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CUSD Blames Sandy Hook for Delayed High Absence Rate, May Seek Bailout

The day before winter break, attendance at eight schools fell 10 percent. Although the drop came 7 days after the mass shooting, Capo Unified wants reimbursement under a special state law.

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.

Donna Fleming April 19, 2013 at 09:28 PM
Thank you Julie. I would gladly help. And, my kids are grown.
Donna Fleming April 19, 2013 at 09:30 PM
I agree Randy. This leave no child behind rule, is not helping kids when they get to college.
William April 19, 2013 at 10:05 PM
Typical CUSD BS... I bet the private schools didn't have a 10% drop in attendance before "Christmas" break.
Gina April 22, 2013 at 07:02 AM
Everyone knows that Christmas Recess came very late in 2012. Christmas Eve was the start of the 2 week vacation. As such, ALL SCHOOLS, yes even the BLESSED Private Schools had a drop in attendance. My kids have been in this school district for 2 decades and the Friday before the Recess ALWAYS has a lot of kids gone. All the State has to do is compare the absentee rate for the prior years when the Christmas break started on Christmas Eve and they will see that this is a scam. The administrators who know this fact and thought up this scam should be ashamed and FIRED!!!! especially for using this tradegy to line their pockets
Donna Fleming April 22, 2013 at 07:39 AM
The kids need to be in school. California's kids are falling behind, The administrators who came up with this scam to apply for state funds from California related to the Sandy Hook school tragedy should be fired. If administrators cannot find a way to close the financial gap, they need to look for another job. CUSD needs to become self sufficient. Organize a fund raiser, cut corners, No state handouts.

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