San Diego Unified Approves Plan to Spend $ 303 Million in COVID Funds

The San Diego Unified School Board on Tuesday approved a plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in COVID aid on substitute teachers, babysitters, bus drivers, nurses and counselors, as well as special education , bus routes, transition kindergarten and ethnic studies.

As of March 2020, the district says it has received a total of $ 678 million in COVID funding from nine state and federal money pots that are to be spent on learning recovery efforts and related operating expenses. to the pandemic.

So far, the district has already spent $ 136 million of this money. Some went to laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots for students for distance learning at home, as well as personal protective equipment, teacher training and a school. ‘been enlarged.

On Tuesday, the district explained how it plans to spend an additional $ 303 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, the latest and largest federal COVID package for schools that was approved in March.

Most of that money, around $ 195 million, is aimed at helping students recover academically and mentally after more than a year of school closures.

Students in San Diego Unified, like students in schools across the country, received more failure grades during the pandemic than in previous years as most students lost access to in-person instruction.

The second largest sum of money, around $ 86 million, will be used to hire enough staff to help schools operate during the pandemic. This involves hiring replacement staff to intervene when a staff member becomes ill with COVID or is exposed to someone with COVID and must self-quarantine at home.

Schools say their staffing needs are greater during COVID, as they face larger-than-normal hiring shortages due to the pandemic.

The district also plans to spend

  • $ 94.2 million for additional teachers to provide one-on-one and small group instruction, as well as special education case management for elementary school students with disabilities
  • $ 34.4 million for transportation and substitute teachers – including increasing substitute teacher pay, hiring more bus drivers, and increasing bus routes
  • $ 33 million for additional guards, nurses, air filter service technicians and other health and safety personnel
  • $ 27 million for the District Virtual Academy to accommodate unvaccinated students and students who do not wish to return to in-person learning
  • $ 26.3 million for socio-emotional programs and curriculum
  • $ 22 million for laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots
  • $ 18 million for literacy workers, books and literacy training
  • $ 12.3 million for transitional kindergarten programs and early learning training for teachers
  • $ 12 million for COVID testing and contact tracing
  • $ 9.4 million for teacher training in ethnic studies
  • $ 7.7 million for additional mental health counselors and workers
  • $ 6.5 million for cleaning products and personal protective equipment

The district did not indicate in its plan how many staff it would add with these funds. Earlier this year, the district announced it would add 86 new elementary teachers to reduce class sizes, as well as 12 school psychologists, when it reached agreement with its teachers’ union on a 4-hour increase. %.

The district wants to keep this extra staff even after using its COVID money, San Diego Unified School Board president Richard Barrera said. The district hopes the state and federal government will permanently increase funding for schools enough to keep those positions long-term, he said.

“It can’t be that once this money is gone, we will return to the severe underfunding of schools that we saw before COVID,” Barrera said. “It can’t just be one-time support for positions that should have been in place before COVID and absolutely have to stay in place after COVID. “

The American Rescue Plan Act is one of the only sources of COVID dollars for schools for which school systems must write and submit spending plans for approval, according to the San Diego County Office of Education.

For other COVID funds, school systems had to report to the state how much they spent and what general categories they spent the money on, but they did not need to submit detailed spending plans.

Schools can spend American Rescue Plan Act money until January 2025.

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