The Late Debate

Studio owners tame tardiness.

When you’re running a dance studio, anything off schedule creates a problem—especially delayed payments, students arriving to class after it’s already begun and parents picking up their children late. But how can studio owners remedy tardiness without punishing their students? To help you resolve these issues, when contract guidelines, handbook rules and personal messages go ignored, we asked five experts to share their solutions.

Andrew Currie

Dance Space

Vero Beach and Sebastian, FL

Dance Space owner Andrew Currie says a third of his 200 students pay late every month. This year, Currie implemented a computerized payment system that automatically charges parents’ credit cards each cycle. “It’s great. We know we’ll definitely have X amount of dollars in the bank and we’ve never had that before,” he says. For delayed payments, parents are sent a programmed e-mail notice informing them that a late fee has been added to their bill. “In the past, late charges were ignored, but now, when they get this notice, people respond, asking why they have a $10 charge on their bill,” says Currie.

Adrienne Gallagher

Carol Ann’s Dance Studio

East Tawas, Pinconning and West Branch, MI

Carol Ann’s Dance Studio offers discounts to those who pay early to help curb payment problems among the 260 students attending one of the three locations. “If parents pay before the 15th of the month, we have one price; if they pay after the 15th, we have another price,” says co-owner Adrienne Gallagher. For example, those paying early for a basic 45-minute class would only pay $30 a month rather than $35. “We even offer discounts for parents who pay for the whole year up front,” she says. “A 3- to 4-year-old 45-minute combination tap/ballet class would be $256.50 instead of the usual $270.” And individual students who take three classes a week, or three siblings who take a class a week each are given an eight percent discount per month, which increases by two percent with each additional class.

Kari Cameron

Rockport Dance Conservatory

West Rockport, ME

The rule for class tardiness at Rockport Dance Conservatory: “If the student is more than 10 minutes late, they have to open the door and ask for permission to come in,” says studio director Kari Cameron. “If it gets to be chronic, I’ll talk to the parent and their child to make sure it’s a problem with rides rather than disrespect.” With an enrollment of 60 students, Cameron says her faculty is able to transport students who have issues getting to class on time because of a parent’s work schedule. “If it’s an issue of disrespect, we talk to the student about how dance is a discipline and compare it to going to a job to make them understand why it’s a problem. If you were chronically late to work, you’d lose pay or be fired,” says Cameron.

April Spisak Nelson

Spisak Dance Academy

Glendale, AZ

April Nelson, director of Spisak Dance Academy, says that charging parents a “babysitting” fee when picking up their children late from class is the only thing she’s found to work for her 260 students. “Unfortunately, you have some people who take advantage of the fact that we’re here for other classes or rehearsals and know that we won’t leave until their child is picked up,” says Nelson. “I put a childcare fee on the student’s bill—$10 for every minute the parents are late. That usually takes care of the problem.” Nelson also uses adult peer pressure, insisting that the next to last parent picking up a late child wait for the last parent to arrive. “And I make sure they know I’m upset,” she says, adding that she speaks to late parents face to face to make the point clear.

Dancette Pratts

Inspirational Dance

Maplewood, NJ

Dancette Pratts, owner/director of Inspirational Dance, says she maintains a personal approach when dealing with late parents. “Usually, they come in and we sit down to talk it through,” she says. “It tends to be the same people who are late with everything—payments, getting their child to class, picking them up.” When a one-on-one talk doesn’t help, Pratts adds an extra charge to those students’ tuition bills. “The first time I let it go. But it’s a $5 charge after that for anyone who is late 10 minutes or more picking up their child. It’s $10 if they’re a half-hour or an hour late,” she says. Pratts has also worked out agreements with some families to work backstage at performances or hand out fliers to help pay off their tuition bills. DT

Karyn D. Collins is a New Jersey–based writer and dance teacher at the King Centre for the Performing Arts in Wanaque, NJ.

Illustration by Emily Giacolone

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