The San Diego Unified School District approved a $1.6 billion budget for the 2020-21 school year, with money left over to reopen schools.
The state did not cut money to education, as it had planned to do, and instead dealt the district $90 million of federal COVID-19 emergency relief funds. The district used half that money to help balance its budget, which includes the added cost of distance learning, and the remaining $45 million will be used to reopen schools.
“The money is geared toward overcoming learning loss we know students experienced when school were shut down,” said district board vice president Richard Barrera, who said the most important way to overcome learning loss is to get students back at school and working with their teachers.
“Our younger kids, our low-income students, homeless, students with special needs, we think we will see learning loss across all student groups, but especially the most vulnerable students," he said.
When school returns, campuses will need more staff, more teachers, more counselors, and more janitors, according to Barrera said. More money will be spent on transportation, not to mention the cost of making physical changes to campuses to allow for social distancing.
While the return of on-campus instruction looks promising now, schools aren't immune to future closures. There are two reasons schools could be shut down once again, according to Barrera.
The first is if the federal government does not come up with money for education. Barrera said he is optimistic there will be federal dollars, and expects a decision by the end of July.
The second reason is if the public health crisis worsens. If the curve starts to climb again, Barrera said, that would threaten the ability for schools to reopen or stay open.
“If you want kids to go back to school, please comply with health guidelines," he cautioned.