Enhancing School Security
Making sweeping changes to battle COVID-19 on campus
- By Eric Thurston
- February 01, 2021
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
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.
This article originally appeared in the January February 2021 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.