BlueDollarWhen determining what audio visual (AV) equipment should be purchased for schools, instructional focus is obviously the first criteria that should be considered. However, a number of additional factors should be considered as well to ensure that quality products at good prices are acquired and that the school or school district can support the acquisition.

This year, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (see Six Tips for Securing Federal Stimulus Money for Your School) will likely contribute to an incredibly large amount of AV equipment being purchased for schools. These one-time funds will allow schools to upgrade existing resources and to add to or enhance current AV inventories.

Following are some guidelines when making your AV purchasing decisions.

  • 1. Standardization (Flexibility and Compatibility)

As much as possible, schools should try to develop standards that are compatible with existing equipment in the school and/or within the District. If everyone uses the same equipment, it is easier and more cost effective to train staff on how to use the equipment. Furthermore, the equipment can be shared within the school or even throughout the District. Standardization also increases your buying power by increasing the quantity of identical items required, thus creating a "bulk" buying scenario where suppliers can leverage pricing more in your favour.

Also, remember that with technology like computers and interactive whiteboards, there is a crossover relationship that requires flexibility in some of the AV products that are used in schools such as LCD projectors. Careful consideration should be given to the relationship between technology and AV equipment both in the school and throughout the District.

  • 2. Replacement

At some point down the road, the AV equipment you buy today will need to be repaired and/or replaced. This may be a good point to highlight in your request for stimulus funds as the funds are intended to create jobs or retain current jobs. You can possibly make a case that the one-time spend will result in the need for further acquisitions later on to maintain the programs that you have implemented and there will undoubtedly be maintenance costs as well that may result in additional jobs. Schools, Districts and governments need to understand and plan for the fact that one-time funds always require future funding support to maintain and replace the resources that were bought with the one-time funding.

  • 3. Quality

It is important to remember that AV equipment that is manufactured for the retail home market and sold in stores is not necessarily as good as equipment that is manufactured for commercial use. Schools are notoriously hard on equipment due to the amount of usage (equipment could be in use all day-every day for months at a time) and abuse that students can impart. Most retail AV equipment won't stand up to that kind of usage for any substantial period of time. When developing your specifications, it is helpful if an AV expert in your District or at a commercial vendor is consulted to help with making these decisions. Warrantees and guarantees differ from retail to commercial as well. Usually in retail, you have to pay extra for warrantees. Commercial quotes usually come with standard warrantees attached.

  • 4. Recommended Equipment

When you begin to assemble information and obtain costs for the AV equipment that you might want to include in your request for stimulus funds, a good place to start is Teachers, administrators and buyers can acquire a detailed list of recommended AV equipment from The Classroom Solution to completely supply a school from Kindergarten to the ninth grade. You can take the list and use it to obtain quotes for budget purposes, develop specifications that may be unique to your teaching environment or just get some ideas on the general AV requirements needed for instruction in elementary, middle or junior high schools.

In summary, remember that AV equipment is changing rapidly and anything bought now should be purchased with future technologies and compatibility with existing technologies in mind. A plan for how your school or District will maintain and replace the resources purchased today at the end of their life is also critical. A good plan should identify a commitment to future needs and, through standardization, the ability to leverage savings while acquiring those future needs.

JamieJames Dobbin is President of The Classroom Solution, Inc. As a Certified Public Purchasing Officer with 35 years in purchasing and supply, the most recent 23 years in the K-12 environment, James brings a wealth of knowledge to schools and teachers needing assistance in making school purchasing decisions. Understanding that teachers spend a considerable amount of their own time and money buying resources for their classrooms, James created with the desire to reach out to and help as many teachers as possible to find simple and cost effective buying solutions to help enhance the learning experience in their classrooms.