By Keith Cincotta, ISS Director of School Services/Senior Leadership Executive, Managed Schools
In this 2020-21 school year, we've seen schools open in an environment of uncertainty and in every possible permutation between completely online and fully face-to-face.
Schools anticipate likely needing to shift from one modality to another during the school year, and their needs — from curriculum to supply — reflect this flexibility. From the vantage point of the ISS School Supply Team, we’ve observed several shifts in the trends of technology and safety supply.
Changes introduced by virtual learning
Schools adapted remarkably quickly last March when they were forced to pivot to online learning. We were able to help many schools around the world acquire the tools they needed to deliver instruction and keep their communities connected. We saw a surge in technology orders as many schools sough to get a device in the hands of every student in order to enable virtual learning. In the short term, we’re seeing less demand for physical items and more for online subscriptions and services.
Changes introduced by hybrid learning
As hybrid learning has become the norm around the world, we’re hearing a lot from schools as they try to provide the best for their students whether they are physically in the classroom or present virtually. Materials and products that help schools enact the universal safety and prevention measures are, of course, in high demand.
Personal protective equipment including masks, gloves and face shields have become essential as well as plexiglass barriers, thermal scanners to take temperatures and cleaning supplies. Schools everywhere are also buying custom signage to provide direction and reinforcement in terms of new protocols and social distancing. Technology has made ordering signage with your school’s logo and specific messaging relatively easy and inexpensive. I would not be surprised to see schools use much more temporary, customized signage even after this crisis has passed.
New technology in schools
The first wave of technology demand was for personal devices as schools transitioned to online learning last Spring. Many schools purchased Chromebooks, laptops and tablets for their students. As time has passed we’ve seen an up-tick in networking resources and subscriptions to various online learning platforms.
Teachers needed substitutes for their physical materials and all of these new devices needed to be managed and supported.
As school year routines have been established, we’ve begun to see more schools investing in communication and security planning technology. The reality of having to shift back and forth between teaching and learning modalities quickly and frequently has underscored the need to have unimpeachable planning, protocols and communication pathways established.
Safety equipment and PPE
The pandemic has created what seems to be some permanent new categories of supplies every school will require. Thermal scanners, thermometers, masks, face shields, plexiglass partitions, hand sanitizer and washing stations, signage and cleaning materials are all being universally used at schools today. When this crisis passes, I think we’ll all have learned a lesson about preparedness and emergency planning and continue to keep schools stocked with these materials.
Adapting to new supply needs
Early in the pandemic PPE was in very short supply as people everywhere bought what they could. Over the course of a few months we saw many new vendors emerge offering PPE but most of them did not prove to be reliable partners. We were able to help many of our schools through our trusted, long time vendors.
Our relationships with these vendors meant that we were getting real time, straight forward information about availability and timelines. In several cases vendors reached out to us when they were able to get an unexpected shipment of PPE and offered us the chance to buy it for our schools. The supply chain seems to have adjusted and the availability of PPE and other necessary supplies is solid right now. However, I’d encourage school leaders to keep a regular supply of PPE and cleaning materials on hand in the future so that if and when another pandemic hits they are prepared for the short term.
A look to the horizon
John Burn, ISS Chief Innovation Officer, launched a series of innovation challenges focused on what the future holds for international schools and identifying practices adopted by schools because of the pandemic that should be retained post-pandemic. Ideas including online family meetings and conferences, virtual faculty orientation and onboarding and virtual field trips all scored high marks with educators around the world. I think one of the silver linings of the pandemic for schools will be the willingness to rethink some of our long-held assumptions, by using technology more fully and strategically.
About Keith Cincotta
ISS Director of School Services/Senior Leadership Executive, Managed Schools
Keith serves the purchasing, consolidation and shipping needs of over 100 international schools. Keith is the Senior Leadership Executive for an ISS-managed school in Africa, serves as an ISS student services and school counseling consultant and has also authored feasibility studies for school start-up projects in Cape Verde and Ghana. Before working with ISS, Keith was a High School Principal and Secondary School Counselor/College Advisor for 15 years in Pennsylvania, Pakistan and Dubai. Keith graduated from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and has advanced degrees in Counseling and Educational Leadership from Lehigh University.
About International Schools Services (ISS)
ISS a leading nonprofit with more than 60 years of experience in international education. Whether it’s developing and managing world-class international schools, staffing schools, ordering equipment and supplies, performing accounting functions, or supporting best-in-class teaching and learning approaches, ISS provides the full range of services necessary for your school to thrive and deliver an outstanding global education to your students.