Like all other organizations, COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the school and most of the time we find ourselves struggling to make strategic plans and prompt decisions. Although we try to do the right things in the right order there are some issues and questions that parents are concerned about that we have not commented on yet – hence this letter. Our apologies, but like the rest of the country and the world, we are trying to find our way and none of us have the experience, training or a roadmap to navigate these difficult times.
1. Bus Fees.
Some parents feel that we should be refunding bus fees since the time we closed. The simple fact of the matter is that we have binding contracts with 3 bus companies until June who have to be paid. What we are trying to do is re-negotiate an early termination of the contracts in which case it may be possible to credit some money to the next academic year. We’ll keep you informed.
2. April fee increase.
The April payment has gone up 20% from EGP25,000 to EGP30,000. Parents are asking if this 20% increase represents a general fee increase of 20% next year. The simple answer is no, it does not. We have no intention of asking for big increases next year. The April payment is important to the school because:
a.It gives us a clear indication of the number of students continuing.
b.It supports the school cash flow from May to August.
c.It covers the cost of all infrastructure developments and advance purchases for the next academic year.
d.It enables us to pay the costs of bringing all the ex-patriate teachers (old and new) in August. This is a regular scheduled event but right now what those costs will be we have no idea.
3. Fee refunds.
Some parents believe that the school has saved a lot of money by closing and should refund or discount parents. Unfortunately, this is not the case. We are still paying a full payroll to more than 500 employees, we still have a full security team; we still have to pay for the general up-keep of the site. We are paying less of course for utilities, but against these savings we have other increased costs for example, on-line access, provision and subscriptions, and recruiting. The school is projected to steadily grow next year which means hiring more staff. All international recruiting fairs are cancelled, so now we are having to spend additional money to advertise internationally and use agents. These costs are all up-front and considerable.
We want to be functioning again in September (our sincere hope) and that means we have to be fully staffed. As you can imagine, recruiting teachers locally and from abroad in these incredibly uncertain times is extremely difficult.
4. Other schools are giving discounts and refunds.
We belong to two respected educational organisations: the International Schools group of Egypt with some 40 members, and the Egypt branch of the British Schools of the Middle East with some 15 members. We meet on-line weekly and as far as we know, none of them are considering discounts or refunds, except some, like us, trying to work out a possible bus discount for September.
5. What are the fees next year?
Some parents have said they won’t pay April fees until they know what the fees will be next year. At this point in time we cannot make a firm commitment, except for what we have said in point 2 above; we’re sorry, but for example, hotels, airlines and even the Central Bank don’t know what they will be charging next year and we are all wondering if we will survive.
We usually announce our fees late June and we are tentatively setting ourselves a target to make final decisions then. That said, when we make the decision in June we are committed to the declared fees for the next 15 months until August 2021. Unlike the general market we can’t change prices during the year.
6. Trips and exam fees.
A lot of the trips money has already been refunded. Just today we received money back from the BSME games and parents have been asked to come and collect it. Cambridge and Edexcel have both said they will not refund exam fees as they will be awarding qualifications based on school assessments. Unfortunately, there is nothing we can about this and advise that you contact the British Council, Cambridge or Edexcel local offices if you wish to discuss this further.
We hope this letter answers your questions and concerns at this time. We do understand that many parents are apprehensive; we have attempted to support you by setting up the PayFort system, that allows you to pay in instalments at your own pace. El Alsson has always prided itself on supporting parents during difficult times and always will. We have tried to answer your questions honestly, but now we really need to know your intentions for next year to be able to keep the school going.
With best wishes,
The Directors and Principals.