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ENNICO: School’s (almost) out … Time for tutoring! 

         “I’m a retired teacher, and I’m thinking about buying one of the ‘after-school tutoring’ franchises. The franchise agreement says that I’m responsible for complying with all state and local laws but doesn’t give any guidance as to what I need to look for. Can you give me an idea of what I will need to do?” 
        It’s amazing how many startup companies, not just franchises, are taking advantage of parents’ fears that the public school systems aren’t good enough to get their kids into college (or that the competition is so fierce the kids will have to work a double shift to get there). Within the last month alone, I have seen literature from companies offering: 
        — after-school tutoring in virtually all subjects for grades K-12 
        — intensive instruction in French, Spanish or another foreign language 
        — science and math instruction designed especially for girls 
        — computer coding skills 
        — test preparation for the SATs and other college-entry examinations 
        — after-school instruction in music, drama and the fine arts 
        — coaching and advice on how to fill out college applications, write essays that are guaranteed to get the admissions committee’s attention and survive interviews with local alumni/ae (for example, if you were a star in your high school play this year, bring a video of your performance to the interview and offer to watch it with the interviewer) 
        — instruction in sports that are outside the mainstream (squash, anyone?) 
        I’m glad you are a retired teacher. Anyone who thinks tutoring kids in a classroom setting is easy has never tried it. Also, I’m finding that people tend to be more successful in after-school tutoring businesses if they are personally known to the teachers, principals and administrators in the local public school system, who are less likely to perceive them as “competitors” than if they were total strangers. 
        As for legal compliance, it’s relatively simple: Most states don’t require any sort of license for after-school tutoring businesses. To be 100% sure, find your state’s licensing center website — a master list of all required business, occupational and professional licenses — and go through the education-related listings. To find your state government’s licensing center, search online for “(name of your state) business license center.” 
        Still, there are rules. First, avoid using the words “school,” “education,” “institute” or “academy” in your company name, which suggest you are running a school. Many states require the prior approval of the state education department before you can do that. While getting this approval is relatively easy, it will set you back several weeks in getting your business off the ground. 
        Next, schedule a meeting with your town planning and zoning board. Many after-school tutoring businesses have discovered too late that the local zoning officials won’t permit an “educational” use (as defined by their regulations, not the state education department) within a “commercial” zone. Another useful stop is the town fire marshal’s office. Many communities require businesses that have children on the premises for more than X hours a day to perform periodic fire drills and other safety precautions. 
        If you are buying a franchise, talk to other franchisees in your state and find out what regulatory problems they had getting their businesses off the ground. It might not be a bad idea to hire an attorney who represents one of the local private schools in your community for a one- or two-hour conference. He or she is almost certain to be familiar with the local rules and regulations you will have to comply with. 
        Finally, I would buy as much liability insurance as you can afford. When children are being tutored on your premises, you are “in loco parentis” (“in the place of the parents”) and are held to the same standard of liability. In particular: 
        — Be extremely careful when hiring tutors and other employees who will have day-to-day contact with students. Do thorough background checks and oversee their activities closely for the first few weeks until you are satisfied with their professionalism. 
        — Consider installing in-house video cameras in areas where tutoring activities are being conducted. View the tapes periodically and save the tapes in case a parent alleges improper activity. 
        — Consider having another adult present when meeting one-on-one with a child or parent. 
        — Have a backup transportation plan in place in case parents forget to pick up their children from tutoring sessions. (Don’t laugh — you would be amazed how frequently that happens.) 
        — If you are tutoring younger children, make sure all equipment and furnishings are child-friendly. Visit some local grade-school classrooms and copy what you see there. 
        Cliff Ennico ([email protected] ) is a syndicated Cliff Ennico ([email protected]) is a syndicated columnist, author and former host of the PBS television series “Money Hunt.” COPYRIGHT 2022 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO 

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