SDUSD: Schools can't safely reopen with state's budget cuts

Posted at 4:49 PM, May 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-19 19:54:14-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom's revised budget plan proposal includes funding cuts to schools that would make it difficult to reopen safely, according to Richard Barrera, a San Diego Unified School District board trustee.

"We are putting a plan together to physically reopen our schools that we think is exactly what our students and parents need," said Barrera.

He said all schools in the SDUSD would be ready to reopen by fall in a way that complies with current public health guidelines.

"They (students) would be in small groups together and physically separated from each other across the campus," Barrera said. "We have to have more staff on our campus if we're breaking groups into smaller class sizes, we have to add extra nurses, extra counselors, extra custodians."

All of that costs extra money.

"Without the money to pay for the cost of that plan, then we can't safely reopen," he said.

The governor's revised budget proposal includes significant cuts to school funding.

"In San Diego County, a 10% cut to schools is equal to about half a billion dollars," said Music Watson, Chief of Staff for the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE). "The governor in his budget remarks really put pressure on the federal government and said that we need them to help fill some of the hole."

Lack of funding would make implementing some of the health and safety recommendations by the SDCOE difficult for schools across the county.

"In San Diego County, we've got about 800 schools," she said. "We're talking about needing to purchase thermometers, at the same time we're talking about needing to cover our faces and provide face coverings, we also are contemplating a big cut to education funding, and those two things just don't go well together."

Both Barrera and Watson agree that it's now up to the federal government to provide schools with what they need to reopen safely.

A stimulus package recently passed by the House would fill the gap, according to Barrera. But as of right now, it's a waiting game to find out when students, teachers, and parents will start to get back to a sense of normalcy.

"What the House passed, there is enough money for schools," said Barrera. "We need the Senate to take action now ... How do you reopen the economy if parents can't get back to work? We have a plan to get parents back to work, but the Senate needs to take action."