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Four Ways Districts Can Begin Preparing for the 2020-21 School Year

Michael Nutter

August 3, 2020

Regardless of whether you’re continuing remote learning or resuming in-person education in the fall, the 2020-21 academic year will require serious planning and preparation.

As schools begin preparing for the 2020-2021 academic year, it may be difficult to know exactly where to start. Districts will need to balance the requirements for a quality education with the need for COVID-19 safety measures. In order to prepare districts for these realities, Governor DeWine released a set of Ohio school guidelines earlier this month. The guidelines are based largely on “Reset and Restart,” a plan developed by a group of teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders. As case numbers and recommendations around the pandemic continue to change, DeWine stresses that districts will need to exercise flexibility in accordance with local guidelines.

While it may be difficult to be fully prepared for the public health challenges that the upcoming school year will bring, there are certain proactive measures districts can take to help their students, faculty, and staff transition to new circumstances. To give your district ideas around how to prepare in advance this summer, we’ve compiled a few recommendations that will help K-12 schools gear up to resume education in the fall.

1. Design multiple contingency plans to prepare for potential policy changes.

In the coming months, districts will have to make reopening decisions based on their local guidelines. As COVID-19 numbers fluctuate, state and local policies are likely to change. As a result, some K-12 schools may be operating normally, while others will conduct courses exclusively online. Many will opt for a hybrid model that combines online learning with in-person instruction. Outline what each of these plans involve — even if their adoption seems unlikely.  Make sure you have contingency plans to make changes during the year if necessary.

2. Create systems and channels to help meet individual student needs.

Regardless of what hybrid or fully remote model your district lands on, it’s likely that many schools will be dealing with at least some form of remote learning during the 2020-21 school year. When it comes to virtual learning, access to resources, technology, and home environments conducive to learning will play a crucial role in student success. Many students may lack stable internet access or a supportive learning environment at home. Under these circumstances, inequity will widen achievement gaps unless schools take measures to address individual student needs.

To prevent disruptions to education, schools utilizing remote learning should take steps to ensure that every student has access to the support they need. Consider directing some of the school’s resources toward providing students with necessary equipment, such as devices and internet accessories. Beyond equipment, it’s also important to create channels of communication that accommodate individual learning requirements. For instance, consider holding virtual office hours or Q&A sessions so students have a forum to ask questions the way they might in person.

3. Adapt your curricula to a remote setting.

Help your teachers adapt their curricula to a remote learning format — and more specifically, to the technological platforms your district has chosen to adopt. Instructors should think about designing lessons specifically adapted to video format, creating content that can be accessed independently, and developing clear expectations for virtual engagement. If you don’t already, support your teachers with training programs and technology courses that help them develop the skills necessary to thrive in a virtual learning environment.

4. Be prepared to adjust technology plans.

Whether your district plans to reopen its classrooms or make a complete switch to remote learning, it’s important to outline and implement your technology plan as soon as possible. If you choose to stay fully remote, you may want to redirect some of your technology funding to ensure that instructors, administrators, and staff have everything they need to facilitate remote learning. Even if administrators and educators are comfortable working in a virtual environment on a day-to-day basis, things like software and system updates, budgeting, and IT maintenance will require careful planning.

If your district is committed to in-person instruction, you will still need to upgrade infrastructure and software systems — especially given that the 2020-21 school year will be resuming after what was essentially an abnormally long summer vacation. Investing in updates early on will allow you to check that your classroom technology is up-to-date, enabling a seamless transition after a long time away. To get ahead, solidify plans with your team to utilize the summer months for IT adjustments with minimal disruption to your students’ education.

A Partner for the Year Ahead

No matter how much you prepare, it’s safe to say that the year ahead may present challenges for educators and district officials across the country. To help make the year as stress-free as possible for teachers and students alike, consider turning to Vinson as a partner for your technological needs. As education technology specialists, we offer a variety of products and services specifically designed to support school districts with everyday — and not so everyday — IT problems.

Offerings like QuantumSpeed Teacher Help Desk and Vinson Educate provide teachers with the support they need to excel in their new virtual environments, while Vinson Managed Services can provide ongoing strategic guidance for long-term technology plans and IT infrastructure in your district. Whether you want to improve your remote learning capabilities or secure funding for a 1:1 device initiative, the experts at Vinson can help ensure a smooth start to your year.

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