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San Diego Schools To Receive $908 Million In Stimulus Funds

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The American Rescue Plan Act, the third Federal Covid relief package, is bringing a major influx of cash to San Diego county schools. The Congressional Research Service estimates that the Rescue Act will bring more than 908 million dollars to county school districts. The biggest chunk of the money, more than 340-million dollars, is slated for San Diego Unified, the county’s largest school district.

Speaker 1: 00:00 I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade. Heinemann the American rescue plan act. The third federal COVID relief package is bringing a major influx of cash, just San Diego County schools. The congressional research service estimates that the rescue act will bring more than $908 million to County school districts. The biggest chunk of the money more than $340 million is slated for San Diego unified the county's largest school district as the district prepares to resume in-person classes next week, San Diego unified and other districts across the County have to decide on the best use of those federal dollars. Joining me is San Diego unified board, president Richard Berrera and Richard. Welcome. Thank you. What do you think the district needs to do first with this influx of money?

Speaker 2: 00:51 So we need to focus first on making sure that as we return students, uh, to our classrooms beginning, next week, we have all of the health and safety mitigations in place. And so that includes everything from proper ventilation of classrooms, PPE and masks, available to everybody, regular cleaning of classrooms. That of course, regular COVID testing. So we will be spending resources on, uh, all of those, uh, necessary health and safety measures. We then Marine, uh, are planning a dramatically expanded summer program this year. So, you know, normally our summer program, uh, is just a few hundred high school seniors that need to make up some credits in order to graduate from high school. We're planning on offering a robust summer program to tens of thousands of students this summer at all grade levels. And that will be a combination of, uh, students coming into class, working with teachers in the mornings, and then going out and participating in a whole variety of community-based programs in the afternoon. And we're partnering with the San Diego foundation. We are investing some of the money that we're getting from the recovery act into micro grants for community-based organizations to offer activities for our students over the summer.

Speaker 1: 02:20 Richard, a question about the expanded summer program. You say you're offering that to students. Is that something that is required or is that something up to a student to decide whether or not they want to attend?

Speaker 2: 02:33 Yeah, so we've made the decision to have a voluntary, expanded summer program for students whose parents, you know, wish to participate as opposed to, you know, for instance, extending the school year, which would be mandatory for all students. We know, you know, students and their families are in very different places. And we think that, you know, many, many of our families will want take advantage of the summer program. So, so rather than a mandatory extension of the school year, what we're doing is opening up, you know, a summer program for all students who want to participate in that.

Speaker 1: 03:11 How does the district plan to be accountable for how it spends this huge amount of taxpayer dollars?

Speaker 2: 03:17 Yeah. So first of all, we need to submit a plan to the federal government and regular reporting about how we're spending the money, but we also, you know, we want to engage our community in a pretty deep way about look, we've got resources now that are available, that we believe California public schools should have had for the last several decades. I mean, we think this is actually the adequate level of resources for public education, but now we have it at least for a while. And so what are the key investments that we want to make, uh, you know, in our students, how do we want to transform our school systems? So it's not just going back to where we were pre pandemic, which frankly was not adequate, you know, for, for too many of our students, how do we create, you know, the smaller class sizes, the extra time that students need, uh, you know, whether it's, uh, extra tutoring, extra time after the school day. And as we're talking about, you know, expanded summer programs. So we want to engage our community in a real conversation about what's our longterm vision, you know, for the way public education should happen here in San Diego. And how do we use this influx of money to start to build a foundation, to get to that, to get to that vision

Speaker 1: 04:41 Question, San Diego unified starts reopening next week, one week from today, are you ready?

Speaker 2: 04:47 We are ready. Uh, and in fact, we're spending this week. So all of our staff are now back on our campuses. Uh, and that began yesterday and, and staff were getting ready to implement, you know, all of our health and safety protocols. Uh, but our classrooms are equipped, ready to go. The supplies are there and are necessary. And, uh, and parents will be getting notification today from their schools about, uh, what the, what the schedule will look like. At least at the beginning. Um, most of our schools, uh, we believe we'll be able to offer a four day a week in-person program and then continue online learning for the students whose parents, uh, you know, are not yet comfortable having students come back online. We will have some schools that will likely be two days a week because we have, you know, a, a very large number of students that will, uh, plan to return. So, uh, this is a week of preparation for the staff and the, and then on Monday, our students at all grade levels will start to return.

Speaker 1: 05:54 Okay. Then I've been speaking with San Diego unified board, president Richard Berrera Richard. Thank you. Thanks so much, Maureen.

Speaker 3: 06:06 [inaudible].

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.