North Houston tutoring service providers and their students are adapting to new routines as they contend with virtual sessions, campus closures and standardized test cancellations.
Since going virtual in late March, The Tailored Teacher founder Lindsayann Anderson said she has seen more parents enroll their students for additional academic support while school buildings remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.
“Students that were already with us ... have added an additional day of support ... for feeling overwhelmed and not sure how to complete assignments,” Anderson said. “We have also gotten some new students that have come because parents were not able to handle or understand the workflow of what was happening and, of course, by no fault of their own.”
Anderson said The Tailored Teacher offers tutoring services to students on the autism spectrum and for those with a diagnosed learning disability. Whereas prior to the pandemic, Anderson said most tutoring was geared towards helping students with homework assignments, now support is being focused on filling any gaps in academic content that may exist as a result of campus closures.
“Now that we're doing virtual support for virtual schooling, we're spending [the] majority of the time helping students get through that academic content and then really only spending about 15 minutes doing that building up of the skills that they need help with," Anderson said.
While there was some initial hesitation to transition to virtual from both parents and students, Anderson said clients have adjusted well to the new routine as a result of increased communication staff and clients.
“We've made it, but kids are starting to get restless and they're really ready to come back and see us in person,” she said.
Anderson said The Tailored Teacher plans to keep virtual tutoring as an option, even after students can return to in-person sessions. She added she also plans to incorporate more academic-focused activities for students to utilize over the summer.
Likewise, Sylvan of the Woodlands & Magnolia has also been able to maintain business by going virtual, Center Director Christina Fortunato said.
“We were very fortunate that we were able to shift to online tutoring,” she said. “The kiddos get live one-on-one tutoring where they are working with a teacher. We have worked really hard to stay in contact with a lot of families and reach out to them and see if they need our help in any way.”
Fortunato said increasing the center's social media presence and creating alternative lessons, such as cooking lessons, has given students things to do with their families as well during quarantine.
With the restrictions on businesses being lessened, Fortunato said the learning center is planning to reopen at 25% capacity within the next week. Fortunato added while the center's staff is working with families who are comfortable with going back to in-person lessons, she will continue to offer online learning options as well.
“We have quite a few families who are excited to come back to the center and to start tutoring,” she said.
Business has remained relatively steady according to Fortunato, as most parents and students have taken a liking to online tutoring. However, as students won’t be going back to school until the next school year, Fortunato said she suspects enrollment could increase.
“We haven’t seen a huge jump [in members] yet, but I have a feeling we might have a really good summer because the kids are out of school longer," she said.
Houston Suprex Learning director AJ Saleem said the tutoring service has utilized online tutoring in the past and has also adapted well to remote services since the onset of the pandemic. Despite this, Saleem said the business has still taken an 80% hit in clientele, with only two new enrollments in the last six weeks.
In addition to subject-based academic tutoring, Suprex Learning also offers test prep services. Saleem said he attributed the dip in business to the cancellation of a number of standardized tests, such as the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR exams as a result of the pandemic.
“Since all that has been taken away, parents and students have not been needing the service as much as when schools are in session,” he said.
Saleem said he foresees future challenges with students and their families regaining confidence to attend in-person tutoring sessions in the pandemic’s aftermath.
“We're seeing a lot of families are still not comfortable with going back to their regular setting,” Saleem said. “The market hasn't been ready to respond, even though the Texas governor has opened up abilities for several businesses to operate again, obviously following CDC guidelines.”