By Guest Contributor Lisa Wolfe
When in college preparing for their careers, most of today’s school leaders likely didn’t think that they would need to know about planning for in-classroom learning during a pandemic or purchasing high quality air filtration systems. In addition to having to become armchair epidemiologists, they have also faced new challenges ranging from needing to develop strategies to overcome learning loss exacerbated by the disruption in school to becoming personnel retention specialists as they try to ensure that their teachers don’t leave their schools and the profession.
How has all this change impacted school leaders’ purchasing priorities for 2022 and in the future?
- Remote learning. Following 2020’s unanticipated switch to remote learning for most school districts, significant investments were made in the software and hardware needed to successfully support it. Both reallocated district funds and ESSER money were used to quickly build infrastructures for remote learning. And while learning from home presented many challenges for schools around the country, school leaders also realized the benefits of having the infrastructure in place if remote learning is required for unexpected incidents like bad weather or other reasons that might make it not possible or practical for students to come to school. Expect them to continue to invest in the technology to maintain their remote learning environments.
- Extending the school day. The disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic widened the achievement gap for our country’s K-12 learners and shone a spotlight on already existing inequities. As a result, districts have made extending the school day through after-school programs and summer learning a higher priority than ever before. In addition, ESSER funds can be used to invest in these much-needed expanded learning opportunities for students.
- Tutoring. As another strategy for mitigating learning loss, districts are making big investments in providing tutoring for their students. For example, Chicago Public Schools is spending $25 million of its $1.8 billion in ESSER funds to hire and train 850 literacy tutors.*
- Social emotional learning (SEL). While many districts were already investing in SEL programs prior to the pandemic, student needs in this area have also been illuminated by the disruptions of the past few years. School leaders are prioritizing both investing in SEL programs and hiring behavioral and mental health teams to meet their students’ mental health needs. This is another area that ESSER funds can support.
- School climate systems. With the return to in-school learning, school leaders made as many modifications as possible – and affordable – to make school environments safe. However, in the midst of making those changes, many also realized how woefully inadequate and outdated their facilities were when it came to protecting the health and safety of their students and staff. Anticipate that implementing and updating school climate systems will continue to be a priority for school leaders around the country.
As you plan your 2022 marketing campaigns, think about these new and readjusted priorities for education leaders and how your products and services can help leaders address them. As your trusted partner, MDR is here to help.
*Source: Moving Forward Together, Chicago Public Schools
Lisa Wolfe is the president of L. Wolfe Communications
Founded in April 2000, L. Wolfe Communications offers its clients a network of senior, experienced public relations executives with a variety of complementary experience and expertise in public relations and communications for the education and library markets