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Chula Vista High School / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

For months, parents and other stakeholders in South Bay have been trying to figure out where state and federal relief money has gone during the pandemic.

In answering this question, Ashly McGlone dug through the public records and found that while the district has spent emergency funds on things like personal protective equipment and air filters, administrators have also used the relief to pay employees — $6.7 million and counting.

The district has defended this decision as legal and appropriate. State and federal rules for coronavirus money give schools a lot of discretion over what constitutes a COVID expense.  

Still, locals who’ve kept tabs on the district’s finances contend that every dollar should be spent on COVID safety and mitigation measures. Those government funds were intended to help Sweetwater reopen and meet the unique challenges of the moment, not to backfill an existing budget deficit.

A state audit last year suggested that the former superintendent and two financial officials may have committed criminal wrongdoing by misrepresenting the district’s finances. The district miscalculated its budget by more than $30 million in 2018, leading to cuts and attracting the attention of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. 

And … There Will Be School?

Sunday, San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten sent an email to parents alerting them that a “tentative deal” had been made with the teachers union to open schools six hours a day, four days per week April 12 in a hybrid online/in-person model. And that in the fall, the district would create a separate online platform for students who wish to remain at home so teachers would not have to balance a live and online class.

For April 12, there are still many open questions.

“The default school site model is four days per week of in-person instruction with precise schedules to be set based on the number of students who wish to attend in person, available space, and existing health and safety guidelines,” she wrote. In other words, principals and teachers now have a lot of work to do to translate the plan into how classes and schedules will actually function.

Many parents were worried about plans for the next school year and if partial service or hybrid plans would continue then. Marten addressed those concerns like this:

“We have already taken steps to make hybrid learning models unnecessary in the fall. Specifically, we plan to create a specialized online instruction model for students who do not want to return to campus, while employing enough educators to make in-person instruction available to all students who choose that option,” she wrote.

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The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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