The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District held a special virtual meeting on June 4 to look into how the 2020-21 school year will look. 

PRJUSD, like many of the other school districts across the country, are facing many obstacles due to the COVID-19 pandemic. California K-12 schools could see an $8 billion cut to their budgets as proposed by Governor Gavin Newsom and the possibility of no federal aid. 

PRJUSD, already dealing with a financial crisis outside of COVID-19, is preparing to cut approximately $2.5 million to $5 million from its budget.

Categorical programs, including the Agricultural Career Technical Education Incentive Grant and Career Technical Education Initiative, would be cut by 50 percent, according to district officials. It is also likely that staff will see either a cut in salary or possibly layoffs.

Not only do schools face drastic budget cuts, but they must also invest in PPE supplies, social and emotional support systems, distance learning, and meet other requirements made by the state to reopen the physical school.

By June 9, PRJUSD will have its recommended budget for the 2020-2021 school year. The district will also identify their reductions. This is likely to happen before the state has agreed on its proposed Budget Act. 

As for reopening in August, the school board has created seven committees focusing on different reopening categories:

  • Fiscal Support
  • Health and Safety
  • Staffing
  • Social-Emotional Supports
  • Food Services
  • Special Programs
  • Educational Services

Each committee is responsible for creating contingency plans for reopening the schools. During the June 4 meeting, members of each committee revealed their top priorities. 

There will be an emphasis on social-emotional support for students. Each student has a different experience from their distance learning. Some have fared better than others. Either way, the PRJUSD is prepared to have extra support for their students. 

What will the education system look like once it is time for students to come back to campus? 

The educational services group is focusing on developing a consistent use of technology that would allow students to move between traditional “instruction to distance learning or vice versa,” if necessary.

The committee considers three models for learning: traditional, distance learning, and a blended learning model. More information on these models is being developed. 

One of the most anticipated categories is health and safety. They plan to “develop and implement strategies to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases” by: 

  • teaching and reinforcing handwashing, cough and sneeze etiquette 
  • schedule time and structure routines for hand washing at the start of each class period
  • schedule frequent disinfection of high touch surfaces

The main focus of the health and safety committee is the following:

  1. PPE, physical barriers and equipment need to occur at all school sites and offices
  2. Cleaning procedures need to be designed and communicated to all stakeholders
  3. Parent, student, and staff training need to focus on social distancing, hand washing, and behavioral expectations to keep everyone healthy and safe

There is a high possibility that students and staff will be screened before entering campus. If masks are also necessary, the committee is looking into how they can ensure all students and staff wear them.

Parent visits at school will also be changing. There will be a restriction on nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities with multiple groups.

PRJUSD has only scratched the surface on the changes and will be working this summer on these.

Getting through this together, Paso Robles