ACSI releases findings from nationwide survey of Christian schools’ reopening plans and outlook for the fall August 12, 2020
Written by Larry Lincoln - ACSI
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., August 12, 2020 – The Association of Christian Schools International is pleased to announce the release of data from its second nationwide survey of Christian schools’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a specific focus on reopening plans and the financial outlook for fall 2020. Nearly 550 Christian schools representing diverse geographic locations and school sizes responded to the survey, which was conducted in late July.
Dr. Lynn Swaner, ACSI Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer, Cardus Senior Fellow, and lead author of the report, says the findings of the survey point to the continued nimbleness of Christian schools in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The majority of Christian schools will be ready and open, in person, for the fall,” Swaner said, citing survey results that indicate well over 80% of schools are planning for an on-time, physical return to campus. More than half of schools will also offer a distance learning option for school families, should they desire or need such an option.
When schools reopen their doors, some of the most frequently planned modifications, in light of COVID-19, include use of handwashing and personal hygiene protocols (97.2% of schools), expanded or enhanced cleaning (94.5%), reconfiguring or reducing campus gatherings (94.5%), modifications to student outings like field trips (91.9%), limitations on visitors to campus (91.6%), re-arrangement or re-purposing of physical space (90%), use of student cohorts (88.2%), and illness protocols (81.5%) including testing and contact tracing. Personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks, featured in 87.2% of schools’ plans for faculty and staff, and 76.9% of plans for students. Survey data show that schools strongly considered state and local health department guidance, as well as staff and family input, in developing their plans for reopening.
“This type of information is an excellent resource for heads of school,” said ACSI President Dr. Larry Taylor. “The findings included in the survey helps administrators feel confident in their decision-making as they consider how best to enter into a new school year. It also helps them share the most current information and best practices with boards, parents, faculty and staff,” he added.
In terms of financial outlook, just over half of schools (52.8%) reported decreased enrollment, with a drop of 6-10% being the most frequently cited range of decreases. Another 21.3% of schools reported steady enrollment numbers as compared to last year, but a full quarter (25.8%) of schools reported an increase in enrollment. Qualitative data collected through the survey suggest that this uptick in new student enrollment at Christian schools is due to families’ dissatisfaction with the distance learning or limited on-campus instruction offered by other area schools. “These findings suggest that Christian schools’ value proposition, in terms of providing a high-quality educational experience that is responsive to community needs, has been made clearer to the public through the challenges of COVID-19,” Swaner said.
The financial picture for Christian schools as a sector remains complicated, however, with schools most frequently reporting increases in operational budgets; higher expenditures may be linked to the finding that over two-thirds of schools (72.1%) report additional investments in technology, as well as increased financial aid (36.4%) for the 2020-2021 school year.
As Swaner explained, “These sector-level findings suggest the importance of prioritizing financial sustainability in the months ahead, which may mean innovating to reach new markets, developing new income streams, and cost cutting through collaboration with other Christian schools.”
To address these issues, and concurrent with the release of the survey data, Taylor also announced the launch of a new grant-funded ACSI Sustainability Initiative.
“This initiative will feature research on innovative Christian school financial models that lead to missional sustainability, both through the uncertainty of COVID-19 and beyond,” Taylor said.
Findings will be co-published with Cardus, a prominent Canadian think tank, and are expected in summer 2021.
For more information, and to download the survey report, here.
A wide range of helpful COVID-19 related resources can also be accessed by visiting www.ACSI.org and clicking on the “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources” bar at the top.
Headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo., ACSI exists to strengthen Christian schools and equip Christian educators worldwide as they prepare students academically and inspire them to become devoted followers of Jesus Christ. ACSI advances excellence in Christian schools by enhancing the professional and personal development of Christian educators and providing vital support functions for Christian schools by offering multiple services including teacher and administrator certification, school accreditation, legal/legislative assistance, and curriculum publishing. Serving more than 25,000 schools in 108 countries, ACSI helps more than 5.5 million students worldwide connect to Christian education.
For more information on the ministry, visit www.ACSI.org or follow on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ACSIUSA or on Twitter at @ACSIUSA