Managing your existing school operations is hard enough. A school expansion poses additional challenges.
Parent-teacher conferences, student accommodations, safety, compliance, and data analysis all pose challenges for school leaders. Managing day-to-day instruction requires ongoing cycles of observation, feedback, and implementation planning that demands administrators’ time and attention. On any given day, a school leader can serve as a bus matron, food service director, and hall monitor, not to mention a finance whiz, student data expert, and personnel manager. And then it’s time for the school to expand.
In addition to juggling all of the above priorities, school leaders can understandably struggle to manage an effective school expansion. The entire team is already stretched thin. The idea of increasing, much less doubling or even tripling, the school’s enrollment is a daunting prospect and can either successfully scale or undermine the school’s unique vision.
At CTS, we help our school partners manage effective school expansions.
Fortunately, at CTS, we’ve partnered with schools across the country to manage effective expansion efforts. We recognize you have a vision for your growing school, including how IT services can support classroom instruction and, ultimately, student achievement. Working alongside school leadership teams, we partner with schools to power their growth, leveraging our technology expertise to ensure your school successfully scales its technology to meet the needs of an expanding enrollment or facilities footprint.
As a first step, identify what additional technology your school expansion will require.
With an expansion on the horizon, the first step is to think thoughtfully about what additional technology your expansion efforts will demand. The answer can depend on the type of expansion you’re planning to undertake: if your school is increasing enrollment, you may want to start your brainstorming session with device concerns. How many additional laptops, Chromebooks, projectors, and SMART boards, for example, will your expansion require? Can your existing wireless infrastructure support increased traffic? If not, you may need to invest in additional wireless access points, cabling, or switches.
If your expansion implicates an additional site, your needs consideration will depend heavily on the characteristics of the new space. Does the new site have wireless internet capabilities? What about other IT infrastructure? If you’ve already signed a lease agreement or purchased the new building, it’s likely these questions have been answered, but they nonetheless impact your technology choices.
Choose the right tools and systems to support your needs. Just because you’re using something now, doesn’t mean it makes sense to continue using it as part of your expansion.
Once your school leadership team determines its needs, it’s time to think long and hard about whether you’ll continue to use your school’s existing operating systems, online instructional platforms, and other hardware, or if your expansion represents an opportunity to make a change. The former option—sticking with your existing systems—might make sense logistically. Change is hard enough, and introducing new tools to students, staff, and families may not make sense right away.
On the other hand, an expansion provides an opportunity to re-imagine your existing technology systems. If you’re unsure of whether to adopt a new technology platform, you may use the expansion as a pilot that, if successful, can be gradually scaled to your existing sites or grade levels. The point is that just because you’re using something in the present doesn’t mean you have to keep using it in the future. An expansion is hard, but it can also be fun: leaders can lean into the experience to finally make the changes they’ve been contemplating.
Leverage expertise to ensure your expansion’s technology choices are forward-looking.
Working with an effective technology partner can better inform your decision of whether to stick with your school’s existing systems or opt for something new to meet changing needs. With everything else on a school leader’s plate, the last thing most of them have time to do is keep up with the latest trends in educational technology. That’s where a partner like CTS comes in.
Our team has experience directly supporting schools. Many of our technicians and project managers worked on school-based teams prior to transitioning to CTS. Because of this, a firm like ours can do the research for you, evaluate your current inventory, and make recommendations that make sense for both the short- and long-term. Rather than investing in technology likely to become obsolete or, at the very least, improved upon in the near future, it may make sense to adjust your school’s purchasing decisions to align with existing market trends.
Maximize your existing technology to cut costs and ease your tech. transition.
Of course, in many cases, it makes sense to stick with your existing hardware and software to reduce costs. Under some circumstances, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, applies, but maintaining at least some of your current technology stock has additional non-fiscal benefits.
For one, it can ease the transitional nature of an expansion for your students, teachers, and support staff. The last thing someone wants to do as they’re setting-up their classroom is learn the intricacies of a new instructional platform or operating system. An effective IT service provider can help you sort through which changes will be relatively easy to make and which could prove disruptive during a transition.
Leverage E-rate funding to support your school expansion needs.
Your school expansion can also benefit from the federal E-rate program. If your expansion includes moving into a new space—rather than simply increasing enrollment at an existing site—federal funding can be particularly helpful. Working with an effective E-rate consultant can help your school navigate the bidding and selection process, as well as craft a bid that actually asks for the items your expansion will demand.
Schools that take full advantage of federal funds can offset the costs of an expansion and devote more per-pupil dollars to classroom libraries, supplies, furniture, and other expenses that accompany an expansion. When selecting an IT service provider to fulfill your school’s bid, it’s important to look at their track record. Is it reasonable to expect them to remain under budget? Have they serviced schools similar to yours? Most importantly, have they managed successful school expansions in the past? The answers to these questions should heavily factor into your decision-making process.
Once you’ve established needs, it’s time to engage and align key stakeholders.
Having established your needs, determined what shifts in technology choices you’d like to make, and, hopefully, taken advantage of the E-rate program, it’s time to execute, and here, effective project management is key, particularly for expansions implicating a new facility.
Installing or reconfiguring educational technology infrastructure is a systematic process. The project proceeds logically, step by step, rather than all at once. As a result, you’ll want to hire an IT service provider versed in the fundamentals of effective project management. In the educational context, stakeholder engagement is key.
Teachers, administrators, and support staff all have different priorities. An operations lead may be concerned about how a construction project will or won’t affect an installation timeline, while a teacher just wants access to her classroom, with internet access, as soon as possible. Navigating these relationships and responding to the unique needs of each constituency requires an experienced, level-headed provider.
When the heavy lifting is over, your school expansion efforts require continued monitoring.
Let’s fast forward and assume your expansion is complete. New Chromebooks are in their carts, every teacher has a laptop, and classroom projectors are running full steam ahead. What happens now?
Effective educational technology management depends on continuous monitoring and troubleshooting. What good is a SMART board that breaks down and sits, unused, after only three months? At CTS, we pride ourselves on a customer service-oriented approach that rapidly identifies, troubleshoots, and resolves our partners’ educational technology issues. We provide both in-the-moment troubleshooting for teachers in need of immediate support, as well as longer-term guidance to help your school assess the broader educational technology landscape and make operational choices that keep your team ahead of the curve.
When we see an issue on the horizon, we help our clients develop customized solutions to ease the resolution process, preventing disruptions to classroom instruction that can impede student learning and potentially impact teacher morale.
When all is said and done, an effective school expansion allows you, in turn, to expand the possibilities of your school, giving your families, teachers, and students the opportunity to experience the full breadth of your unique mission.