Nov 30 2021

Considerations for K–12 Administrators to Improve Business Continuity Planning

School leaders should work with various departments in their district while taking numerous factors into account for 2022.

Even the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

If the pandemic has made one fact clear, it’s that planning for an uncertain future is difficult to do. Schools have come a long way from the tumultuous days of required remote learning, yet — as districts look ahead — the uncertainty remains. Planning for the coming school year could prove to be just as challenging.

Although the requirement to create learning continuity plans was tied to the implementation of emergency remote learning, business continuity plans are a long-standing approach to maintaining the integrity of a business. Be it fire, cyberattack, the loss of a key employee or the onset of a pandemic, difficult situations are inevitable; a business continuity plan can enable organizations to deal with the fallout. Districts that have a plan in place have already identified ways to minimize risk before a problem occurs and what to do in the worst-case scenario.

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To better coordinate for the coming year — or even the next semester — administrators should work with the IT teams and other departments in their districts. This will help them understand the full scope of the district’s needs and challenges, such as the extent of the burnout causing widespread staffing shortages in K­–12 schools. Here are other key takeaways for the business continuity plan process.

Considerations for School Leaders Creating Business Continuity Plans

Consider what the worst-case scenario might be, and prepare for that. Figure out what would require the most work, the most technology and the most preparation. It is always better to be overprepared than caught off guard.

If district leaders are prepared for business continuity in the event of the worst-case scenario, and they don’t need to enact all of their plans, they will have an a la carte menu of solutions to choose from, and will have the freedom to choose the options that work best for their situation, whatever that looks like next year.

When creating a plan, district leaders should also remember the total cost of ownership for technology solutions. This includes all the components necessary to make the device functional as intended.

The total cost of ownership also encompasses solutions to get new tech up and running, and keep it that way. This means that districts need to consider professional development for users, IT knowledge and resources when it comes to troubleshooting and repairs, and more. Factoring in this total cost will give administrators a clearer idea of their budgets now and in the coming years for accurate business continuity planning.

DISCOVER: Districts use IT investments to boost the bottom line amid tight budgets.

There are also technology lifecycle considerations to remember with new tech purchases. Once it’s been purchased, school IT teams need plans for integration and adoption phases. Beyond that, how will the technology be maintained, repaired, retired and refreshed? These factors can all affect a district’s business continuity, particularly in the event of a disaster, as seen with COVID-19. Subsequently, these factors also affect the post-disaster process. In some cases, they prevent districts from going back to business as usual; instead, rebuilding with something better than before, if possible.

State and Local Requirements Factor into Planning Logistics

In addition to the aforementioned considerations and takeaways, schools also need to look at their state and local requirements for planning.

There may be a specific template districts need to use or specific information they must be sure to include. Administrators should look at whether spending needs to be justified on the front end or the back end.

California, for example, requires districts to create a Local Control and Accountability Plan. This requires schools to set goals, create action plans, provide data, and show how they want to achieve their goals and why. The LCAP also requires districts to hold community listening sessions in which they explain their plan and solicit feedback. This allows stakeholders to have a voice in the plan and the decisions being made.

Once created, the LCAP functions as the district’s funding plan, so it’s important for schools in the state to make their planning decisions carefully. The LCAP, and other states’ requirements, can guide districts to improved business continuity planning.

Stopgap Measures to Improve Business Continuity in the Short Term

Administrators who find they haven’t planned appropriately for the current year should look at what they need most urgently to maintain business continuity in the coming semester. They should determine their priorities for the spring and figure out — of the things they would like to improve — what actions most closely align with those priorities. Those are the improvements they need to make; everything else should be let go.

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It may seem necessary to put resources into creating a short-term fix for numerous concerns, but in the long run it will be more beneficial to focus time and money on only the most crucial changes. In trying to fix everything, districts may wind up fixing nothing. Instead, it’s best to focus on the changes that provide the best ROI for learning and the ROI for time.

If schools focus on high-quality, technology-enhanced instruction, they will improve learning outcomes no matter what model they’re using. Educators should be set up to use technology in a way that is most advantageous for what they’re trying to teach.

Ultimately, everything comes down to, how does this help all students access a high-quality education? How does it relate back to students needing to have access to school? Students — what they are learning and what schools are trying to teach them — should always be at the center of any decision-making processes.

This article is part of the “ConnectIT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology” series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ConnectIT hashtag.

[title]Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology

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