More money needed to meet state reopening guidelines, superintendent says

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SAN DIEGO – San Diego schools need federal help if they are to reopen this fall, according to safety guidelines released Monday by the state education officials.

Local schools are scheduled reopen Aug. 31, when the 2020-21 school year officially begins. Monday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond released new guidelines for reopening California schools.

For some parents that can’t happen quickly enough, but others plan to continue to keep their children home until there is a vaccine for COVID-19. San Diego city schools are preparing for both classroom and distance learning, but exactly how instruction will look has yet to be determined.  

“We’ve actually been planning since the day we closed,” San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten said.

Marten said district schools are ready to welcome students and staff back to class this fall, but she acknowledged there are significant hurdles to overcome to make sure everyone feels safe.

“People need to know there will be in-person learning and learning outside of school,” Marten said. “We have 1,000 kids that are medically fragile, 9,000 children who have asthma.”

State education leaders provided specific guidelines Monday to help navigate a safe transition back into the classroom, but it is up to individual districts to decide exactly how it will be done.

“I want the most benefit to the greatest number of kids, understanding that we have to customize within the budget that we have and the health guidelines that we have,” Marten said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom warned that schools would be facing a 10% budget deficit next year, but the legislature last week came up with additional funding to fill the gap. Now, the governor has promised personal protective equipment will be provided for staff and students. Still to meet the health guidelines of six feet of distance, smaller class sizes, nurses, testing and other safety measures, the federal government will have to step in, according to Marten.

“We need more money to open under these guidelines, and a cut just was not sustainable,” said Marten. “And so they’ve heard us. And California is taking that in the right direction.”

Marten said state leaders need to go to Washington for more money.

 “They need to keep up their advocacy for more federal funding to make sure schools can properly implement the new health guidelines.”

The budget will be signed June 15. On June 16, the board and trustees will meet to iron out exactly what their plan is to reopen schools throughout the city.

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