As schools rush to get K-12 students set up for remote learning during COVID-19 – including the over 9 million students who lack home Internet access – and likely beyond, they’ll need to plan effectively to secure low-cost deals on devices and services. Given the high level of demand and the strain on supply chains, devices like hotspots may have limited availability. There are several factors to consider to get students in your school district online as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.
Give a full picture of the challenges your students face to get the solution you need
To best serve your students, your vendors will need to know the connectivity challenges that your students face at home, how much bandwidth you believe that their long-distance learning will require, and how long-term a solution you are seeking.
Negotiate with Internet and Wi-Fi HotSpot providers to Secure Low-Cost Deals
Consider contract length or purchase size to reduce costs
Providers can usually offer lower pricing with long-term contracts or a larger equipment purchase because these contracts guarantee more revenue. Since it’s unclear when students can return to the classroom, consider allowing for a contract past this academic year to secure a more cost-effective solution for the school district.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate contract terms in addition to the price
Contract length, the service level agreement (SLA), installation fees, and termination conditions are all up for negotiation. Information is a powerful tool – get the best possible price by leveraging other proposals you’ve received or that other school districts in your area have received.
Make sure you are comfortable with all of the language in the contract before signing, including the contract length and eligibility requirements for families who may have outstanding bills with the provider. With the school year coming to a close in the upcoming months, reading the fine print and knowing your rights, particularly in case of contingencies (for example, time or budget overruns in light of supply chain or capacity delays).
Receive your order in a time-efficient manner
With supply chain issues occurring around the country, inserting a “Time is of the Essence Clause” (TOE) into a contract(s) with vendors is a smart choice. A TOE Clause is a statement contained in a contract that specifies that a certain time or date is important. To incentivize providers to maintain the original project schedule or delivery, it is in your best interest to include a strong TOE in your contract(s), such as one that states that delays in the project will result in discounts.
How one district creatively solved the supply chain challenge
Minooka CCSD 201 in Illinois was facing a month-long wait time for hotspots from multiple providers. With the district’s distance learning program scheduled to begin the following week, they needed to find a more immediate solution. Director of IT Aaron Souza worked with T-Mobile representatives to identify a quicker and equally effective hotspot solution for his students – cell phones that were re-purposed to solely serve as a hotspot to connect to their Chromebooks. They were able to get the delivery time down to one week, and have received glowing feedback from students and families who are now able to participate in the district’s long-distance learning program.
During this challenging time, many companies genuinely want to help support schools and students to close the digital divide. Your vendors are partners in problem-solving and will work with you to create a cost-effective solution. Be upfront about your challenges so that they can help you solve them and get your students connected.