5 Important Topics School Administrators Should Focus On This Year
Learn the top five essential issues School Administrators need to consider before entering the new 2022/23 school year.
A new school year is beginning. Two academic years after the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve learned to live with the virus. Yet, our school environment is still filled with uncertainty, fear, and challenges.
The pandemic affected students in a number of ways, and many of these impacts have yet to fully reveal themselves. The severe impact of everything we’ve collectively been through will affect students for years, especially those who were already vulnerable before the pandemic (including students with disabilities, students with poor families, and students of color.)
The key is to be aware of how the pandemic has changed our schools, and commit to taking action to address these concerns. By working together and focusing on the right priorities, we can build a learning environment that counteracts the negative impact of the pandemic and nurtures the next generation in the best possible way.
In this article, we’ll touch on five essential issues that need to be considered as we begin the 2022/23 school year.
1 - Students Need Support More Than Ever
It comes as no surprise that the pandemic has had a devastating impact on learning. Not only have school shutdowns, absenteeism, staff shortages, and quarantines caused huge interruptions, but students are also struggling with higher levels of mental health challenges, emotional distress, violence in schools and more.
UNICEF has stressed how essential it is to pay attention to these issues, in order to avert the consequences of a “lost COVID generation.” So, what can schools do? The most important lesson is to not assume that our children are “too young to be affected by the pandemic.” They may be resilient but they are, indeed, deeply affected.
They will need extra tutoring help to make up for the academic disruption. But it’s not only their academic performance that needs to be considered. They’ll also require more emotional guidance as well. Students will need counseling services, therapeutic support, social work and an enormous amount of patience and compassion.
2 - And Adults Are Struggling Too
It’s not just this generation of students who will need a extra mental health support. The challenges of the last couple of years have left many teachers feeling burnt-out and exhausted as well.
Teachers were already overworked before the pandemic, but their jobs became infinitely tougher when they had to adjust on the fly to remote learning, staff shortages and widespread absences. This prolonged work-related stress has taken its toll on the health and emotional balance of many teachers and the results have been well-documented in various studies.
Teachers need a little extra TLC as well, in the form of mental health days, health benefits and sessions with wellness counselors. It’s more important than ever to support teachers and give them the help they need to perform their jobs well while taking care of their wellbeing.
3 - Pay Attention To Dropping Enrollment
The pandemic has caused a one of the most significant drops in school enrollment in years. According to a recently published national survey, public schools in American have lost at least 1.2 million students since 2020.
Many parents have become so fed up with remote learning that they have decided to either home-school their children or send them to private schools. In other families, students had to drop out of school due to pandemic-related job loss, homelessness or school closures (which will contribute to the growing inequality in education).
In the coming years, schools may face smaller budgets due to the smaller student populations, since enrollment is directly tied to per-student aid from both state and federal governments.
4 - Find Long-Term Solutions To Air Quality Concerns
While improving air quality within schools was already a priority, the COVID-19 pandemic has made this even more a concern than ever before.
When the initial wave of the pandemic hit, a lot of schools put short-term plans into action to deal with the most urgent needs of the moment. While these “knee-jerk” responses may have been necessary at the time, it’s important to also think about long-term plans for improving air quality.
Better air quality in schools doesn’t just help to reduce the spread of airborne viruses, it also improves cognitive functioning, reduces absenteeism and enhances productivity. Investing in a long-term strategy to improve the air quality of learning environments is an investment that will benefit both students and teachers for years.
The good news is that there is government funding available to achieve these goals. The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund was established in response to the need to upgrade school infrastructure to improve air quality after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Schools across the country have access to billions of dollars in aid via these funds, so there’s never been a better chance to make these upgrades. Yet, at the moment only 4% of schools have put a plan in place for the future to improve their air quality. ESSER funds are “use it or lose it”, which means the funds are reallocated if they are not spent. So, don’t lose the opportunity to take advantage of this funding!
5 - Look For Opportunities To Bring Joy Back To Classrooms
It has been a difficult couple of years, and students, teachers and parents have experienced more than their fair share of overwhelm, panic and stress. When we’ve been reacting in crisis mode for a while, it’s easy to forget that schools should be a place where students laugh and have fun.
Think back to some of your favorite memories of your own school days. Although exams and lessons were necessary, it’s the games, dances and creative playtime that you probably look back on fondly.
Creating a space for children to play, explore, imagine and be silly is actually essential to their development. It teaches lateral thinking, benefits the group dynamic, improves emotional resilience, relieves stress and more.
So, don’t hesitate to add plenty of goofy games, imaginative play and laughter into your curriculum. It will not only create a more harmonious classroom environment, but it just might help your students heal, too.
Building Better Schools For Tomorrow
Young people are our future, and they are our hope for a better tomorrow. By paying attention to what’s important and investing in improving the learning environment, we can set them up to become healthier, happier and smarter adults.
Let’s work together to create school environments that will give our students everything they need to succeed and thrive!