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  • Jacob Aere

San Diego Leaders, Education Officials Issue ‘SOS’ For Financial Relief For Schools

Above: A banner with images of public school buses spelling SOS, Save Our Schools, during a news conference at San Diego High School, Sept. 3, 2020. PHOTO BY JACOB AERE

Leaders of San Diego Unified School District joined some of the region’s congressional members Thursday to urge federal approval of the HEROES Act. The stimulus package includes more funding for schools.

Since schools physically closed in March to prevent the spread of COVID-19, San Diego Unified shifted to online learning. The district provided students with access to school meals, laptops and WiFi connection.

But the pandemic has resulted in unforeseen costs for materials needed to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to keep students learning new content.

SDUSD Superintendent Cindy Martin said the funding from the CARES Act in March is not enough to reopen schools safely.

“School districts need to purchase personal protective equipment for children and for adults. And we need to increase the cleaning and the daily health checks,” she said.

She also noted how schools have to reimagine all aspects of their campus.

"We have to modify our school buildings including our classrooms, our gymnasiums, our auditoriums, our cafeterias and our school buses so that we can meet the social distancing guidelines and recommendations."

Less than one percent of the two-trillion dollar CARES Act went to schools.

Congressman Juan Vargas of California’s 51st District said that educators and students want to get back to the classroom, but they can not do so without proper funding for safety protocols.

“We have the best students, we have the best teachers here in California. They want to teach and these kids want to learn — but they need a safe environment,” Vargas said.

RELATED: Schools Remain Cautious Even As San Diego Moves Off State’s COVID-19 Monitoring List

The CARES Act allotted $30 billion for the education system back in March. The House version of the current HEROES Act was passed with $58 billion for local school districts in May. The Senate version includes $70 billion.

Vargas and other local leaders are tired of the federal government’s inability to unite and sign the HEROES Act into law.

“The state doesn't have the money, the school districts don't have the money, only the federal government can do it,” Vargas said.

The HEROES Act was introduced by House Democrats in May. While Democrats support a $3.4 trillion package, Senate Republicans are pushing for a much smaller $1 trillion relief plan.

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