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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.

Rick Moore April 19, 2013 at 01:51 PM
What baloney. The students didn't skip school because of Sandy Hook, they skipped school to get an early start on Christmas break. The state should not reimburse the district. This is an abuse of state law.
M April 19, 2013 at 01:59 PM
It happens all the time - extended spring break, extended Christmas break, extended presidents weekend etch. Some parents just aren't that concerned about their kids missing school.
Yeparoo April 19, 2013 at 03:39 PM
Rumors were spreading about a potential incident the day before 12/21.
Morgan April 19, 2013 at 04:46 PM
What a load of crap. I was a CUSD student from kindergarten through high school, and even though I only missed a few days due to illnesses, there were MANY kids who skipped school for vacations or holidays. Blaming a recurring event on a national tragedy? Tall about low class. Shame on you, CUSD. Maybe instead of redecorating the district buildings you would have money to make up for this loss.
Donna Fleming April 19, 2013 at 05:46 PM
What a crock. Putting my 2 cents in. This is ridiculous. This is a manipulative way to pull money from our state. Aren't things bad enough? CUSD have a car wash, stop asking for state hand outs.
Julie Collier April 19, 2013 at 07:46 PM
Is this a joke? If not, it certainly is a new low. So much finger pointing for ADA loss from CUSD. I am sure most parents and taxpayers of this district would rather help with a car wash or bake sale to make up for the $127,000 loss than to blame a tragedy for monetary gain in this district.
Capo Parent April 19, 2013 at 08:55 PM
I guess when you have a projected deficit of $21 million and you have taken teacher layoffs off the table you need to beg, create and/or steal every cent you can. However, this latest ploy for money by CUSD takes the cake. And CUSD wonders why it has a "perception" problem.
randy April 19, 2013 at 09:25 PM
Those who exceed their absences should repeat their grade next year with improved attendance.
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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