School districts have been running like the energizer bunny:
Technology teams are adapting to modified learning plans to include increasing Wi-Fi bandwidth, preparing thousands of devices for students, installing new software for online learning, and implementing contact tracing in some cases. Educators continually worry about the best way to deliver impactful remote learning strategies that minimize student and parent stress.
This past year has been trying and the hard work of our educators has made, and will continue to make, a huge difference. There is no complete rest for the weary, but this winter break is the perfect opportunity to take stock of the year and catch up. During this break, our educators deserve to relax and spend time with family. But let’s face it: our educators never stop. They are constantly thinking about students and how they can provide some level of normalcy during these crazy times.
During the break, there are several things districts can do to catch-up:
1. Budget planning
Schools immediately went into survival mode and much of the finer budget planning details may have gotten sidelined. Districts have been using Cares Act dollars to purchase thousands of devices, sanitize equipment and pay for other COVID-19 necessities, preventing them to proactively plan for the future. In most cases, normal budget line items got reprioritized. At the epicenter of this is how districts can continue to operate on unchanged funding levels with the expectation that everyone “do more.” Technology enables districts to do more with less and reprioritize staff where needed. The largest K-12 UKG™ (Ultimate Kronos Group) customer, Chicago Public Schools, is allocating $75 million in their budget to address challenges created by COVID-19, while maintaining a multi-year investment to continue to modernize technology. A blend of managing the current crisis while looking forward is ideal for districts today.
2. Focus on students that may have fallen behind
Unfortunately, despite all efforts, there are still students out there that may be experiencing a learning gap. Now is the time to start brainstorming ideas, including finding types of interventions we can put in place for the new year. One of UKG’s largest customers in Mississippi, Desoto County Schools, has really focused on their Response to Intervention (RTI) plan. One of the purposes of an RTI plan is to enable early identification of students in need of help or who may be falling behind.
3. Catching up on paperwork
Whether you are food service, technology, transportation staff or a classroom teacher, we all have paperwork. The holiday break is the perfect time to pause and evaluate what efficiencies and technologies are out there to help. It also brings to the forefront the need to look at how technology can be used to do more with less. Wicomico Public Schools in Maryland recently updated their UKG solution to optimize technology and implement new initiatives to become more efficient, which provides more time to spend with students.
Most importantly is to decompress a bit. There is a lot of work left to be done, but there is also no substitution for the refresh a break can give. We need to prevent teacher fatigue and a nice break can help with that. Teachers have had to adapt to so many scenarios. They deserve to rest and spend time with family.
Now, more than ever, districts should evaluate the state of their technology. Teachers had to learn new remote learning technology solutions, students quickly ramped up on virtual learning and so much more. Technology has opened opportunities for everyone to operate more efficiently and continue the day-to-day operations of a school, either remotely or on-site. What else is there left to do? How can we be more efficient and take some of the burden off our staff? While you decompress during break, I encourage you to keep these questions in mind – let’s plan to do everything we can for the sake of our students, staff, and families.