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Tri-Valley school officials focus on funding legislation Schools / Education

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 Tri-Valley school officials focus on funding legislation  Schools / Education

Alameda County – Since the latest surge in COVID-19 verse cases, schools are summing up omissions and learning losses as a result of a recent surge in positive tests across the county.

While high omissions due to the pandemic could affect school funding in the future, the law, which is under consideration, could prevent this.

“Currently, Senate Bill (SB) 830, proposed by Senator Anthony J. Portantine and authored by Senator Anthony J. Portantine, will change the way the basic state funding of counties is calculated, ”said Michelle Dawson, a spokeswoman for the United School District of Livermore Valley (LVJUSD). “Funding will be tied to enrollment, not to average daily attendance (ADA). The pandemic, especially at a time of rising cases, has had a significant impact on attendance. Unless the way we calculate attendance in the local government funding formula changes, we will lose more than $ 4 million in funding from the state next year. It’s important to note that all school districts in California face the same financial impact if there is no change. ”

All three Tri-Valley school districts distributed rapid tests for COVID-19 before or during the winter holidays so that staff and students could get results before returning to school in January. Many took advantage of home tests that led to empty seats in the first week after the break.

“The good news is that the Omicron surge seems to be declining, and with that, our absenteeism is improving,” Dawson said. “We still need to get back to the averages before the jump. However, now the trends are moving in the right direction. “

Dawson noted that teachers have been able to continue learning for students who are in quarantine, thanks to a learning management system that was implemented during the 2020-2021 school year. The system is a universal hub for assignments and curriculum resources to enable students to work from home.

The United School District of Pleasanton (PUSD) also observed a large number of absences in early January, but students and teachers are now returning to classes, easing the workload. The district said it was focused on keeping students in school and, in case of illness, helping them return safely. PUSD Board of Trustees Vice President Steve Maher said temporary high absence rates could be a cause for concern. Maher believes that without changing the standards, as SB 830 is trying to do, funding in the future could become a problem.

“We get a little extra funding, but not much,” Maher said. “And yes, (future funding) it could affect, because if we had 97% on average and then we got back 92% or 93% of our students, you lose that percentage.”

Maher noted that this school year and last school year funding was based on the ADA from the 2018 to 2019 school year, allowing schools to maintain full funding. And while spending on schools has fallen over the past two years, Maher noted that teachers still have to pay, and all districts have had to set up distance learning systems, install laptops and routers, and – now that schools are reopened – pay PG&E bills and offer personal protective equipment (PPE) to staff and students.

“We are doing well, but we are also spending a lot on protocols and PPE, things like that,” Maher said.

He said that since the beginning of the pandemic the district has left 400 to 500 students, which affects funding.

“It will be difficult for many districts,” Maher continued. “We have a balanced budget, but we may have to cut.”

PUSD board president Mark Miller said his district is not the only one losing students because of the pandemic.

“California as a whole has seen a decline in enrollment, and Pleasanton and other counties are not immune to this,” Miller said.

Miller further noted that his area was underfunded before the pandemic.

“Our board and leader advocated a longer-term solution in increasing core funding for all districts,” he continued. “While focusing on increasing attendance will benefit some, increasing core funding will benefit all districts. Pleasanton Unified has a high attendance rate, even in a pandemic. Increasing core funding would help provide a long-term solution rather than putting a band-aid on a problem that existed before the pandemic. ”

Miller said the district could face a loss of up to $ 7 million due to falling student numbers, although the exact number is difficult to calculate and no one is sure why so many students are leaving. Opportunities range from families who are very concerned about the pandemic and want to stay away from any possible sources of infection, to families who are frustrated by school closures, mask requirements and the possibility of a COVID-19 vaccine. The result is a loss of enrollment in public schools as families look for charter schools, private schools or home schools.

In the Dublin United School District (DUSD), the city’s growth has led to an increase in the number of students. Spokesman Chip Denert said his county did not expect financial impacts due to fluctuations in attendance in January.

Like Livermore, DUSD and PUSD have systems to eliminate learning loss. There are ongoing activities in Pleasanton, and evaluations are often conducted to determine which students need help. In Dublin, Denert said a well-established policy of maintaining continuity of education for students who cannot be in the classroom has helped staff address current issues.

“We look forward to the day when all students who want to study in person will be able to do so,” Denert said. “Until then, our amazing teachers will continue to innovate and respond to the diverse learning needs of all our students, regardless of whether they study remotely.”

The United School District of Sunol Glen (SGUSD) had its share of problems related to COVID-19, despite its small size. Superintendent and principal Moline Barnes said the average pass rate at her school was 35% in the first seven days when students returned to school after the holidays.

“This created a situation where our teachers wanted to continue to provide quality and rigorous training and be able to maintain learning opportunities for those students who needed to be quarantined – because of the positive or from the impact,” Barnes said. “We had a large number of families who were then asking for independent research – which is also very difficult to manage. . . This has created a huge amount of hard work for our teachers with documents or online. ”

Barnes said the county has hired another staff member to oversee the independent research program. She is also facing a loss of funds from the ADA reduction.

“The state has announced a significant budget surplus, and I hope they will thus provide another year of‘ harmlessness ’as they did for the ADA for the 2020-2021 school year,” she said. “We need to keep schools open – the impact on the mental well-being of our children is difficult to observe in real time firsthand. The coronavirus is unfortunately here to stay, and we need to do what people do well – adapt. Kids need to go to school, period. ”

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