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CUSD secured government funding for reopening expenses

by Mick Rhodes | mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

State and federal grant money is going a long way to help soften the financial blow of Claremont Unified School District’s reopening and pandemic-related expenses.

The district will have received $19.3 million in government grant money when all is said and done, most all of it earmarked for specific COVID-19 mitigation related expenses. Thus far it has spent $4.2 million and has received $4 million, with much more on the way soon.

“As far as when we will receive it, it varies depending on the funding source,” said Lisa Shoemaker, CUSD’s assistant superintendent, business services. “We should be getting most of it between now and September. But again, that is just a cash flow issue. It doesn’t affect when we can spend the dollars. Most of the grants do have deadlines for fully expending them however, and most of those deadlines are within the next two to three years.”

Much of these funds have only recently been allocated, she said. The district is currently working on a plan for where they will be spent. Some of funding can be used for salaries. 

“But it is one-time money so it isn’t wise to use it for ongoing purposes,” Ms. Shoemaker explained. “And anything that involves salaries involves negotiations with bargaining units, so we haven’t even had time to discuss anything like that yet.”

The grant money can also be used for capital projects, but mitigating learning loss will be the first priority.

“Once we have figured out what kinds of supplemental instruction we can offer (and staff, and at what cost) for the next couple of years, we can see what is left,” Ms. Shoemaker said. “And then there is the mental/social emotional part that also needs attention.”

The source of the grant monies are as follows:

• $8.8 million from three rounds of federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER): one from the Federal CARES Act, one from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA), and one from the American Rescue Plan.

• $3.5 million from state Coronavirus Relief Funding (CRF) and Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER). This money came from Federal CARES Act funding in March 2020.

• $500,000 from Proposition 98 Learning Loss Mitigation Fund. This is state funding, but it part of Proposition 98. So, though it is not technically additional funding, it is specified for coronavirus relief.

• $4.5 million via a California Expanded Learning Opportunity Grant. This is also part of Prop 98.

• $1.9 million from a state In-Person Instruction Grant, incentive funding for reopening schools.

• $100,000 from California Senate Bill 117.

A typical yearly operating budget for CUSD is about $81 million, so receiving a $19.3 million infusion over three years is a big deal.

“Yes, it’s a quality problem to have. But we have much to do,” Ms. Shoemaker said.

The district’s board of education approves all budgets and adjustments, so theoretically it will approve where each dollar of grant money is spent.

“But not necessarily specific expenditures for every specific grant,” Ms. Shoemaker said. “But they approve bargaining agreements, settlements, capital projects, etc., so again, they approve everything in one way or another.

“So yes, it’s a big chunk coming in all at once, but it will be spent strategically over time to address student needs,” Ms. Shoemaker said.

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