At the Cabrillo Unified School District’s school board meeting on Thursday night, two things were clear: Much remains unknown about the effects of COVID-19 on the district, and what is known is concerning. Despite the uncertainty, the board agreed that some decisions need to be made even without a full picture of the virus and the effect it will have on public schools.
One such decision concerns the district’s budget. In March, the board indicated a positive cashflow was expected for the next three years. That has changed dramatically.
CUSD Chief Business Officer Jesús Contreras painted a dire picture, but encouraged the board to look at the positives and “how we can make lemonade out of lemons.”
Contreras said he expects the coming recession to be as bad or worse than in 2008. On top of previously discussed cuts, on the table now for the district are layoffs, furloughs and larger class sizes to help survive the coming economic downturn. He said solvency will require creativity and keeping cash on hand when possible.
“COVID-19 is going to be bringing us into a recession,” Contreras said “It’s not gradual, it’s a cliff.”
Contreras said that although the district’s normal revenue flow will continue — and some is actually increased due to COVID-19 aid from the state and federal government — the district is in trouble. Expenditures have increased, cashflow is a problem and normal funding projected to come from the state will be cut by 10 percent. Contreras also said the stability of property taxes isn’t guaranteed. He said, although circumstances are constantly changing and hard to predict, a new budget must be adopted June 18 based on best knowledge at the time.
The board also heard Thursday night about the uncertainty of graduation ceremonies, and that summer programming like the Big Lift “Inspiring Summer” work will be suspended. CUSD Superintendent Sean McPhetridge told the board he is taking guidance from the San Mateo County health and education offices and will form a committee for reopening in the fall.
“Families and staff should now expect that modified student schedules and ongoing use of remote learning will be required for our return to school,” McPhetridge said.
Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Leticia Bhatia said the district plans to implement Extended Day Kindergarten for the 2020-21 year, a topic that has drawn much attention from parents and teachers. Bhatia said, after meeting with families and teachers, the district is moving forward with creating a four-hour program, adding professional development and funding for teachers, and revising assessments to reflect the new schedule.