Communicate clear arrival and dismissal procedures
Arrival and dismissal don’t need to be complicated procedures, especially for a small school. They do need to be well-defined and safe procedures. Some of the questions you’ll need to answer include: When will your students arrive? What will the students who have already arrived be doing? While a carpool line might be convenient, do you have a place to unload children from cars safely? If you don’t have enough adults to supervise carpool lines as well as the classroom, an alternative is asking parents to come in and drop their children off.
Again, if you have a limited number of adults, how will you handle latecomers? At what point do you assume a student isn’t coming to school? Will you ask the parents to call in by a certain time if the child is sick, so you don’t wait for them?
Whatever procedure you devise for arrival will likely work for dismissal as well. Again, you’ll need to consider how late is too late for a parent to pick up a student, and what your policy will be for later parents. An issue specific to dismissal is who can pick up the student. No one wants a child to get in the car with a stranger, but sometimes it’s difficult to keep track of neighbors or family members who are permitted to pick up a family’s children. Decide where you want that responsibility to fall.
Don’t forget your lunch!
None of us work at our best when we’re hungry. If you’re running a larger microschool, you might consider providing a meal service during lunch. If you’re starting off small, though, it might make more sense to ask the students to bring a sack lunch with them. A refrigerator and microwave can help a lot, in that case. Whatever you decide to have available, make sure to communicate those expectations to parents… and maybe have an extra lunch or two stashed away just in case.
Consider an extended day program
If your students’ school day will end before the typical working day is over, it might be nice for parents to have an extended day option so they can pick their children up after work. The after school program could essentially be supervised free time. After a day of school, the students will likely want to have a snack and play. Outside is a great choice for this, when it’s possible.
Whether or not it financially makes sense for you to have a program like this depends on how many families in your school would be interested. Of course, if you’re the only adult running the school, it’s also a personal decision for you about what you want your working schedule to be.
Illness and absences
When a student gets sick, the worst thing they can do is come to school. In a small space, it doesn’t take much for everyone to get sick. To stay objective about someone’s personal health, make a list of symptoms that you don’t want in the classroom (vomiting, fever, etc.). If a student has those symptoms, they know they are asked to stay at home. If they begin to exhibit symptoms at school, the parents know they will be contacted and asked to take their child home.
What will your policy on attendance be? Depending on your state, a microschool doesn’t have all the responsibilities of a public school regarding the amount of time spent in the school. Family time and trips can be formative to a child’s education, so it might be in the best interest of the child to have a more lax policy on attendance than a public school would, if you have a policy at all.
Document emergency procedures
While we hope no emergencies ever arise, it’s always a good idea to have emergency procedures in place. Make sure families and any staff members are familiar with them, and even practice the critical ones so you know how your students will react.
Here’s a list to help you start thinking about some of the emergency situations that might occur in a school setting:
- Lock down
- Severe weather
- Fights at school
- Threat of violence
- Minor accidents
- Allergic reactions
- Chemical accident
For many of these, the best thing you can do is to have a previously defined set of expectations in place so there’s some sense of calm in the midst of chaos. Keep those procedures handy, so you can grab them on the way out the door if necessary. A class roster is also a good item to keep in a convenient place, so you can double-check to make sure all students are accounted for.
Keep medical information for each student on hand, so if a medical professional needs to be called in, you have all the information they would need. You likely won’t need or be able to afford a full-time nurse. A good first line of defense is to require all the adults in the school to receive their first aid certification to address any small incidents.
Communication about these emergencies and incidents is part of the procedure that families should be aware of. Set expectations for the parents so they know how and when they’ll be contacted if there’s a problem.
While emergency policies aren’t the most glamorous part of running a school, they’re crucial to the safety of the students. Similarly, establishing strong logistics procedures can make the day go much more smoothly so you can focus on the education of the students.