How Managed IT Supports School Close-Out and Launch

A school close-out includes more than turning off the lights and locking the doors.

As the end of the school year approaches, it’s tempting for school administrators to sit back, put their feet up on their desks, and breathe a sigh of relief. After hours and hours of instruction, time spent overseeing daily school operations, and dozens of school-wide events, it’s easy, with the end in sight, for school leaders to let down their guard and sail into the summer, blissfully unaware of the challenges that will come with a new school year.

However, failing to plan for end-of-year close-out can doom the next school year’s launch, hobbling the school when it matters most. An ineffective close-out also wastes a valuable opportunity to leverage the end of one school year to collect or update student information, inventory, re-order technology, and gain a better sense of the school’s enrollment for the following year.

Fortunately, managed IT providers can help. Working closely with school leadership, an effective managed IT provider can begin planning the end-of-year close-out process months in advance, ensuring the school ends the year on a solid footing and is ultimately set up for success for the following school year.

Begin planning early for school close-out.

More than any other single factor, advanced planning is critical to an effective school close-out. When students return from winter break, school leaders should already be thinking about the tasks they’ll want teachers and support staff to complete before they leave the building for summer, as well as how they’ll want to leverage close-out to achieve other non-instructional goals.

Beginning in February or March, depending on when the school year ends, the school’s non-instructional leaders should begin regular meetings focused on end-of-year close-out. Ideally, these meetings will also include the school’s managed IT provider, but if not, the school’s technology team should be kept in the loop as the process moves forward. In addition to technology planning, close-out meetings should address any facilities work that will occur over the summer, develop a plan to inventory and re-order classrooms supplies and furniture as needed, and include a protocol for collecting and updating student information as the school prepares for the following year.

Depending on when the school’s state testing program occurs, starting to think about close-out in March or April before the end of the school year can leave school leaders scrambling as they attempt to manage competing priorities. Conducting an effective state testing program is hard enough. Add close-out and the other burdens of daily school operations to the mix, and advanced planning can quickly fall by the wayside. Prioritizing close-out early and regularly ensures that end-of-year conversations remain at the forefront of leaders’ minds.

Leverage close-out to inventory and (re-) order technology, as needed.

Of course, as teachers and students exit the building for summer, close-out presents a unique opportunity for school technology teams and managed IT providers to collect and inventory the school’s technology. Rather than waiting to put out fires at the start of the year (e.g., discovering that one class doesn’t have enough Chromebooks or that another has a cart with three broken devices), schools can use close-out to take stock of their existing technology and repair or replace any items as needed.

If a school has already partnered with a managed IT provider, likely, the provider has already “tagged” the school’s devices to some extent. For example, student Chromebooks might include a barcode or other identifying marker reflected in a shared spreadsheet. If this is the case, close-out offers a great opportunity for school technology teams to, first, cross-check the tags on individual devices with the information reflected in the school’s records. Adjusting any tags as needed–either by updating the school’s records or by changing the physical tag on the device–will allow the school to more accurately identify and triage the device for any repairs as needed. Second, the school can update its records to reflect any issues with a particular device. For example, perhaps the trackpad on one student device is broken, or the video camera no longer works. If that’s the case, a member of the school’s technology team can note the issue in the shared spreadsheet and later decide if the device can be repaired or needs to be replaced entirely. Collecting all student and staff devices, conducting an inventory, and creating a list of potential next steps such as these will help the school ensure it has the requisite number of functioning devices for the following year.

Alternatively, and particularly for schools that haven’t partnered with a managed IT provider, close-out gives the school an opportunity to create a device tracker that allows it to monitor each piece of hardware in the building. To this end, the school should collect all student and staff devices, tag them with a barcode, numbered sticker, or identifying marker of some kind, and log that information in an online resource shared across the school. Ideally, the device tracker will be regularly updated to reflect issues with any devices throughout the year and provide the school with a running inventory of how many functioning devices it has on hand at any given time. Creating this “golden source” is a key step in creating a comprehensive device-tracking system and also helps the school spend its resources more wisely. Only by knowing with specificity the number of devices it needs to replace each year can the school make the most of every dollar. Rather than guessing the number of devices the school may need for the following year or providing a “ballpark” figure for ordering purposes, effective device-tracking allows the school to pinpoint the exact number of devices it will need for day one of the next school year.

Close-out also offers an opportunity to upgrade the school’s student information system.

Just as close-out allows schools to inventory their technology resources, it also provides an opening to update the school’s student information system to reflect changes in contact, academic, and enrollment information before the following year. For example, to better gauge its enrollment for the following year, the school might distribute an “intent to return” form to all of its students on which they can, first, indicate whether or not they plan to enroll for the following year and, second, provide updated contact information for the school’s student information system.

Suppose a student’s family indicates the student does not intend to re-enroll for the following year. In that case, the school might follow up with the student’s family separately and include a field on the “intent to return” form where the family can record the new school’s contact information. Gathering this data now will allow the school to prepare the student’s records for transfer and, as in some districts, will enable the school to remove the student from the district’s student information roster at the end of the year. Alternatively, a conversation between school leadership and the student’s family might allow the school to retain the child. For instance, perhaps the student’s family is upset about a particular school policy or lack of academic offerings. If that’s the case, an “intent to return” form alerts the school to the family’s intent to enroll elsewhere and allows school leaders to intervene accordingly. By contrast, when students indicate an intent to return, collecting this information enables the school to better forecast its enrollment numbers for the following year and update its financial models accordingly. Logging this information in the school’s student information system can make the information available to all of the school’s primary stakeholders and allow the school, if it wishes, to place re-enrollment date into conversation with academic, attendance, or behavioral data to observe any correlations and trends.

More broadly, gathering updated contact information from students’ families benefits the school logistically. Rather than sending summer flyers or back-to-school lists to addresses at which students no longer live or auto-dialing non-working numbers, the school can collect updated contact information from students and ensure that any information it needs to communicate to students over the summer gets to the right place. This process also sets the school up for success for the following year when school-family communication is most important.

At CTS, we help schools manage seamless school close-outs and launches.

We view ourselves as deeply invested in the work of our partner schools. With decades of experience in the educational technology sector, our team has the technical know-how and understanding of education-specific technology issues to ensure your school conducts an effective close-out and launch. By taking the time to leverage close-out to inventory the school’s technology, update student records, and more generally “take stock” of the school’s existing assets, school leaders can take a well-deserved break for the summer, knowing their school is set up for success in the fall. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help your school execute an effective school close-out and launch.

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