California schools got extra money for COVID. What did they use it for? | #coronavirus | #kids. | #children | #schools

California public schools got a lot of extra money to help them deal with the sudden switch to remote online “distance learning,” and then later reopen safely amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

and districts that serve larger populations of low-income students received more money. So what did they all use it for?

Generally, for sanitizing supplies, computer technology to aid remote learning, training and staff pay.

We asked 10 districts scattered around the Bay Area of various sizes and community wealth to break down how they used the extra COVID money they received, as reported on the state’s COVID-19 online school “hub.”

Several districts either did not respond, did not provide a breakdown or provided little detail, while others broke it down to the dollar.

Here’s what they told us:

Los Altos School District

This small district of seven elementary and two middle schools has 4,246 enrolled students in a wealthy Silicon Valley suburb where median household income is over $200,000. Fewer than 5% of its students receive free or reduced price lunches and about 13% of students are English language learners.

It was among the first in Santa Clara County to reopen for a hybrid mix of online and in-person instruction and has been back full-time since mid-March. There have been no reported outbreaks this year. The state reports that the district has received $2,024,970 in COVID relief funds, about $477 per enrolled pupil.

Superintendent Jeff Baier said by far the biggest chunk of that money — $875,000 — was spent on face masks, disinfectant, clear plastic shields and other “personal protective equipment.” The next biggest expense was $500,000 for extra cleaning and health personnel as well as district staff overtime.

The other big expense was $450,000 for computers, internet access points and other technology equipment to support the remote learning operation. Other uses for the money included $170,000 for inspection, repairs, filters, monitors and upgrades to the schools’ heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. And $115,000 was used to provide free and reduced price lunches over the summer.

Fremont Unified School District

With 35,544 enrolled students in 42 elementary, middle and high schools, Fremont Unified is among the largest in the Bay Area, where one in five students receive free or reduced price lunches and about 13% are learning English.

The district decided this spring to remain in remote learning for the remainder of the academic year, and has reported no COVID outbreaks this year. The state reports that Fremont Unified received $22,003,952 in COVID relief funds, about $619 per enrolled pupil.

District spokesman Brian Killgore said expenditures of those funds total nearly $19 million to date. The biggest share of that, $9.7 million, went toward pay and benefits. Killgore said nobody got extra pay and that the district didn’t have to hire more staff, but that some overtime was paid out to staff who were providing direct services to students.

Killgore added that the federal CARES stimulus and relief bill provided funding that allowed the district to cover pay and benefits for certain groups of employees such as food service workers, custodians, bus drivers and teachers who were directly providing services to students.

The next-largest expense was for laptop computers, online instructional materials and internet connection “hot spots” to support the remote learning format, as well as the face masks, clear plastic shields, air purifiers and sanitizing supplies and other protective measures needed for employees working on site.

More than $1.6 million supported the Child Nutrition Services meal program, and $1.4 million covered various services and operational needs due to the pandemic.

Mountain House Elementary

The single K-8 school in a rural Alameda County area where median family income is under $70,000 is among the Bay Area’s smallest, with just 17 enrolled students listed on its state profile, a third of whom are learning English and nearly two thirds receive free or reduced price lunches.

The state reports the district received $93,271 in COVID relief funds, which comes to about $5,487 per enrolled pupil, one of the highest per-student amounts. The school has been offering hybrid instruction since last fall and reported no outbreaks.

District spokeswoman Gay Costa could not provide a breakdown but said the funds paid for computer hardware, software and internet connectivity technology, sanitization and cleaning supplies and staff training on minimizing disease spread.

Other uses included activities to address the special needs of students learning English or with disabilities and mental health services and support.

Portola Valley School District

Serving one of the Peninsula’s wealthiest enclaves, where median family income exceeds $234,000, Portola Valley has 575 enrolled students in two elementary schools, with fewer than 5% learning English and about 8% receiving free or reduced price lunches.

The district has been open for in-person instruction and reported no outbreaks this year. The state reports Portola Valley received $198,715 in COVID relief funds, about $346 per enrolled pupil.

District business official Connie Ngo said the money paid for sanitation supplies, protective plexiglass partitions, face masks, gloves, safety reminder signs, disinfectant sprayers and air purifiers in each classroom. Other costs included outdoor classroom canopies and tents, infrared thermometers and portable handwashing stations.

Other expenses included new Chromebook laptop computers for students, internet connection hot-spots, online teaching software, increasing the district nurse’s hours from one to three days a week, and hiring additional teachers for on-campus distance learning. Ngo did not have a dollar breakdown.

San Francisco Unified School District

With more than 60,000 students, San Francisco Unified is among the state’s largest and serves a diverse urban population, with more than one in four learning English and half receiving free or reduced price lunches.

The district has been largely teaching remotely, and began welcoming some students back this month in a hybrid format. The state reports it has received $92,092,860 in COVID relief funds, $1,535 per enrolled pupil.

A breakdown provided by the district showed it has spent $32 million of that so far, with a third of it — $9.6 million — on staff training. Protective equipment and sanitization supplies gobbled up the next largest chunk, $5.4 million.

The district listed nearly $4.6 million going toward “hazard pay,” but did not explain what that meant.

Other expenses included $4 million for computer devices and connectivity, another $4 million for what the district called “enhanced learning supports,” $2.5 million for instructional materials and $1.8 million for other unspecified operations.

San Mateo-Foster City School District

The Peninsula’s largest district, San Mateo-Foster City has 11,724 kindergarten through 8th grade students enrolled in 21 schools, with more than one in four learning English and 29% receiving free or reduced price lunches.

The district has been providing hybrid online and in person instruction with no outbreaks this year, and the state reports that the district has received $9,466,242 in COVID relief funds, $807 per enrolled pupil.

The largest slice, nearly $2 million, has been spent on efforts to get kids caught up on learning lost due to reduced instruction during the pandemic and accelerating progress to close learning gaps.

The next biggest expense, $1.4 million, provided laptop computers or internet connectivity for in-classroom and distance learning.

Staff training cost $659,162, COVID testing, cleaning supplies, personal protective equipment and supplies to sanitize and clean the facilities and school buses cost $484,000 and instructional materials cost $470,830. Access to school breakfast and lunch added an additional $44,211 in expenses covered by the funds.

We also asked, but did not receive information about COVID relief spending at San Jose Unified School District, which reportedly received $34,116,202; Berkeley Unified School District, which reportedly received $8,245,548; Alum Rock Union School District, which reportedly eceived $23,467,379; and Ravenswood City School District, which reportedly received $6,961,102.


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