As summer strolls in, and the campus gets waxed, painted, and washed, this is the leadership team’s time to buckle down and work on budget and how to spend. With the support of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Funds, your school may have more to spend this year. Here are some ways to ensure that the extra spending is impactful, meaningful, purposeful, and will be relevant in the long run.

10. Get Crafty

Budgets are a wonderous thing. Just as we can move tests to our paper budget (because tests are printed on paper), we can find the gray areas. The CARES and ESSER funding can work like this, too! CARES specifically states funds can be used “responding to COVID-19″. This most certainly can cover Social-Emotional Learning and curriculum/products that aid in collaboration and group activities.

9. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

Companies and corporations love donating. This is excellent PR, and it bodes well for your school. If you have a relationship with a company, don’t be afraid to ask! We worked with a school who wasn’t afraid to ask another company they partnered with. They received $65,000 worth of STEAM furniture for their amazing STEAM lab. It never hurts to ask, what’s the worst they could say, no? The best they can do is say YES!

8. Ask your “Whats” to Find Your “Whys”

What is the function of this? What purpose will this serve? What is the long-term impact of this purchase? What can this do to achieve future pedagogical outcomes? When asking the right questions, you’ll discover why (or if) this is a pertinent/ essential purchase. If the purchase does not ultimately support your school’s vision and mission statements and long-term goals, it can wait. Now is the time to make meaningful and impactful change in your school.

7. Put Your Critical Eye to Work

Another year worth of teacher observations is in the books. While the halls aren’t crowded and the rooms are still and not buzzing with engagement, take a critical observation of the classrooms. What do the small group carpets look like? How does the educator make use of the space? What’s the lighting like in the classroom? How does the paint look? Even small changes like door stoppers can play a huge part in the overall comfort of a space.

6. Examine When to Splurge and When to Cut

How do the educators on your campus utilize their devices? Do they have interactive boards? Do they use them? What training would be required if you purchased X? Is there a fee associated with the professional development needed? Thinking about the answers to these questions might help to determine where to spend. Perhaps your staff love working on SMART boards and utilize them to the fullest. Maybe it’s time to get the add ons. Maybe it’s the opposite and teachers use them as a board only to project and write on. Perhaps splurging on new screens isn’t the best way to spend. Look to see what the underlying costs are, too. Look to get the most out of your purchase (I.e. included PD, free installation/assembly, free consultation, etc.).

5. Spending Large Once Might Save you Money in the Long Run

When I was teaching, I went to the dollar store and purchased 25 of the dry-erase boards twice/thrice a year. It cost me over $100 a year. Then, one year, I went to Home Depot, bought a huge sheet of dry-erase board, and had them cut it down into 25 pieces. It still cost me $100, but I didn’t have to keep getting them multiple times a year after that. Sometimes, a larger cost upfront saves us money long-term. There’s a reason why certain brands are more expensive than the knock offs- they last.

Talk with our Education Space Experts to see where we can make an impact in your classroom today.

4. While you Can’t do Everything, you Can do Something

Think about your rockstar educators on campus. Think about beautification of a space that is well used on campus. While we don’t have the option to demolish a school and rebuild, we can do something. Sometimes, just adding a booth or a standing-height collaboration table to each classroom is enough to get everyone excited. Maybe your library/media center is the space where all teachers bring their class at least once a month. Sprucing up this space might be a great place to start. The librarian/media specialist can monitor learners throughout the year, determine what things learners were drawn to more than others, and impact future purchases before adding things to every classroom. As Harold Wilson once said, “The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery”. Bring life back into classrooms and change something.

3. Look at Eliminating Waste to Create Space

Especially in light of COVID and physical distance requirements, things had to be rearranged in the room. In a breakout session at one of the Model Schools Conferences, the speaker talked about getting 150+ square feet back in the classroom without remodeling or spending money.

How could we do this? Eliminate the teacher desk. There are teacher solutions, like the NorvaNivel Scaddie, that allow teachers their space without taking up an entire space. It’s the first step towards a true 360-degree learning environment and clearing out space in the environment. In a digital world, there is far less reason for 2 filing cabinets, a desk with 1-2 bottom drawer filing cabinets, and a second desk for paper. Start looking to see what can be tossed to make room for new!

2. Think Quickly; Spend Slowly

A lot of times, there are back-to-school, or end of year clearance sales. The benefit of budgets being extended this year is that there’s a slower race to spend. This is the year where The Tortoise and the Hare story is extremely applicable- “slow and steady wins the race…”. Create an action plan, get multiple quotes, do your research, and weigh the pros and cons. Purchasing this year should be like crafting an essay: write, re-write, edit, and write your final published piece.

1. Bring in Your Resources

We all have the educators on campus who spend the summer planning, creating, and re-writing curriculum to make sure it’s perfect for the start of the next school year. Call on these teachers to see if they wouldn’t mind researching innovative school ideas such as leading a summer book study for Professional Development or if they’d like to be involved in the change. In the article, “Stakeholder Buy-In: The secret to project success”, Andrea May states that, “Stakeholder buy-in is the glue that binds all elements of a project together and ensures that the change will actually happen.” When you’re thinking about how your budget can be spent, and spent successfully, call on your most important stakeholders- your educators. Send out a survey, poll your learners/parents, the more buy-in you have, the more success your spending will have.

Get your copy of 10 Ways to Stretch your Budget to Create Meaningful Change.