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WUESD superintendent discusses budget and covid-19

Wasco Union Elementary School District Superintendent Kelly M. Richers recently reviewed the status of the budget, the covid -19 pandemic and an item from their monthly board meeting.

According to Richers, there is just below $50 million in their regular budget for all of their staff and to cover operating expenses this year. These include salaries, insurance, retirement, facility maintenance, vehicles and other costs. Food services are not considered because it is a separate department overseen by the federal government.

For the next several years, the district has an additional $48 million to spend on "pet projects" from Gov. Gavin Newson. Some of which are ongoing and most of which are not.

"None of this money is usable for teachers, and staff raises, which is a shame because that is where we need the money most," Richers said. "The challenges are finding qualified people to fill positions."

Part of the $48 million will be used for covid-19 relief and offer more student hour days.

"The governor wants to expand school responsibility for children to 9 hours every day. Right now, it is about 7 1/2 hours," he said.

Students are in school from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the standard maximum time.

The money would also be used for universal transitional kindergarten for 4-year-olds, music programs, special education and other categorized elements.

Funding from the $48 million is to allocate $21 million for covid relief, $1 million for covid-19 expanded learning, $1 million for teacher training and $2.5 million for special education. Everything else goes into other minor programs.

Almost all students are back in school as of March 1.

"Throughout the entire district, we have fewer than 10 exposures or positive cases," Richers said.

The board recently approved a resolution so Richers can write a letter to Newsom to not mandate child and staff vaccination. The letter will be sent to Newsom, Assembly member Salas, Senator Hurtado, Kern County Public Health Director Brynn Carrigan and County Superintendent of Schools Mary Barlow.

"This is coming from two proposed Senate bills. In their bills, they would not permit any medical or religious exemptions. That is a problem, and I am working on trying to get that not to happen," Richers said. "Most of what they want to do at the state level regarding schools is not good for us. Core education funding was a priority for Governor Brown; it is not for Governor Newsom."


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