COVID relief funding for schools: Will it help the staffing shortage?


Highlights

  • Schools are under significant pressure to attract and retain staff during the Great Resignation.
  • COVID relief packages can help school systems mitigate staff shortages in multiple ways.
  • A robust, cloud-based communications solution helps school employees become more efficient in supporting students.

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Is your staffing feeling a bit thin lately? The COVID-19 pandemic has brought both short- and longer-term staffing shortages to workplaces, including schools. How can your school apply COVID relief funds to address staffing issues and ensure a safe and vibrant school environment for teachers and students alike?

Education disrupted

COVID-19 has greatly impacted education. Children have experienced rapid shifts to online learning, and for families without the technologies or home support to ensure that they could participate, this was particularly challenging. Children have also experienced both physical and mental health impacts due to the pandemic, and these impact their education as well. They have lost contact with friends and teachers and have missed out on routine vaccinations and hot lunch programs.

For many children, school is one of the safest and happiest places for them to be, and keeping school consistent is essential for their health and wellbeing today and for their future learning. Using COVID-19 relief funds to boost school staffing will help your students’ physical and mental health and improve their learning by maintaining a more consistent learning environment.

How to best use COVID relief funds

Thankfully, the COVID relief funds that are available have prioritized children’s physical and mental health. According to Future Ed, “all three of the relief packages approved since March 2020 specifically mention safe and healthy school environments, student mental health, and reengaging students and families as top priorities.” There are many different opportunities for schools to use COVID relief funds to improve staffing and therefore improve students’ learning environments.

Bring on temporary staff

COVID-19 funds are temporary, and schools have learned that relying on temporary funds to fill gaps can be problematic. However, with continued staff absences due to COVID and ongoing staff absences due to resignations, returning students need teachers now.

In a letter to state education agencies and school districts, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona stated that “while some districts have expressed concern about investing in increasing compensation with short-term recovery funds, our nation’s children need support now.”

Investing in staff recruitment and increasing pay and bonuses can make a difference in staff recruitment and retention. In Detroit, an increase in teacher pay, including hazard and bonus pay, resulted in a large influx of applicants to the school system.

Schools can also invest in additional substitute teaching staff to reduce school closures and shifts to online learning due to critical staff shortages. In addition to hiring more substitute teachers, schools can also use funds to have a dedicated substitute teacher on staff. In addition to filling staffing gaps, having a dedicated substitute teacher can reduce the stress that teachers feel to use their prep time to cover colleagues’ classes. In turn, this can increase staff retention.

Invest in a communications platform for remote learning

Schools can also invest in educational infrastructure such as communications platforms. This infrastructure allows teachers to set up virtual classrooms with communication tools that allow teachers to contact parents and students on an ongoing basis, no matter whether the class is in person or working remotely.

If remote learning does occur, a virtual classroom allows teachers to upload lessons and retain class communication. Finally, virtual classrooms can be helpful for students who may need to stay home for a time, keeping them connected to the class. Investing in a cloud-based communications platform such as RingCentral will give your teachers peace of mind, knowing that it is simple to set up and they don’t have to do much to switch to remote learning.

Fund the school support system

Schools run with a large team of people working behind the scenes. These include bus drivers, custodians, and special education assistants. All of these people make students’ and teachers’ lives much easier, and without them, schools cannot run effectively. Unfortunately, these staff members have also been leaving during The Great Resignation. While additional pay may not help you bring back or retain all of your staff, it can make a difference in staff retention. Using COVID relief funds to recruit new support staff and increase the pay of existing staff will help the entire school run more smoothly.

A parent holds their child's hand in support of their mental health while meeting a new student

Invest in mental health

One place where schools can use the extra funding is on mental health support for students. This could take the form of counselors in schools, but it could also be telehealth, increasing your ability to hire those who want to support students remotely. Telehealth can also help rural students access mental health support.

Mental health support for students is key as many of them transition back into in-person learning environments. Some may have experienced the trauma of losing a loved one, or their parents may have experienced financial insecurity during the pandemic. Others will be very nervous to start attending school again.

While teachers are familiar with working with students who are having day-to-day struggles, they may not have the experience or capacity to work with a group of students that have additional mental health needs brought on by the pandemic. By providing mental health support staff, you provide your existing teachers with an additional network of people who are helping them help their students.

Create community schools

A community school is one that is linked to multiple community organizations and resources, providing children and families with more of a one-stop location for education and community care. COVID relief funds could also be used to start or strengthen community schools connections by hiring a school coordinator. When families and students have access to reliable childcare, parenting classes, healthcare, and other community support, it becomes easier for teachers to teach. A family that is well-resourced leads to students who are healthy, in class, and ready to learn.

Student learning remotely

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Communications platforms facilitate education

COVID-19 has posed an immense challenge for educators and students, particularly when it comes to maintaining the consistency of student learning. At RingCentral, learning is always in session. Help your school thrive by implementing communications platforms that facilitate education and communication. See how it works with a demo today.

Originally published Mar 08, 2022


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