The following article by TCP's CEO Eric Thurston was originally published by Campus Security & Life Safety. In it, he shares how school had to make sweeping changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the country in early 2020, schools nationwide promptly closed their doors and put in place remote learning. Throughout the summer, school administrators worked diligently to create safe learning environments, whether they were in-person, hybrid or completely remote learning models.
For school administrators who chose to proceed with in-person or hybrid models, the start of the 2020-2021 school year has been plagued by technological difficulties and COVID-19 scares. In addition to the challenge of getting students to adhere to the new health and safety guidelines, teachers and staff are calling out sick in high numbers. For example, an Arizona school district canceled its plans to open for in-person learning after teachers called in, and some classes in Texas have been canceled for the same reason.
With more teachers calling in, school administrators need to work quickly to find substitute replacements to make sure classes are staffed appropriately. In addition to managing teacher and substitute schedules, administrators are also tasked with scheduling bus drivers for certain routes and ensuring coverage on maintenance staff shifts. These responsibilities can be difficult to manage in a best-case scenario, but potential quarantine situations have made the problem more complex and present a security problem for school administrators.
With workforce management software, school administrators can leverage automated tools to make fast, informed decisions that ensure classrooms, bus routes and maintenance shifts are staffed properly and safely. By taking stock of their current systems, they will have a better understanding of where improvements can be made so operations can run smoothly and efficiently, while also creating safer faculty and student environments with information in a single, centralized location.
Evaluating Current Systems
To understand where improvements can be made and operations can be streamlined, school administrators must first understand the current systems they have in place. For example, if they are still using pen and paper or spreadsheet systems to manage maintenance shifts, it is likely that those employees may not be notified in time of any schedule changes or new policies, since any changes would have to be made manually and then re-posted. Manual processes also limit access to any changes, so the information becomes bottlenecked, impeding the working process. It also becomes more complicated for maintenance employees to adhere to new cleaning protocols, greatly increasing sanitation risks.
Likewise, when teachers call in sick in large numbers, school administrators need to ensure enough substitute teachers are on call to cover the appropriate number of classes. However, if there isn’t a system that has all the available and pre-vetted substitute teachers in one place, it greatly slows down the time it takes for administrators to track down the right number of substitutes, cutting into time that could be better suited to serving students and their families.
By understanding which systems are currently in place throughout the district and where the inefficiencies lie, administrators can create a plan to either update their systems so they are safe for a COVID-19 world or explore solutions that can streamline inefficiencies and provide an automated, holistic view of different schedules and availability to cover shifts.
The State of Workforce Management Solutions in Schools Today
When looking at a workforce management solution, school administrators should select options that enhance safety and security in a COVID-19 world, while also ensuring that both teachers and other staff members can access the solution with ease.
Many schools currently rely on legacy processes for time and attendance, absence racking and substitute management, such as paper-based timecards or the honor system. These manual processes lead to inaccuracies and a lack of transparency which, in turn, creates inefficient operations and takes time away from school administrators being able to properly serve staff members, students and their families. And since these manual processes can cause bottlenecks and siloed information, schools face a security risk trying to combat COVID-19.
With scheduling becoming a more prominent, complex issue due to the pandemic, a workforce management system that provides school administrators a holistic view of schedules between teachers, substitutes, school bus drivers and maintenance employees, allows them to more easily see which substitutes are available to cover a class and if a different bus driver or maintenance employee can fill in shifts. With an intuitive scheduling tool, administrators can quickly fill shifts while complying with contact tracing guidelines since they can easily understand who was in the building at any given time.
Selecting a Workforce Management System
To further enhance security protocols, school administrators should leverage systems that meet new contact tracing and health questionnaire standards for any staff member who enters the building. Administrators should look for systems that can take every employee’s temperature in a touch-less manner and ask health-related questions, to garner a clear idea of which employees are healthy enough to continue checking into work. Since these tools can take employees’ temperatures, they can also help with contact tracing efforts. For example, if an employee checks into work with an abnormal temperature, school administrators are alerted to other colleagues that employee may have come in contact with, allowing for swift action to prevent potential outbreaks.
Schools are facing insurmountable pressure this year to ensure students stay on track. By leveraging workforce management solutions that enhance school safety, streamline inefficiencies and allow administrators to manage teacher and faculty absences more smoothly, they can work to provide a safe and nurturing learning environment for every student.