A: Think of your studio policies as your rules and procedures and your handbook as an opportunity to expand on those rules and discuss your approach to pedagogy. Your policies—essentially the terms and conditions between you and your customers—should be agreed upon at the point of registration. Typically, students or their parents/guardians must initial the registration form indicating that they have read and agree to the release of liability, medical emergency procedures, photography/video use, tuition due date, late-fee policy and refund or class cancellation policy. Be sure you feel comfortable standing behind any consequences noted, because you or your office staff will need to enforce or maintain them—for example, imposing a late fee.
A handbook, on the other hand, can help your students and parents better understand your policies while also orienting them to the studio. You can write a welcome message and share your studio mission and vision, as well as your expectations for general conduct. State your teaching philosophy, attendance expectations and makeup policy, methodology and criteria for classroom etiquette, and be sure to mention any testing or evaluations you require. It’s also useful to restate your important policies regarding tuition and billing that were agreed upon at registration. Since most of the information you put in your handbook should also be posted on your website or in a password-protected customer portal area, you can ask parents for their e-mail addresses at registration, explaining that all important studio information is sent digitally. When your students and parents are well-informed, it sets a tone of professionalism and helps students maximize their participation.
Kathy Blake is the owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, New Hampshire. She and Suzanne Blake Gerety are the co-founders of DanceStudioOwner.com.
Photo by B Hansen Photography, courtesy of Suzanne Blake Gerety