The COVID-19 pandemic is presenting a new challenge to the Blue Valley School District beyond stemming transmission of the virus: supply shortages.
Supply chain disruptions triggered by the pandemic have led to shortages in the food service, facilities and operations and technology departments within the district.
Supplies are hard to come by
Though a lack of the products and ingredients that had been common in district kitchens until this year has posed a challenge, Blue Valley Director of Food and Nutrition Charles Rathburn said it could be worse.
“We have been fortunate in Blue Valley that we work closely with our vendor partners that we get our food and supplies,” Rathburn said.
Due this close relationship, Rathburn said the district has often times been able to secure substitute items as needed whenever a shortage occurs.
In addition to food service, Director of Facilities and Operations Jake Slobodnik said the maintenance side sees a lot of the burden caused by the supply shortage as they oversee and maintain 650 mechanical units district wide.
“It’s not uncommon for something to break down, and we certainly don’t have the facilities to stock every part that might we might need,” Slobodnik said.
Something as simple as a compressor or a belt, Slobodnik said, can take anywhere from four to 12 weeks to get in.
The shortage has also taken a toll within the technology department, particularly with the schools blended learning program that provides each student with a tablet or computer for educational purposes.
“We used to be able to…purchase student devices in April and receive those sometime in June,” Brian Daley, Chief Information Officer, said. “Now we’re having a purchase the November before and hopefully received them by the following August right before school starts.”
Prepare, and then prepare some more
In order to combat the problems created by the supply shortages, all three departments say their best defense is to be extra prepared and order early.
“Historically I have never had to do this, but I went through every single item in June that we use in all of our schools, and forecasted it out for the entire year,” Rathburn said.
Both Slobodnik and Daley have used similar plans of action, ordering supplies months or even a year early in order to get them in time.
“We almost have to have a crystal ball, whether we can read it well or not,” Daley said.