Back to School: Districts Urgently Need IT Infrastructure Upgrades

K-12 IT infrastructure

While K-12 school districts had been working on digitization strategies for years, it took a pandemic to accelerate the implementation of digital learning. When the COVID-19 virus started forcing school closures in spring 2020, many districts were unprepared for a shift to digital, so there was a rush to equip students with devices for distance learning.

Since then, in-school learning has resumed in most places, but not necessarily in the same way as in pre-pandemic days. Educators have integrated a plethora of digital tools into classroom instruction. The tools include online polling or quizzes, on-demand instructional videos, and one-on-one video meetings, according to survey by Bay View Analytics.

For these technologies to perform at their best, classrooms need a wireless and network infrastructure that can support the devices used by students – tablets and laptops – to access them. Many schools, especially older buildings, lack the updated infrastructure to support the increase in device use. A school that previously may have handled 200 or 300 devices may now have to support 10 times as many throughout the day.

As districts wrap up the current year and start looking ahead to the fall semester, they will need help to make the necessary infrastructure improvements. For IT solution providers, this creates opportunities to deliver services around upgrading school building networks and wireless capabilities to add bandwidth and speed.

Some large districts have their own IT departments to manage these 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.

Identify IT infrastructure funding sources

School districts tend to operate on shoestring budgets, so funding infrastructure upgrades can be a challenge. The good news is districts can use money from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, a $1.9 billion stimulus bill passed in 2021, to fund the work. The American Rescue Act included $167 billion for K-12 districts and higher education institutions to provide devices to students and modernize classrooms.

Schools also can take advantage of the E-Rate Connectivity Fund, which the federal government disburses to school districts around the country each year from taxes collected on cell phone use. The E-Rate funding cap for 2022 is about $4.5 billion, an increase of 4.2% from the previous year.

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

By now most schools have equipped students with devices for remote learning. That means districts can now can focus on funding much-needed infrastructure upgrades. Solution providers working in the K-12 space should be in touch with clients to inquire if they have upgrade plans. For those that do not, find out why and discuss whether they should have them. Bringing this up with school districts allows providers to strengthen their IT trusted advisor role with education clients.

This is also a good time to contact potential new clients. Providers that haven’t done business in education may be able to identify opportunities in this space. Vendors such as Schneider Electric can assist partners in building solutions for 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, 2022. They could have the chance to win $25,000 worth of IT equipment upgrades.

Previously published August 3, 2021