There are over 10,000 school districts in the United States and - as you can expect - each will face unique challenges over the course of a year. With that said, 2021 has brought school administrators together through some of the similar challenges that they are all having to face. We know that there is an ongoing list of challenges being added, but here are a list of the top issues that are present around the country that schools are having to overcome.
The COVID-19 Pandemic
Wow, shocker there. Even though more than 237 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been distributed in the United States, we are still seeing long-lasting issues that are impacting students social and emotional needs. This negative impact is causing relentless pressure on school leaders, and unfortunately it doesn't seem like the chaos will end soon.
School leaders across the country are put into no-win situations, considering the strict guidelines they are forced to follow from COVID-19 (not to mention these procedures and protocols can and are changing overnight). Incorporating plexi-glass screens has only put more fuel on the fire when talking about the negative social and emotional impact that students are experiencing. Before COVID, collaborative learning was rising drastically because of studies proving the following benefits that students were experiencing:
- Improved Oral Communication
- Higher Level of Self-Management
- Increased Self-Esteem & Student Retention
Now, plexi-glass screens and other personal protective equipment (PPE) featured in part to COVID-19 have created setbacks in 21st Century Learning. Not only does it decrease the benefits that we once saw in collaborative learning, it is also asking more from school leaders personally and professionally. The sooner schools get back to collaborative and engaging learning environments, the sooner some of the weight can be lifted off of school administrators.
Majority of the time, school districts know when their facilities need updated. It is no secret that school construction or renovation projects can have profound affects on student lives and create more engaging learning environments. So why does it seem like some school struggle with creating better learning environments for their students?
Money. School administrators can easily identify their facility needs and work with design experts to create innovative solutions. The problem is, if a school does not have the funds available to transform their visions into reality, their students will be stuck in the old traditional format learning in ways that have been proven inefficient.
In order to help gain momentum on large school renovation or construction projects, it is a good idea to invite all the stakeholders in the community to take part in the discussion. When they are able to see the need for improvement and provide direct input into the conversation, it will be much more likely to win over their vote into creating better learning environments for the students when it comes to seeking approval at the ballot box.
Another way to resolve funding issues when your school needs improvements is by seeking out school grants. By applying for a grant, you are giving your community the opportunity to receive:
- A generous amount of money from a donor or organization interested in your project
- Increased credibility and visual outlook
- A learning environment to enhance your students' skills
There is no reason not to try for a school grant when funding is an issue. Many times these grants will be left untouched - leaving plenty of opportunity for improvement on the table. Kay-Twelve understands that it can take hours to search all of the different grants that are available - and that is why we have done the research for you and listed many different opportunities in our blog article School Grants To Fund Your Learning Environments. If you would like to get our help in finding some grant opportunities just for you, start by booking your free collaboration session today!
School Safety and Security
School administrators across the country have also been forced to redevelop their operational strategy for safety and security measures in recent years. Creating safe and welcoming learning environments is critical in preparing our youth to achieve their highest potential in and after school. In this section, we have created a framework to help school administrators solve the issue of providing a safe and successful environment for their students and staff.
- First and foremost, it is important to consider all recommendations provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With the current outbreak of COVID-19 still upon us, it is important to hear out what the CDC is recommending so that all of our students and staff can stay healthy. Currently, it is recommended for all individuals to reflect at least 3 feet between each other and to have certified ventilation components in place to provide a clean and healthy air flow. It is no longer recommended to provide physical barriers between students, so it is not a good idea to invest in items such as shields and room dividers. When doing so, you are putting your school years behind - leaving no funds available for the furniture items that actually enhance students ability to learn.
- Improving access to school-based mental health programs is another area that many school districts need to consider. By ensuring adequate programs to help integrate services provided by the school will only help at-risk students and improve school initiatives. When students are fully supported outside of their school life, they will be much more likely to reach their potential after graduation. It is up to the district to ensure that reputable programs are in place for students to gain quick and easy access to.
- Training school staff members on items such as school crime prevention, school violence prevention, school emergency planning, and school treat evaluation will not only help protect the community, but will also give the school staff and school body assurance that they are protected each day they step in the building. When appropriate measures are in place and each school staff member knows exactly what to do in an uncertain time, school administrators can be assured that the best line of defense is already in place before any action is even taken. Providing courses and in-person training's annually are the best ways to help ensure that you are best protected at any given time.
- Constantly evaluating current school security measures is another prevention tactic that school administrators can consider. Many schools around the country have been purchasing more metal detectors, surveillance cameras, security officers, etc. to help play an important part in the school system. More recently, items such as portable hand washing stations and touchless hand sanitizer units have been included to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Regardless, it is important to constantly evaluate the need for improving upon safety measures so that all students and staff are protected each and every day.
- Finally, it is important for all districts to have specific outlets for crisis communication so that the community is always informed. In recent years, many districts have used their social media presence as a way to connect with the community in a fast and effective manner. No matter how your district decides to communicate, make sure that you have a strategy that not only you know, but also your outside communities know!
Staff Training & Retention
With the United States youth population growing each and every year, there is no doubt a concern on the teacher to student ratio. Current studies are finding that smaller class sizes are improving students abilities to learn, but school administrators are struggling to find and keep the staff around. Current studies are finding that offering current teachers long-term incentives could reduce the number of replacements needed each and every year (creating less stress on training new staff every summer). Other obvious incentives such as increased salaries and benefits can go a long way in keeping staff around, but all in all fully supporting your staff and hearing their needs out can go a long way in keeping them around!
Not only is it hard to keep teachers around from year to year, it is also estimated that the annual turnover rate for school administrators is between 14 and 16 percent. The mean tenure for most administrators is only six year! In discussions with school leaders, this is a major concern. Similar to the teacher shortage, there is a shortage of qualified principals and administrators. The cost to the districts is enormous. Districts can spend about $75,000 to prepare, hire, and place a new leader into the position.
So why is the turnover so high for school administrators as well? The pressure for these roles is enormous. In many cases, they are struggling and need help. In other industries, peer networks have been utilized for years to provide a confidential outlet to learn from others' experiences. They learn new ideas, get inspired, and have a personal support structure to thrive in the position professionally and personally. One tremendous resource for these school administrators is the Education Leaders' Organization (ELO). If you are a school administrator and are struggling, consider joining ELO - an organization that helps you achieve your full potential in your career and personal life through life-enhancing connections, shared experiences and collaborative learning. Not only does it follow a proven method for peer networks, it is also the ONLY peer-to-peer network exclusively for school leaders!
School Renovations & Constructions
The final issue that we will cover is the stress that comes with school renovations and constructions. If you ask a panel of school leaders the following questions, it is not hard to tell that all of them would answer yes:
- Do you want to create learning environments that build a sense of collaboration among students and teachers?
- Do you want to create learning environments that meet the needs of each student's individual learning styles?
- Do you want to create learning environments that get students excited about the learning process?
- Do you want to create learning environments that allow teachers to have more positive impact on their students?
So why are school renovation and construction projects high on the list of current issues constantly impacting school administrators. Well, as we covered earlier, funding is certainly an issue in some cases. But more so than that, the stress that comes along with a large project like this is normally what makes school administrators nervous about taking on something like this. But luckily, the days of stressing and feeling overwhelmed by a large project like this are behind us. By partnering with Kay-Twelve, the industry-leading school furniture guide, you won't have to worry about the complications and headaches that come along with large projects.
Kay-Twelve's mission is to help educational leaders transform their ineffective learning environments into innovative and collaborative spaces by providing furniture that encourages greater partnership among students, more student/teacher engagement, and a fully collaborative setting for learning to happen. The best part is - you will attend you a collaboration session where you can provide your ideas and thoughts on what you would like to see in the project and then Kay-Twelve will do the rest. After your collaboration session, the Kay-Twelve team will provide you with customized planning, support, and implementation so that you can focus as much or as little on the project as you would like!
There process is broken down into three simple steps to completion. Don't believe us? Schedule your free collaboration session today where an expert will get a better understanding of the project and create the perfect plan just for you!