The Capistrano Unified School District wants state reimbursement for a 10 percent drop in attendance at eight schools the day before winter break in December, a jump it blames on the Sandy Hook School shooting a week earlier.
Schools receive money based on student attendance. And state law allows school districts to be reimbursed if an emergency precipitates a sudden drop in attendance.
On Dec. 14, a gunman walked onto a Connecticut elementary campus and started shooting indiscriminately at staff and students, killing 26.
A week later, on Dec. 21, all six comprehensive high schools and Shorecliffs Middle School in San Clemente and Niguel Hills Middle School in Laguna Niguel collectively experienced a 10 percent drop in attendance, according to an item on Capo Unified's Wednesday school board agenda.
This drop in attendance meant a financial hit of $123,344. In tying the absences to Sandy Hook, the district may be able to be reimbursed.
“After the December tragedy in Sandy School Elementary School in Connecticut, schools throughout the nation suffered rumors of threats,” says a staff report to the board. “Although our schools remained open, some parents opted to keep their children home.”
Normally, the governor declares a state of an emergency – a similar request was made after a power outage shut down school for a day in September 2011 – but it is not a requirement for reimbursement. The only stipulation is “the imminence of a major safety hazard,” the staff report says.
“National and local newspaper reports support the safety hazard,” the staff report said.
Patch contacted the state Department of Education to see if any other school districts were seeking reimbursement following Sandy Hook, and if so, how long after the actual shootings.
So far, "not one" school district has sought financial relief following Sandy Hook, said spokeswoman Tina Jung. "Your school district may be the first one."
Normal attendance for the eight CUSD schools in question averages 17,369 students, according to the district's application for restitution. On Dec. 21, it fell to 14,429.