “free” lessons because they’re never sick, don’t go on vacation, etc., that’s fine with me. (Well, nothing is free because when setting the price and schedule, I’ve already taken into account my time cost and my money cost.)

Christine Clougherty said: Mar 15, 2015
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
19 posts

Make up lessons are the most distracting, time consuming, and frustrating part of teaching private music lessons for me. I have been using an online system for sign-ups, so if the family gives 24 hours’ or more notice of a cancellation, they can go online and book a make-up. It is up to them to do so, and I do not chase them. It is not perfect, but saves me some time and hassle.

There are very few families in my area who would allow their children to leave school early for music lessons. I have heard of a few rare cases, where children will go during their lunch hour, but none of my students has been willing to schedule lessons like this in 11 years of teaching. In fact, I have made up many lessons due to AFTER school functions that had nothing to do with academics, just a social event like a school festival or choir concert (which I happen to think are wonderful events, despite the headache it causes me).

I have heard of studios not scheduling make-ups unless it is the teacher who needs to reschedule. I am not sure how they manage to do this and still be paid for those lessons. I do limit the number of make-ups allowed in one academic year to 4, and only a few families hit that number.

I am on the low end of the local market rates for tuition, at $28 per half hour, so it is not that I charge so much that make-ups are really justified. It just seems to be expected in this business. So I try to make it as painless as possible, hence the online system, and a recent policy where I do not offer a make-up with less than 24 hours’ notice for any reason.

Good luck — and would welcome comments/suggestions.

Melanie said: Mar 15, 2015
Melanie Barber
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Maple Valley, WA
24 posts

I currently have don’t offer make ups. Dance classes and swimming lessons don’t have make up classes and I don’t have time for them. If you miss a soccer practice or game they don’t deduct costs. Same thing with preschool and private school tuition. They all do not refund you if you miss a day of school. At the end of the day, you have to do what feels most comfortable for you. In my policy I do say I’ll do my best to make up snow days but it’s not guaranteed. I was pleasantly supprized how easy it was to structure my studio to regular monthly fee and not give make ups. Tuition pays for their lesson time place. It really made my life so much easier. I didn’t have any flack from the parents either. I do let my students switch times with other students if they need to miss. That takes the stress and hassle off of me. Right now my teaching hours are really limited to times I have child care. (I had my first baby in August) I did lose some students who didn’t make their schedules work with mine, but I cant please everyone.

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