Guidelines issued by the CDC and state could require regular temperature checks and smaller classrooms. (Courtesy photo)

Reopening S.F. schools could come with a hefty price tag

Officials estimate at least $27 million in added costs to comply with safety guidelines

Complying with national coronavirus guidelines to reopen San Francisco schools in the fall could cost a minimum of $27 million at a time when The City’s school district is already contending with a $132 million budget deficit, officials said Friday.

At a joint meeting with the Board of Supervisors, San Francisco Unified School District and City College of San Francisco officials, SFUSD Deputy Superintendent Myong Leigh said the School Superintendents Association (AASA) estimates that cleaning procedures, supplies, and additional staff needed for coronavirus precautions outlined by the Centers for Disease Control would cost a national average of $450 per student.

By that analysis, the San Francisco Unified School District estimates it will face an additional $27 million cost to reopen, though a local examination is needed.

“It certainly could be the case that our own circumstances and cost structure here would be quite a bit higher than that,” Leigh said.

The Centers for Disease Control has set guidelines calling for schools to implement disinfecting protocols such as deep cleaning after a confirmed case, supplying hand sanitizer, wipes, and personal protective equipment as well as bringing in additional custodial staff, nurses, and aides to check temperatures. The AASA cost analysis doesn’t delve into additional costs associated with staggering class times or groups of children, as SFUSD is considering.

California released its own guidelines to reopen Monday that include limits on the number of students in the classroom, which could move outdoors, to maintain distance, as well as additional staff. The guidance document anticipates distance learning is here to stay, combined with in-person teaching on rotated schedules.

But even as schools weigh how to bring students back safely in August, K-12 education in California is also facing a 10 percent cut in funding should another attempt at a federal stimulus fall flat.

SFUSD already faced a projected $82.2 million deficit that is expected to balloon to a whopping $132 million deficit should the California Legislature accept Newsom’s budget.

“It’s just been made worse by this crisis,” said CCSF Trustee Alex Randolph of existing deficits at Friday’s meeting. “Whenever there’s a recession, when education funding is needed, the state, unfortunately, cuts its support.”

City College is also feeling the pinch, estimating a $35 million deficit in late May. The Board of Trustees voted earlier this month to close its Fort Mason campus, where it’s maintained a presence for more than 40 years, despite opposition. Administrators are asking faculty to accept a 10 percent pay cut in order to maintain course offerings, according to Interim Chancellor Dianna Gonzales.

About 800 classes were already cut from the 2020-2021 academic year and another 1,200 classes or more will need to be cut. The state budget cuts added an estimated $27 million to its preexisting $12.8 million deficit for the upcoming year.

Supervisor Gordon Mar introduced a charter amendment for the November ballot that would save $20 million annually for City College, seen by proponents as key to The City’s economic recovery.

But San Francisco is facing $1.7 billion shortfall over the next two years as a result of coronavirus, making local funding an unlikely savior for SFUSD and City College.

imojadad@sfexaminer.com

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