As we look forward to the next K-12 school year, school leaders are in a uniquely challenging position. However, in this case the cliché is true … “Challenges are the seeds of opportunity”. School closures and budget shortfalls are just a couple of consequences the pandemic has wrought. At the same time new avenues have been created through new funding sources to address issues both old and new, and transform educational facilities for the better in a pandemic sensitive world.
Let’s look at some unexpected factors and pain points specific to K-12 education:
● Added pressure– Teachers’ unions are playing an important role in districts’ reopening decisions. Many educators are uncomfortable with returning to school unless it’s done safely, and attaining PPE is crucial for making that happen. There’s also added pressure from insurers – property, health and others, which means every step must be taken to keep faculty, staff and students safe.
● More regulation– New CDC guidelines mean additional regulations may be headed down the pike. For example, with more students learning online, districts need to be able to facilitate virtual environments that are scalable for all students. Districts also need to renovate classrooms and buildings where guidelines can’t be met for in person learning. Added to this, requirements and standards are being put in place by state governments in order to comply with the CARES Act. In short you have a regulatory balancing act that is likely to warrant caution and “wait and see approach”. Yet, leaders are being pressed continually to quickly use funding in a way that meets regulations and satisfy all stakeholders before the next school year begins.
● Need for defined PPE strategy– With COVID-19 there is an additional need for a defined PPE strategy for schools, including procuring, storing, and distributing supplies. These goods are perishable, so a defined management strategy around PPE will be necessary for ensuring supplies are being used, and not wasted. As new Covid variants continue to dominate news headlines, district leaders must continue to ensure faculty and staff are able to effectively promote social distancing and the use of PPE. Furthermore, various populations are vaccination hesitant or even resistant, which ultimately means mask and PPE supply management will be continuous in the new k-12 normal.
How can district leaders address consequences of the pandemic?
District leaders must be honest about the challenges they are facing, and willing to look outside their industry and geographical location for solutions. Being collaborative, sharing best practices and researching new ways to approach the issues presented by the pandemic should be a top priority.
COVID-19 is forcing leaders in every industry to rethink the way they approach the daily routine – education is no different. Added flexibility and the ability to pivot quickly are necessary for overcoming challenges related to the pandemic. Now more than ever defining a PPE strategy that considers the current supply chain environment is more critical than ever before. Once the school year starts it will be too late to act or implement meaningful change as demand will naturally increase and supply will decrease.
The pandemic is affecting all of us in different ways, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution that will meet the needs of every district. Administrators, teachers, and other staff members should collaborate with one another to identify strategies that make sense for their school communities. Then seek out creative solutions, technologies and innovative methods that address the identified needs specific to local student population and their community. Wise leaders will anticipate the next wave of unexpected consequences at both national and local levels, and directionally move their organizations to be more resilient to likely outcomes and potential difficulties within their specific district.
Having a trusted partner to lean on makes all the difference in a crisis. At SDI, we’ve built our foundation on being able to provide expertise to our partners, helping them streamline processes and maximize efficiency. By using a digital supply chain approach, SDI works to create trust through building data transparency to build the power of school-wide collaboration. A clearly defined PPE strategy should monitor, regulate, comply, and achieve the desired impact of allowing students, educators, families, and communities to feel safe now matter how the pandemic environment shifts in the upcoming year.
Contact SDI today for more information about managing essential PPE.