What extraordinary, challenging times we are in. First and foremost, we hope that you and your families are keeping well and healthy, both physically and mentally. We know that, like us, many of you may be stressed, concerned and confused. For what it’s worth, you’re not alone; we’re all in this together. We’ve been touched by the many of you who have reached out to us and expressed concern for our wellbeing and would like to sincerely thank you for that. We are very much concerned for you and your families as well.
Details of how we will be proceeding are below, but first, to summarize, at this time we will be offering families two options beginning on Monday, March 23:
1. In-center tutoring (significant additional safety measures involving social distancing will be put in place and are detailed below)
2. Online tutoring
We are closely following the rapidly-changing situation and will be updating our plans as necessary. With schools closed indefinitely, the inevitable regression of our students’ academic abilities without the much-needed support we provide, and with the livelihood of our wonderful tutors at stake, we feel a responsibility to continue supporting your family if we can do so safely, within guidelines provided by government and health authorities.
Feedback we have been receiving from parents over the last few days has not helped with our decision-making. We’ve heard from parents who are asking to stop with us immediately, while others are hoping they can continue uninterrupted, and there are some who want to add extra weekly lessons or sign up siblings because school will be out. We’ve also had several inquiries looking to start due to the closure of schools. Reactions to this situation are all over the map, which is to be expected.
After carefully considering the current recommendations from government and health authorities on the kinds of businesses that can and should remain open at this time, and the operating/safety guidelines for those that do remain open, we have decided to continue operating, but with some major changes and options for families.
Below we outline in detail the two options we are presenting you with and how we intend to address them. This isn’t a vote for which option you think we should provide; we are offering families both options, and every family may choose one or the other.
1. Continuing With In-Center Lessons
The decision to remain open ensures we will be well below gather group sizes, as well as within social distancing recommendations, which we can achieve with certain measures. Symbols is unique due to the strict 1-to-1 nature of our tutoring, and we can absolutely adhere to the guidelines. Safety measures, focused on social distancing, going into effect this Monday include:
- Parents will no longer be allowed inside the centers. Parents will be asked to send their child in at the beginning of each lesson, and the tutor will escort the student out after the lesson concludes. Tutors will visually confirm the student is with their parent or guardian, and then return to the center; there will be no post-lesson chat between tutor and parent.
- Lesson start times will be staggered so that no two students begin or end a lesson at the same time. This will avoid the potential for any close contact between students within the lobby, thus maintaining social distance.
- Shared resources that are difficult to clean will no longer be used in lessons; resources that can be easily cleaned will be used and disinfected between use.
- Tutors who have narrow desks will have their desks turned and will sit opposite the student length-wise at the desk instead of width-wise; this will maintain the recommended 1+ meter of social distance. Tutors who already have wider desks will continue to use them as-is.
- Parents are asked to not bring their child to lessons if they are displaying any symptoms of illness, and students will be sent home if the tutor notices any symptoms of illness (likewise, tutors will not be allowed in the center if they are displaying any signs of illness).
- Neither tutors nor students will be allowed in the center within 14 days of out-of-country travel or for any other reason to self-isolate.
Measures put in place last week, including pre-lesson student handwashing and between-lesson desk disinfection, remain unchanged.
2. Online Lessons
This option completely avoids any potential contact between student and tutor. Parents choosing this option may need to participate and sit with their child throughout the lesson to help keep students on-task. A reliable internet connection and computer or laptop with a camera are required for this option. We have already scheduled an appointment with Telus at our locations to increase our internet speeds, as we expect to have several online lessons taking place at once. The software we will be using is Zoom. We are working hard to put procedures in place for tutors to ensure lessons are effective and productive, but this is new to us; there will be hiccups at first, but we will change and adapt accordingly. Part of the at-home experience includes learning kits that students will need for use at home. We are putting these individual kits together and will be scheduling some time windows for pickup at the centers for parents to get the kits. For parents unable to pick up the kit from the center, we are happy to deliver them to your home. Going forward, we will need to provide additional at-home resources for use in specific lessons and we intend to prepare these weekly and issue them either by mail or pickup.
For some of our current families, neither of the options are ideal. If you decide you would prefer to stop with Symbols altogether, we understand and we invite you to provide us with your notice at our Concierge email account. Usually, there is a 1-month cancellation policy in place to protect our tutors, but we are currently investigating options, including some of the recently-announced government funding designed to help small businesses, to see how we may reduce or entirely remove the notice period and still fulfill our obligation to our tutors; we will strive to be flexible on this on a case-by-case basis. We are also providing a few options for your remaining lessons that we hope you will consider (and you can choose any combination of the following options):
- Take them in-center on your regular schedule.
- Be provided with Specialized Work Packages in lieu of the lessons. These are substantial packages, yours to keep and work on at home, and are individualized to your child’s needs and abilities by their tutor. They can be prepared for pickup or mailed to your home.
- Take the remaining lessons on-line with your child’s tutor.
- Defer the lessons and make them up any time before the end of June (assuming/hoping things have returned to normal by then).
If you do choose to provide your notice, we will work with you to come to a suitable arrangement.
To end on a lighter note, we’d like to share a funny comment we saw posted by a friend on Facebook earlier today:
“I think the vaccine for the coronavirus will be invented by a mom who just needs her kids to get back to school!”