Students and faculty across the country’s 132,000 public and private K-12 schools and 7,000 institutions of higher education have struggled over the past year and a half to stay engaged in a digital-first curriculum. However, as the current school year comes to a close, a return to normalcy in the new school year seems possible. This is an exciting prospect for many, but resuming full-time in-person instruction will not come without challenges
ESSER and HEERF Funding
To assist in addressing these challenges, the U.S. Congress established the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Funds and Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) to provide financial support to K-12 and higher education schools as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).
Available until September 2024, the $189 billion in ESSER funding and $77 billion in HEERF funding will facilitate the safe and healthy return to in-person instruction schools and universities. An additional $100 billion in funding to support building new schools and making infrastructure improvements to existing ones is expected to be voted on by Congress this summer.
As students across the country sign off for summer break, the work is only beginning for academic leaders who must confront these challenges and make critical decisions about the 2021/2022 school year. Top of mind for many is how to optimize ESSER and HEERF funding to deploy solutions that will enable a safe return to full-time in-person learning in the fall.
To guide the strategic process, here are three key areas academic decision-makers should consider when determining an approach for in-person instruction.
1. Reduce touchpoints
Limiting touchpoints across campus is critical to creating a healthy environment where students and teachers can resume everyday activities. Replacing traditional common touchpoints – such as classroom doors – with touchless solutions (arm and foot pulls or electrified door operators) can significantly reduce the risk of virus and germ transmission.
2. Expand access control to every opening
Extending access control to doors, windows, and other openings across campus can help manage traffic flow, limiting the number of people in an area at a given time and allowing educators to quickly and easily adapt to the functionality of a space. Wireless locks offer an easy, affordable way to extend access control to more doors and more applications, giving you greater control throughout a school or campus.
3. Consider aesthetics
While reducing the spread of germs has been a top priority during the pandemic, schools still have many other aspects of student/teacher safety and well-being to consider. And today, there are more solutions available than ever to meet the breadth of needs a school environment demands without disrupting the learning environment. For example, many exterior and classroom door options offer increased sustainability performance or improved visibility and attack resistance without disrupting the aesthetic flow of the learning environment.
Finding a Solution
While there are many considerations and decisions to be made ahead of the new school year, the good news is that there are a variety of access control solutions on the market to meet every schools’ specific needs and ensure a safe return to full-time in-person learning. We discuss these solutions, as well as ESSER and HEERF funding and how to successfully approach resuming in-person learning, in the recent webinar, Navigating Emergency Relief Funding for K-12 and Higher Ed.