The pandemic rainbow has finally arrived with the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines. Now is the time to begin putting COVID in the rearview mirror and start thinking about what school can and might look light when we can all be together in person again. But where do we begin? We’ve been in a state of reaction for so many months; how can we get back to strategic visioning and planning?
Step 1: Revisit Your Current School District Improvement Plan
Break out your school or district improvement plan and take a hard look at where you thought you would be and where you actually are at this point in time. Try not to focus on the challenges that you’ve had to overcome just to keep instruction going, let alone have academic growth for all learners. Instead, analyze the programs, curricula, and resources you thought you needed before the pandemic and what you ended up using during the pandemic. Be reflective and think about what you might be able to live without and what you may need to keep going forward from the COVID era.
Step 2: Consider Your Parents and Families
As you develop your district improvement plan, think about your student body and parent populations. What have they appreciated about the changes you’ve made, and what are they insisting you bring back? Host focus groups, conduct surveys or offer online parent forums to gather information to gain input into your planning process. This has always been an essential piece of planning but, now more than ever, our parent voices can inform the directions we take in sustaining practices adopted during the pandemic.
Step 3: Consider Your Students and Teachers
Survey your students and teachers on what they liked about the changes made and what they can’t wait to get back to. I bet some of them enjoyed flexible scheduling--should you consider keeping it going forward? Others may have really appreciated the hybrid-blended models. Some may like the new assessment strategies that were implemented. Use the teacher and student voices in your planning process. Try to include as many students, faculty, and staff as possible. Your future culture will reflect how inclusive you were in this process.
Step 4: Take Advantage of New Funding
Think about your budget and the stimulus dollars that have been available, and the new stimulus funding that’s on the way. These dollars have probably funded a lot of innovative practices and technologies since the allowable expenses include:
- Purchasing educational technology that aids in regular and substantive interaction between students and educators;
- Planning and coordinating long-term closures, including providing technology for online learning;
- Planning and implementing online learning; and
- Supporting provisions found in major education laws, including the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Title IV-A of ESSA and Part D of IDEA permits federal funds toward professional learning in effective edtech use.
Consider which technology-rich program you want to sustain and how much money you need to begin adding or shifting in your current budgets in order to maintain it long term, post-CARES Act spending. Economies have clearly suffered during this time, so be sure to partner with your local chamber of commerce or government as you think through your budget goals.
This pandemic has forced us to get out of our comfort areas and think differently about how we educate youth. We have adopted many new ways of learning and teaching and developing teachers, and some of these approaches are beneficial and should be continued as we come out of this fog.
Despite the many changes taking place in our country today, now is the time to help our leaders see the benefit of fully funding education and making it a priority in the years to come.
Dr. Kecia Ray is a strategic thinker and a proven leader in K12 transformation. She serves as Tech & Learning’s Brand Ambassador and is the founder of the consulting service, K20Connect