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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The San Diego Unified School District will begin paying hazard pay to employees still interacting with the public in person during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as protecting the grades of students while schools remain closed.

The district’s board of education approved the emergency measures at its remote meeting Tuesday night, including retroactive time-and-a-half hazard pay dating back to March 16 for school district employees serving as disaster service workers by distributing computers and meals to students.

The board also ordered that while the district is engaged in distance learning, students will not be given grades lower than their grades were when the schools closed.

Superintendent Cindy Marten updated the board on the soft launch of the district’s distance learning plan, now in its second week. A majority of students will begin graded online instruction on April 27, when the new grading policy will also go into effect.

“A crisis like this one may change the way we operate, but it will never change who we are,” Marten said. “How we operate has definitely changed. We are on track to distribute well over 40,000 computers to students across the city, and we have provided close to 400,000 meals to families in need. And now we are getting ready for the biggest change of all. We are about to open a classroom in the clouds for all our students.”

Teachers will continue to assess student learning, even if state and district testing is suspended during the period of closure. Classroom assessments may inform decisions on further support and resources during distance learning.

The board also called for its congressional delegation and Gov. Gavin Newsom to approve a resolution from a coalition of national education organizations calling on legislators to provide emergency funding of $200 billion for schools nationwide. The coalition estimates additional relief totaling $350 billion will likely be needed to ensure public school funding is stabilized over the next two years.

“These funds are not a wish list. They’re a needs list,” said Richard Barrera, board vice president. “In the months and years ahead, public school students should not have to bear the overwhelming brunt of this emergency. They deserve to have their education valued and protected by lawmakers.”