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A Very Different School Year Ahead

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School is back in session today across San Diego County. However, it will be a very different kind of academic year.

— School is back in session today across San Diego County. However, it will be a very different kind of academic year.

The San Diego Unified District has cut $134 million from its budget this year. Poway Unified slashed $27 million. Grossmont Union High School District chopped off $18 million.

That's on top of big cuts they've already made over the past several years.

As a result, school districts across San Diego County are forcing teachers and staff to take furlough days. That means a smaller paycheck for employees and a shorter school year for kids.

Many districts have also slashed their supply budgets, meaning no new materials and supplies. School communities are donating what they can.

Teacher Michelle Janette says her motto this year is reuse and recycle.

“I have some old reams of paper that I have squirreled away,” Janette said. “If (school officials) don't have it in the office, at least I'm good for a while. But, I think it's important for children to know they have to take care of things that taxpayers have to supply.”

Class sizes will also go up across the county due to layoffs.

In San Diego Unified, the second largest district in California, a new superintendent will take the reins. Schools chief Bill Kowba has surrounded himself with nine veteran educators who will watch over schools in different parts of the district.

San Diego Unified's approach to reform this year is to let schools decide what's best for their kids. School principals will be responsible for developing educational strategies at their campus.

Teacher Cathy Ramos looks forward to getting down to business.

“Every second of the day, I'm devoting to somebody.” Ramos said. “As a teacher, you need to be able to manage your time and you need to be able to manage yourself.”

Math instruction and critical thinking skills will be emphasized district-wide this year. However critics say San Diego Unified's approach is short on specifics.

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