FVHS English teacher Kiersti Hunkle uses district-provided technology to teach in her classroom. Photo by Sean Ziebarth.
Fountain Valley High School

Here’s how HBUHSD spent federal and state COVID-19 relief funding

Last summer, Congress earmarked $30.7 billion from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help support the safety and learning of students across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Huntington Beach Union High School District’s share of the CARES Act funds totals over $10 million, yet 73 staff members in total reported spending over $50,000 out of pocket.

In this article, we break down how HBUHSD and its staff members spent their money.


CARES Act funds can be spent on “any activity allowed under other federal laws for education,” such as technology for students and teachers, classroom supplies, building improvements and more, according to Future Ed.

Baron Banner filed a public records request on Dec. 14, 2020, to obtain records of the total amount of CARES Act funds HBUHSD received for the 2020-2021 school year and all 2020 CARES Act expenditures. The records we received are dated Jan. 20, 2021.

HBUHSD received $10,694,087 in state and federal funding through the CARES Act. HBUHSD’s federal and state funds can be broken down into four categories:

  • Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSERF): The ESSERF is part of the CARES Act and allocates $13.2 billion dollars to K-12 education. HBUHSD received $1,593,314 from the ESSERF.
  • Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEERF): Governors from each state received a portion of the $3 billion in this fund, which is part of the CARES Act. HBUHSD received $788,459 from the GEERF.
  • Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF): States and local governments were allowed to spend some of their money from this $150 billion CARES Act fund on education. HBUHSD received $6,958,519 from the CRF.
  • State General Fund (GF). The GF is not part of the CARES Act. It is a source of revenue for local governing bodies from the state government, and some of the money is spent on education. HBUHSD received $1,353,796 from the GF.
Name of Fund Amount Received
GEERF $788,459.00
CRF $6,958,518.00
GF $1,353,796.00
ESSERF $1,593,314.00

Baron Banner requested that all the purchases HBUHSD made be itemized in the records. We wanted to know how much the district spent specifically on substitutes, educational material, PPE, cleaning supplies (which the district says is part of PPE) and technology.

In this article, we detail only the expenditures of those categories; the tables below include breakdowns of the purchasing by category and provide examples of how that money may have been spent.

We’ve left out other categories found in the records such as employee benefits and building improvements, among others. The complete HBUHSD COVID-19 relief expenditures records Baron Banner received can be accessed at bit.ly/HBUHSDCARESAct.

Administrative Supplies

Administrative Supplies
Object Description Fund Actual Cost
ADMIN SUPPLIES CRF $4,907.27
ADMIN SUPPLIES CRF $13,848.57
ADMIN SUPPLIES ESSERF $58,302.26
ADMIN SUPPLIES ESSERF $3,937.86
ADMIN SUPPLIES ESSERF $9,667.48
ADMIN SUPPLIES ESSERF $109,038.48

Fountain Valley High School Principal Dr. Morgan Smith wrote in an email to Baron Banner that administrative supplies are “resources needed outside of the classroom: copier leases/ purchases, paper, ink, technology.”

Smith said the technology included in administrative supplies are usually computers, printers and copiers for administrative or classified personnel, which includes school staff members other than teachers.

Technology

Students use their school-issued Chromebooks during class. (Photo by Anneliese Duong)

This table includes expenditures from the CARES Act records explicitly labeled “TECHNOLOGY” or “TECH.” Baron Banner contacted HBUHSD Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Jeffrey Starr on May 10, 2021, to ask how much money HBUHSD spent on technology. We did not receive a response at the time of publication.

Technology
Object Description Fund Actual Cost
TECHNOLOGY SUPPLIES CRF $11,781.90
NONCAPITALIZED EQUIP – TECH CRF $4,545.96

This technology included “3,800 Chromebooks, 800 webcams, 800 tripods, 200 headsets” and various educational platforms on software for classroom use, according to an email HBUHSD Director of Educational Technology and Information Gen Naydo sent to teachers on Oct. 20, 2020.

In mid-December HBUHSD teachers received technology bundles, which included the following:

  • Windows or Apple laptop with 16-inch screen
  • 10.2 inch iPad with keyboard
    • Stylus for annotating on the screen
    • Document camera
    • Windows compatible
  • 24-inch monitor as a second screen for managing your classroom
  • Docking station
  • Keyboard and Mouse/Presenter

The $16,327.86 of expenditures labeled as technology is not enough to cover the cost of the technology bundles, according to the market price of these items multiplied by the number of HBUHSD teachers. We contacted Starr on Feb. 25, 2021, to ask for clarification on some object abbreviations of the purchases made and examples of what these purchases entail but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

Instructional Materials and Supplies

Instructional Materials/Supplies
Object Description Fund Actual Cost
INSTR MATERIALS/SUPPLIES CRF $318,196.21
INSTR MATERIALS/SUPPLIES ESSERF $55,256.97
INSTR MATERIALS/SUPPLIES ESSERF $3,745.67

Instructional materials and supplies entail “anything in the classroom: teacher copier/ printers, paper, ink, pens, pencils, everything a teacher uses or supplies to students with the exception of textbooks,” Smith said.

Textbooks and Curriculum

Textbooks-Basic Curriculum
Object Description Fund Actual Cost
TEXTBOOKS-BASIC CURRICULUM GEERF $3,768.99
TEXTBOOKS-BASIC CURRICULUM CRF $64,778.40

Textbooks and curriculum, according to Smith, include “additional/ replacement textbooks, software licenses/ subscriptions, workbooks, science & art lab materials, even music licensing for Band or Theater.”

Teachers, Substitutes and Instructional Aides (excluding employee benefits)

According to the records we received, HBUHSD spent $277,800.00 from the CRF on “TEACHER SUBS OTHER/DIST PAID.” A breakdown of that six-figure expenditure by school begins on row four with Edison High School in the table below.

Substitutes/Instructional Aides
Object Description School Fund Actual Cost
INSTR AIDES SUBS DISTR BUS N/A GEERF $65,967.20
TEACHER HOURLY/DAILY N/A CRF $189,955.04
OTH CERT SUPV HRLY/DLY N/A CRF $11,499.42
TEACHER SUBS OTHER/DIST PAID EHS CRF $51,893.75
TEACHER SUBS OTHER/DIST PAID FVHS CRF $49,800.00
TEACHER SUBS OTHER/DIST PAID HBHS CRF $48,212.50
TEACHER SUBS OTHER/DIST PAID MHS CRF $29,425.00
TEACHER SUBS OTHER/DIST PAID OVHS CRF $32,337.50
TEACHER SUBS OTHER/DIST PAID WHS CRF $48,775.00
TEACHER SUBS OTHER/DIST PAID VVHS CRF $375.00
TEACHER SUBS OTHER/DIST PAID CHS CRF $0.00
TEACHER SUBS OTHER/DIST PAID ATP CRF $0.00

HBUHSD hired substitutes and instructional aides for teachers that remained online when campuses reopened for in-person instruction in November. A month later, however, the district decided that virtual teachers would have to return to in-person teaching by Jan. 5, 2021 (the deadline was later extended to the end of the first semester) or take a leave of absence.

According to HBUHSD Deputy Superintendent of Human Resources Carolee Ogata, the decision came as the Family First Coronavirus Response Act, under which HBUHSD was required to provide emergency paid medical and family leave to employees who couldn’t work due to reasons related to COVID-19, was set to expire on Dec. 31, 2020.

Ogata told the Orange County Register in December 2020 it cost the district about $80,000 per week to hire substitutes to supervise students physically in the classroom for the 180 teachers who were teaching remotely.

PPE 

Baron Banner contacted Starr to ask which category PPE purchases fall under because we were unable to identify PPE-related expenditures in the CARES Act records. Starr stated that HBUHSD spent about $1.1 million on PPE and detailed the items included as PPE.

“[PPE] includes cleaning and disinfecting supplies, face shields, gloves, thermometers, handwashing stations, air filters, desk guards, wipes, masks, etc. to assure the safety of our students and staff at school, in classrooms, and on busses,” Starr said.

FVHS installed a hand washing station near the front office, one of the four total located on campus. (Photo by Karen Phan)

In HBUHSD Director of Educational Technology and Information Gen Naydo’s technology update email to teachers sent on Oct 20, 2020, Naydo told teachers how much PPE HBUHSD bought to prepare for the district’s return to in-person instruction on Nov. 3, 2020:

  • Masks: 259,722
  • Gallons Hand Sanitizer: 2,820
  • Nurse Gowns: 4,430
  • Thermometers: 202
  • Face Shields: 22,592
  • Hand Washing Stations: 53
  • Nurse Caps: 5,200
  • Vinyl Gloves: 312,000
  • Wipes (packages): 18,400
  • Nurse Booties: 9,000

How HBUHSD teachers spent their money

We heard from several of our teachers that they had spent their own money to prepare their classrooms before students returned to campus. In November 2020, Baron Banner conducted a district-wide survey asking certificated and classified staff to share whether they had spent their own money on the following this school year:

  • technology
  • personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks, face shields and gloves
  • hand sanitizer or hand soap
  • cleaning supplies
  • air purifiers or air filters, fans, or other air purification systems/tools
  • desk shields or barriers
  • curriculum or educational platforms
  • supplies for a home office such as chairs and desks

We received 76 responses to this survey.

Three staff members said they did not spend their own money. The 73 who said they did spend their own money on these supplies in total reported spending more than $50,000 out of pocket. Seventeen reported spending between $500 and $900, and 18 reported spending between $1,000 and $5,000.

Admin Supplies

Of the 76 responses to Baron Banner’s survey, one classified staff member said they spent money out of pocket on home office supplies; however, Smith said supplies for home offices would not be counted as administrative supplies.

“[T]he only items covered are for school/ classroom use only,” Smith wrote. “Some technology (laptops/ Ipads) are meant to be mobile and can be used for virtual instruction.”

Technology

Sixty-two certificated staff members and one classified staff member said they spent money out of pocket on webcams, laptops, microphones, USB cords and other technology supplies. One person shared they spent around $65, while others reported spending between $1,000 to $2,000.

At the time of the survey, conducted in November, HBUHSD had ordered technology bundles for staff, which some respondents expressed excitement for. Naydo wrote to HBUHSD teachers on Oct. 20, 2020, that these bundles were expected to be delivered around mid-November and that the district would coordinate distribution upon receiving them.

On December 16, 2020, HBUHSD Educational Technology Coordinator Chris Long emailed HBUHSD teachers to let them know that the bundles were ready to be picked up. Most respondents expressed dissatisfaction with the district’s timeline and say the district should’ve provided technology sooner.

“If they had planned properly for a return to campus, that technology should have been made available to staff members before the beginning of the school year and not almost at the end of the first semester,” an anonymous staff member from Westminster High School (WHS) said. “There were also a few things that they should have purchased for hybrid instructions like microphones for the classroom.”

Some teachers, such as Fountain Valley High School (FVHS) teacher Hoa Kim, also said they had purchased various supplies with their own money when schools closed in March 2020 in order to “effectively teach from a distance.”

“I am surprised that I’ve had to use my own printer, ink, paper and computer to do district business since March,” Edison High School teacher Todd Hutton said.

FVHS teacher Tony Pash, who purchased technology supplies out of pocket “knowing that I probably won’t be reimbursed” for these purchases, said it would’ve been beneficial for staff to receive stipends from the district.

Pash noted the technology bundles would help but said there were some items he needed and bought with his own money because HBUHSD had not provided them.

“[S]o a stipend I think would have helped teachers a lot to buy those specific items that they needed for their particular classes or work habits,” Pash said.

Textbooks/curriculum

Of the 76 responses to Baron Banner’s survey, 15 certificated staff members said they spent their own money on curriculum and educational platforms, like Kami.

PPE 

Some teachers felt that the PPE provided by the district to prepare for the return to in-person instruction on Nov. 3, 2020, was enough. FVHS teacher Alissa Hernandez appreciated the amount of PPE.

“Compared to the districts my friends are teaching in, HBUHSD has supplied WAY more than those districts in regards to PPE,” Hernandez said.

FVHS English teacher Yvette Wright has hand sanitizer and tissues available for students to use in her classroom. (Photo by Sean Ziebarth)

Others chose to buy their own PPE due to dissatisfaction with the quality and quantity of the supplies.

One anonymous teacher from WHS described the PPE as “very low quality” and said “the gloves tore easily and were the wrong size for my hands.” Another anonymous WHS teacher said the number of supplies received was “not nearly enough to last over a few weeks.”

A few teachers cited the district’s late distribution of PPE as another reason they spent their own money.

“I think they could have been more proactive in getting us [plexiglass] barriers and more cleaning supplies. They waited so long, I had to purchase things for myself,” Huntington Beach High School teacher Erin Stowell said.

But several teachers were content with the supplies they received.

“I feel like the district has provided adequate supplies to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” FVHS teacher Gemmo Casabar said. “We received buckets of supplies with plenty of hand sanitizer, gloves, cleaning supplies, masks and more.”


Writers’ note: We have interpreted the COVID-19 relief funds records we received to the best of our ability. Please contact us at fvhsbaronbanner@gmail.com should you find an error in our reporting.