It’s no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on US education. In March 2020, approximately 55 million US school children were forced to make a sudden shift to online learning from home (Economic Policy Institute).
Over the following nearly two years, some schools remained physically closed while others rotated students in cohorts between the classroom and remote learning. Those that did open their doors to students found themselves dealing with frequent closures and disruptions to their everyday operations due to COVID outbreaks.
For K12 students, the pandemic came at a critical time in their learning and development. Lack of access to classroom resources and support led to crucial educational gaps that will become even more apparent in the years to come if they are not addressed quickly.
Now, with vaccination rates steadily rising in the United States, students are finally starting to get back into the classroom full time. It's time for the hard work to begin to get students caught up. As a result, the federal government has allocated extensive funding to help schools get back on their feet and improve student outcomes.
The question is how to spend those dollars most effectively.
How Schools Can Best Spend Their Federal Pandemic Aid
The most recent infusion of funding amounts to $123 billion in pandemic aid--and it comes to schools with few strings attached, giving schools a lot of flexibility to allocate funding as they see fit. According to the Associated Press, 20% of this funding must be used to address the problem of learning setbacks, but the remaining 80% can go toward almost anything determined to be reasonable and necessary. While this flexibility provides endless opportunities, it also poses a challenge for school officials eager to make the best investments possible for their students--and their staff.
Schools do need to be cautious. As this windfall is unlikely to be replicated in future years, schools will need to focus on strategic investments that solve their present challenges and drive benefits into the future without unsustainably inflating coming years' budgets.
For example, it may be tempting to raise salaries across the board to attract and retain the best staff; however, this would require ongoing funding to sustain the higher costs beyond the current year. In contrast, technology investments often require capital upfront, but they provide years and years of benefits for both students and teachers with minimal ongoing operating costs.
Prioritizing Spending on Health and Safety
Health and safety technologies are especially crucial at this time, as they indirectly support learning objectives by reducing disruptions and giving classrooms the time together that they need to get back on track with learning objectives. In addition, teachers and students are highly affected by the environments where they spend eight or more hours of their day.
Creating a safe and healthy school environment reduces sick days for both students and teachers and improves concentration and focus. It also alleviates health-related stressors so that all energy can be focused on student learning outcomes.
But what does an investment in health and safety look like for K12 schools? One answer to this question is cleaning automation.
The cleanliness of a space is critical to maintaining a safe and healthy environment. For example, classroom surfaces need to be sanitized and disinfected regularly to prevent the spread of COVID and other contagious diseases like the flu. In addition, without proper ventilation and regular vacuuming, indoor air can quickly become polluted with contaminants that make students and teachers feel sick and can significantly impact the ability to concentrate.
However, due to ongoing labor shortages, adding to your janitorial staff often isn’t an option. Increasing cleaning demands will stretch existing staff thin, which can ultimately reduce cleaning quality and thoroughness.
The Value of Autonomous Cleaning Tech
Here autonomous cleaning technology comes into play as a powerful investment in school health and safety. For example, an autonomous vacuum, like Whiz from SoftBank Robotics, offloads up to 30% of your cleaning team’s time by autonomously vacuuming large carpeted areas like hallways and classrooms.
The time saved with cleaning tech gives your existing facilities maintenance crew the ability to focus on thorough disinfection and sanitization to ensure the health and safety of students and teachers alike. In addition, because staff members have adequate time to complete each task, cleaning teams can maintain higher levels of cleaning quality and create a healthier and safer learning environment.
Investing in health and safety is a powerful strategy for spending pandemic funding in a way that not only supports student outcomes but also protects teachers and staff. Autonomous cleaning technologies are one tool that school administrators can employ to reduce disruptions and get a generation of K12 students back on track.
Contact us today to learn more about how Whiz can help.