ARPA Supports Necessary Tech for Schools
June 09, 2021 by
The rapid transition to remote learning and the in-person classroom changes needed to meet public health guidelines created unprecedented burdens for K-12 schools during the coronavirus pandemic. In response, Congress passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021, which includes $122 billion for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) programs.
This federal funding is designed to:
- “Help safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the nation’s students”
- Support activities that “maintain operation of and continuity of services”
- “Develop strategies and implement public health protocols”
Notably, the funding has supported investments in technology to help schools respond to COVID-19 and safely continue operations. Based on their experiences during the past school year, districts are increasingly recognizing the importance of remote capabilities and digital workflows. Whether it’s enabling remote work, eliminating paper workflows, managing absences and substitutes, capturing accurate attendance, or adapting bus routes, software has proven its value in ways that will no doubt remain in a post-pandemic landscape.
How Tech Helped Schools Adapt to Pandemic Challenges
In the past year, schools throughout the United States leveraged modern technology to enable remote operations and to support evolving in-person, remote, and hybrid learning approaches. Not only did modern technology help schools respond to the COVID-19 crisis, but it also prepared districts for future challenges.
In particular, cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) and HR solutions have been critical for school districts that transitioned their workforces rapidly to remote teaching and administration. Because of its inherent scalability, cloud solutions are well-poised to help in times of crisis and to adjust to evolving needs quickly. In addition, these solutions take the pressure off IT departments to manage servers while making it easier to connect securely with remote staff. Cloud-based solutions offer the following benefits for times of crisis and beyond:
- Enabling Remote Work: While the transition to remote operations was sudden and challenging, schools are now greatly benefiting from new digital solutions such as employee access, virtual timesheets, and content management.
- Keeping School Operations Running: Despite social distancing guidelines, school operations from school board meetings to office tasks, have continued thanks to technology that bypassed the need for in-person meetings and paper-based workflows. Cloud-based software can continue to help facilitate online meeting management, vendor access, and enhanced data analytics for better insight and smarter decisions.
- Managing Student Transportation: Aligning student transportation with CDC guidelines has proven to be one of the greatest challenges for districts. Advanced routing software that streamlines the complex work of developing new routes and schedules is critical. Mobile apps additionally keep parents informed about route changes or delays. Districts have benefited from technologies that optimize routing, create seating charts to support distancing, and facilitate contact tracing.
- Managing Employee Absences and Substitutes: The COVID-19 crisis has made absence and substitute management even more difficult than usual. Fortunately, purpose-built absence and substitute management software helps schools meet this challenge. Schools can employ technology to simplify absence tracking, fill jobs quickly, and integrate sub lists with existing payroll systems.
- Keeping Parents, Students, and Educators Connected: Thanks to student information systems (SIS), parents and students can interact with their schools via desktop and mobile app portals that provide convenient remote connectivity. Modern SIS solutions are enabling remote, paperless workflows and connections for tasks such as grade access, attendance, registration, scheduling, and more. Schools are employing SIS solutions to provide enterprise-wide views, enable mobile connectivity, and keep everyone informed.