Back to School: Districts Urgently Need IT Infrastructure Upgrades

K-12 IT infrastructure

Just about every student in kindergarten through high school has a wireless device they use for learning. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, school districts across the country rushed to issue a laptop or tablet to all pupils so they could continue their education from home.

Many of these students will be returning to their classrooms full-time in the next school year, starting in August or September. The expectation is that students now will be using their tablets or laptops throughout the day, not just for a few hours as they did before the pandemic. This raises the question of whether their schools have the wireless and network infrastructure to support all new student devices.

In many schools, especially older buildings, the infrastructure simply isn’t set up to handle the increase in device use. While a school may previously have handled, say, 200 or 300 devices throughout the day, in some cases the number of devices may increase as much as tenfold.

To prepare for the influx, school districts will be turning to IT solution providers to help them upgrade their networks and wireless capabilities to handle the extra strain on bandwidth. Large districts may have their own IT departments to manage the necessary upgrades but many small districts, especially in rural areas, do not. Those districts need help with planning and executing infrastructure upgrades with added bandwidth capacity as well as new routers, hubs, storage, servers, and UPSs.

Leverage stimulus funds for IT infrastructure

Funding for infrastructure upgrades, or any other need, is never easy for school districts, which tend to operate on shoestring budgets. However, many districts still have money left over from The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, a $1.9 billion stimulus bill approved by Congress in March. It was a follow-up to The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of March 2020, which allocated $2.2 trillion in aid to the American people, businesses, and schools affected by the pandemic.

The American Rescue Act included $167 billion for K-12 and higher education to fund distance learning and networking by providing devices to students and modernizing classrooms. The money is on top of the $7.5 billion E-Rate Connectivity Fund that the government disburses to school districts around the country from taxes collected on cell phone use.

Another potential source of money for infrastructure upgrades is an allocation of relief funds by the Rescue Act to state, local governments, and tribal governments. The act appropriated $195 billion to states, $130 billion to local governments and $25 billion to territories/tribal governments. Some of that could filter into school districts.

Prepare schools for the next school year

Since schools for the most part have equipped students with devices for remote learning, they can now use whatever funds are available for much-needed infrastructure upgrades. Solution providers that work in the K-12 space should be in contact with their existing clients to inquire if they have upgrade plans and, if not, talk about the very real likelihood that they need one. By helping school districts meet this challenge, providers can strengthen their IT trusted advisor role with education clients.

This is also a good time to make contact with potential new clients. And for providers that haven’t done business in education, there may be an opportunity to expand into this space. Vendors such as Schneider Electric can help partners build solutions that meet school district needs and guide partners through the regulatory requirements around funding. Together, vendors, partners, and school districts can provide the services and technology that K-12 schools need to thrive in a post-pandemic world. Ready to help your K-12 customer? Access IT solutions for education and also enter your customer in the APC K-12 Makeover Contest by October 31, 2021. They could have the chance to win $25,000 worth of IT equipment upgrades.

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