With the school year fast approaching educational institutions are working diligently over the summer to make sure they will be ready for their students come fall. This article will discuss several topics that private and charter schools are focusing on at this time. Our top five include:
1 – Handbooks: Parent, staff, and teacher handbooks should be updated regularly. We recommend an update at least every two years in order to comply with new and changing laws. Handbooks for parents, staff, and teacher are strongly encouraged for schools do not have them already, so that all parties are made aware of school and state policies, as well as expectations for the school year. Staff and teacher handbooks may cover terms of employment, leave laws, and everyday policies and procedures. Parent handbooks may cover topics such as, the school year schedules, educational plans and goals, and the school’s expectations from parents and students.
2 – Contracts: Although teacher contracts are often completed sometime in the spring semester, there are still various other contracts schools need to consider over the summer break. One of these is vendor contracts. Agreements with vendors are vital to the function of the school. Agreements with bus companies ensure that students have reliable transportation to and from school and for special events like school trips and agreements with security companies ensure adequate school safety officers on premises. Schools may form contracts with other third parties, such as, food vendors and consultants. Another vital contract is the agreement between the school and parents regarding the student’s tuition amount. This agreement should be clearly written to avoid any future conflict or disagreement regarding the amount or terms.
3 – Releases: Any forms that are used throughout the school year should also be looked at to verify they are updated and accurate. For example, at the beginning of the school year, parents should be asked to sign a photo release allowing photos of their child to be used on the school’s website. School websites are typically updated on a yearly basis and a new release should be signed each year. Other types of releases include field trip permission slips, health consent forms, and sports release forms.
4 – Training: Summer is also a great time to catch up on teacher and staff training. Making sure all employees are up to date on any new policies and procedures of the school over the summer allows for everyone to be prepared and properly trained for the school year. This time also gives schools a chance to conduct their annual anti-harassment training.
5 – FERPA Compliance: Schools should verify that all teachers and staff are properly informed and understand the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) regulations. FERPA was passed to protect the privacy of student education records, such as, transcripts, family information, and learning disabilities. The way that records are kept, whether they are physical copies or electronic, should be evaluated for compliance with FERPA in that these records are being kept securely. Physical records should be kept in locked containers that only authorized personnel are able to access. Electronic records should be password protected and even encrypted to provide maximum security of this confidential information.
Summer break is the ideal time for schools to get a head start on the school year. Having the forms and policies in place for the upcoming fall will greatly facilitate everyone’s smooth transition to class.