To the relief of schools across California affected by rampaging wildfires, including those in the High Desert, the Department of Education has announced they will be receiving financial help.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on Monday that school districts, charter schools and county offices of education will continue to receive state funding — even despite losses in student attendance revenues.
"California’s schools provide a great education, and many students also rely on their school for breakfast, lunch, and before and after school programs,” Torlakson said. “The California Department of Education is available to help districts continue to receive funding for all of these crucial programs.”
With all school districts in the High Desert affected by back-to-back fires, beginning Aug. 7 with the Pilot Fire, followed by the Bluecut Fire which was just fully contained Tuesday, districts have been forced to close their doors, some even on their first day of the new school year.
Snowline Joint Unified School District was possibly closest to the Bluecut Fire, with five of its schools within evacuation zones. SJUSD Superintendent Ryan Holman said the Department of Education’s announcement makes clear that the “CDE is committed” to providing districts experiencing losses from the fires with support.
“Our history with disasters similar in scope to the Bluecut Fire is that the CDE provides a variety of supports to districts in need,” Holman said.
School districts are funded based on the average number of students they serve each day, known as ADA — average daily attendance. As an example, Hesperia Unified School District receives roughly $820,000 for ADA on an average school day. During an emergency, a district can request a waiver to receive funding for displaced students.According to HUSD Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, Dr. George Landon, HUSD will be requesting a waiver from the State Board of Education for the days they closed during both fires. If the board approves the waiver in September, it will then go to the county for approval and then the State Board of Education. “The possibility of receiving state funding to mitigate losses in student attendance revenues due to the Bluecut Fire is very encouraging,” Holman said. “Such an outcome would allow us to continue our efforts focused on ensuring endless possibilities for all students through high levels of learning in ways necessary for success for all.”
Oro Grande School District Superintendent Heather Griggs said that the impact that closing school would have on attendance revenues was “not a consideration” for their district.
"We made our decisions to close school based solely on the safety of students and staff,” Griggs said. “We are familiar with J-13 waivers and the assistance afforded us by the CDE and are pursuing revenue waivers for the time period. I am thankful to both our County Superintendent of Schools, and local districts, in the collaboration we have in completing the required paperwork."Charity Lindsey may be contacted at 760-951-6245 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on twitter @DP_Charity.