School district receives millions in COVID assistance funds
By Debra Moore
Coronavirus brought its share of pain to students and staff of the Plumas Unified School District, turning daily lives upside down. But after more than a year of turmoil, there may be a silver lining — extra funding from the state and federal governments to ensure that schools have what they need to provide a safe environment and to secure educational resources for the classrooms in the form of equipment and personnel.
During the April 21 school board meeting, administrators reviewed several pots of money that will augment the district’s traditional funding sources through 2024. The school board is scheduled to allocate those funds during its May 12 meeting.
Over the past eight months, the school district has received $1.7 million dollars in COVID relief, with an additional $7.4 million expected during the next three years.
It’s going to represent quite a turnaround. In March of 2020 the district was facing budget cuts and a three-year plan for staff reductions. Now the additional funds will have a positive effect on the budget and staffing. “In the short term, we can do some amazing stuff,” said Lisa Cavin, assistant superintendent and director of business.
The day after the meeting, when asked about whether the district was worried about spending one-time monies on ongoing costs such as salaries, Superintendent Terry Oestreich said that she was not. She, as with Cavin, saw it as an opportunity. “Year two and three of the funding will cover whatever hiring we do now,” Oestreich said. “The three years of funding will allow us to do hiring, and then after that we will look at attrition,” to bring positions in line with available funding.
A look at the school district’s website reveals a plethora of available jobs and more will almost certainly be added after the May 12 meeting. When asked if she’s concerned about the ability to fill the vacant positions, Oestreich said she knows that hiring is an issue everywhere — too many positions and not enough applicants. She thinks that Plumas is a tempting place to work, but acknowledges that there are some concerns. “This morning one person withdrew an acceptance because they couldn’t find anywhere to live,” she said.
Over the next few weeks, district staff will meet with school sites, classified staff and teachers to develop priorities in spending the coronavirus funding. The public will have an opportunity to comment on the plans May 12.