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The significant changes schools need to prepare for in upcoming academic year

In this article:
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PowerSchool is an online leading provider of K-12 education. PowerSchool CEO Hardeep Gulati joins Yahoo Finance’s On The Move panel to break down how kids have adapted to learning online amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: You're watching "On The Move" on Yahoo Finance. I'm Julie Hyman.

Well, there are millions of students around the country and around the globe who are not physically in school right now. They're doing distance learning, as we have come to call it. 10 million of those students are doing it through a technology platform that's called PowerSchool, and the CEO of that company is joining us now. Hardeep Gulati joining us from California. Hardeep, so you've got 10 million people-- 10 million students doing their daily distance learning on your platform. 56% of those schools, though, say they're not fully prepared to operate partially or fully remote into the next school year. How are you helping them get ready? because as we've seen, it's a big challenge.

HARDEEP GULATI: Absolutely. Thank you, Julie, for having me on the show.

You're absolutely right. As school districts have to overnight shift into be able to do distance learning over the last 10 weeks, we saw, you know, some bright spots. Almost 1 trillion learning engagements were happening on our platform. But there was also a lot of gaps, areas where inequities like rural and certain metropolitans where access was an issue, where the right engagement was an issue. So there were significant gaps.

As we are going into the next school year, as you can imagine, there is going to be a significant amount of changes that school districts are factoring in-- how the schedules would look like, how much in-classroom learning needs to happen, how much it needs to happen digitally, even blended remotely. And a lot of districts are still coming up with those plans.

What our platform does, it kind of provides a learning hub to make sure that the entire engagement, when this child isn't sitting at home or whether they're sitting in school, there's a continuity. There's a structure to their learning.

Take example like LA Unified, which is one of our big districts we support, 500,000 students overnight as they had to move to distance learning. LA Unified was great to even roll out 100,000 new laptops. They were able to get those laptops, log in to Schoology, get to be able to start and start doing that learning engagement.

So there are definitely some bright spots. We saw 95% engagement from a lot of districts who were well prepared, but there were also a lot of work which rural and certain metropolitan districts still need to do to make sure that learning can continue into the fall into the next year.

DAN HOWLEY: Hardeep, I want to ask how you can keep kids kind of engaged with distance learning. We spoke to a teacher-- I believe it was really this week or last week who said that, you know, it's just not the same as in-person teaching and it's hard to keep the kids focused.

HARDEEP GULATI: You're absolute right, Daniel. There is no replacement for in-classroom learning. And our teachers who have been on the front of this thing had to literally overnight come up with a lot of ways to keep the engagement going, and there is definitely a big learning gap which has happened because of the last 10 weeks of disruption. And if we're going to continue to see some level of remote learning and remote operations, that gap is going to only widen into the fall.

There is a lot of ways where blended learning where you are doing both online as well as some level of in-person-- because that's something which, given the crisis, there is no choice-- can still actually provide the benefit because it does have the benefit for you to actual to able to personalize the learning-- being able to know where the child is, something in a classroom when you're teaching 20 or 30 kids, you may not be able to pay that one-on-one attention of the child to be able to learn on their own time in their own way. So the technology can actually complement that teacher, empower the teacher so now they can even actually address the specific needs of the child.

So while the online learning doesn't replace physical learning, but it actually really significantly complements and actually is an investment which is going to benefit over the long run because ultimately having the technology in the classroom is only going to help further empower the teachers so their job is easy. And then also it really gives the long term that we are able to personalize education for every child.

ADAM SHAPIRO: But is it the kind of technology-- because we know that the budgets are going to be strapped for several years going forward-- that is transferable year after year after year, or is it an investment that has to be upgraded every year?

HARDEEP GULATI: It is something which is transferred year over year. I think as you, you know, pointed out, there are definitely a lot of budget pressures. School districts are feeling tremendous amount of pressures to be able to do more with less.

There was-- already to begin with, there's a huge amount of teacher shortage. So districts have always been struggled. How do they make sure that they can keep the learning going the most effect way and for every child, whether it's a special-needs child, whether it's a child coming from different socioeconomic factors.

And when you factor in the technology adoption in K through 12, districts have been a little bit of a laggard. Take example of-- you know, I was watching the segment earlier about how technology companies-- a lot of companies have been able to work remotely within overnight. We as a company, we have 2,400 employees globally. Overnight, we shifted to remote operations and didn't miss a beat thanks to all the technology adoption we did.

When it came to school districts, there are still a tremendous amount of digital gaps in the school districts, not just in the classroom and the learning but even when you think about enrollment of child. There's still a lot of school districts which require you to go stand in the line or fill paper forms when you're enrolling a child. That's not that easy now during the summer. Or if you're trying to onboard a teacher, recruit a teacher, not able to do a virtual interview. Or making sure the teacher is getting paid properly and not having to go collect physical checks.

So having the digital transformation, this actually crisis have put a more bright-shining light to it that the digital transformation for school districts will help them to be more effective, more efficient. And this investment would actually give them the strategic advantage to really address the learning crisis which actually is faced by all of our school districts.

JULIE HYMAN: Yes. I welcome all of those changes as a parent of kids in elementary school.

Hardeep Gulati is PowerSchool CEO. Thank you for joining us, sir.

We'll be right back.