Closing schools affected the lives of students, teachers, and parents. But what about the financial toll COVID-19 has had on the districts? San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) has crunched those numbers for its district.
Food distributions are among the expenses districts have. Since March 16, more than 303,000 meals have been served at 16 sites, with three more locations to be added.
Some workers who are putting the food in bags and distributing them to families will now be getting paid time-and-a-half, or hazard pay, for being on the front lines ensuring families are fed.
“I do think it’s scary, we wash our hands, we use gloves, and sanitize all the time,” said Erika Partidas, a night custodian now working at Sherman Elementary School putting food in bags. “It will definitely help.”
"They care about the kids. That's the most important reason for doing this, but we as a community cannot take advantage of the fact they are potentially putting themselves at risk, so we are providing that extra compensation," School Board Trustee Richard Barrera said.
The cost of the hazard pay is $4.5 million. The total cost of food distribution, including hazard pay, plus the cost of distance learning is $18 million. That’s beyond what was budgeted for the 2019-2020 school year, said Barrera on Thursday.
He said the district also must factor in the cost of expanded summer school and even a possible extension of the school year.
SDUSD and the Los Angeles Unified School Districts recently sent the state a letter asking for $500 per student, above the estimated $10,000 each student gets now.
In a revised letter, the districts will ask for an extra $680 per student.
"It’s not a huge cost, but these are some necessary costs to get students through this time,” said Barrera.
Barrera also said the state should be advocating on behalf of schools to get more money from the federal government. Barrera said the first stimulus package recently passed gave schools only .5% of the money allocated. He said schools should get more when Congress considers the second stimulus package.
Barrera said public schools are the biggest employer in the nation.
As for hazard pay, school police will also receive time-and-a-half. Some unions already negotiated the time-and-a-half pay. Other unions are in the process of negotiations.
The tentative deals must be approved by the school board.