Education / Schools

State and federal bills funding reopening of schools

Superintendent of Schools Krystal Lomanto gives update to SBC Board of Education.

In her monthly report to the San Benito County Board of Education on March 11, Superintendent of Schools Krystal Lomanto explained how the reopening of schools is being funded through state and federal legislation. She detailed how the coronavirus vaccination program got off to a bumpy start, but has gotten back on track, partially due to a donation of 200 doses from another school district.

Lomanto referred to the passage of California AB 86 COVID-19 relief and school reopening, reporting, and public health requirement, which was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom on March 5. AB 86 incentivizes schools reopening, but does not force them to do so. It provides two “pots of funding” with separate rules for each.

According to her summary to the board: The first pot is for $2 billion to incentivize schools to provide more in-person instruction. The second is for $4.6 billion for more learning time and academic interventions. In order to be eligible for funding from the first pot, a local education agency (LEA) must provide in-person instruction by April 1, with the ability to gain partial funding on a sliding scale if open by May 15. All LEAs will receive funds from the $4.6 billion in proportion to their total “local control funding formula entitlement target.” LEAs will also receive $1,000 per homeless pupil enrolled as of 2020-21. At least 85% of the funding must be spent to support in-person instruction and up to 15% may be used to support distance learning. LEAs that did not receive any of the $2 billion for reopening may use 10% of these funds for reopening costs.

“The $4.6 billion will go to all LEAs,” Lomanto said. “I believe the purpose of this was, and part of the frustration when it was first brought forward for the $2 billion, there were some districts that couldn’t apply for the dollars. Some districts would get nothing, so if we’re going to talk about equity for education, this isn’t equitable.”

BenitoLink reported on March 17 that the Hollister School District will allow families to send their children back to school by April 12 in a hybrid format or continue with full distance learning. Lomanto said San Benito County schools have to be in the red tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy to be able to offer in-person instruction.

Lomanto said districts that apply for a share of the $2 billion pot must adopt safety plans that follow state public health guidelines. She said the $4.6 billion funding is more concerned with mitigating learning losses with after-school programs or possibly more schools having summer programs.

“The other thing that just came out today is HR1 from the federal government,” she said, explaining that California will receive billions of dollars from it. “Part of those dollars are to be used for education as a stimulus relief from the federal government.”

On the vaccine front

Lomanto said the San Benito County Office of Education has been working with the San Benito County Health & Human Services Agency to coordinate its allocation of vaccines.

“We know in San Benito County there is not enough vaccine to go around at this time,” she said. “As educators they’re anxious to get the vaccines so they can get back to in-person instruction. We’ve been on calls all week with other superintendents and three weeks ago we found out we were going to get part of the allocation. Unfortunately, that was the week the weather was terrible, and the allocation was cut in half.”

Lomanto denied rumors that she was giving out vaccines.

“I do not have that authority. I am not public health,” she told the board, adding that according to Newsom, 10% of vaccine allocations should be offered to the education sector.

“The first week we were supposed to get 50 and we only got 20,” she said. “The second week we got 50 and last week was 150. And I’m excited to announce this week we will have 331 vaccines. Part of that is because, fortunately, I work closely with the Santa Cruz County Office of Education Superintendent Dr. Farris Sabbah and he has a plethora of vaccines. They are receiving an allocation from the state for educators, and they have more than what they need so he allocated 200 of his vaccines to San Benito County. This has made a huge difference for San Benito County.”

She said, so far, the district has vaccinated approximately 550 out of 1,400 employees. She said many school employees have gotten their vaccinations through their personal physicians in and outside the county.

“By Friday [March 12] any employee of the San Benito County Office of Education who wants the vaccine will be vaccinated,” she said. “This has been a full-time job for me and it’s much like herding cats because we have to pull in our districts to get names. My goal is by the end of March all educators in San Benito County will have their vaccines.”

 

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John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a BenitoLink reporter and an author. He has many years experience as a freelance photojournalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer who has worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and underwent graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John has worked as a script doctor and his own script, God's Club, was released as a motion picture in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime that are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: [email protected]