BC outlines how $242M in federal safe school restart funding will be spent

Sep 4 2020, 5:09 pm

The BC Ministry of Education outlined its plans this week for how $242 million in federal dollars will be spent on the province’s safe school restart strategy.

“Our province is taking the best, science-based public health advice and planning to have as many children as possible back in classrooms this fall, which is why we have been talking with the federal government about the need for more resources for our schools,” said Rob Fleming, Minister of Education, during a press conference.

He noted that the federal funding comes in the form of a one-time payment, with the first half of the payment expected to be received in September. Fleming said this funding will be allocated to public school districts based primarily on student enrolment.

Broken down further, $101.1 million will be allotted to school districts, $8 million to independent schools, and $12.1 million will be reserved “for emerging COVID-19 related issues between September and December 2020.” The ministry is expected to receive up to an additional $121.2 million in January, which will be allocated out at that time.

Fleming said the funding will support school districts to hire and train more teachers and support staff for remote learning; purchase additional software licences, electronic course materials and textbooks; purchase computers or tablets; and create Wi-Fi hubs and internet access in remote and Indigenous communities.

School districts and independent schools will be able to spend the funding in the following areas:

Learning resources and supports

  • Implementation of online and remote learning options;
  • Hiring additional teachers and staff;
  • Training for staff;
  • On-call teachers costs and other on-call staff;
  • Mental health support for students and staff;
  • Health and safety;
  • Increasing staff and covering salary costs for additional hours needed to meet health and safety guidelines in schools;
  • Improving air systems in schools, such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning, portable air scrubbers and increased utility costs;
  • Increasing hand hygiene, including additional hand washing and hand sanitizing stations, installing touchless faucets or additional supplies;
  • Installing plexiglass and other barriers, providing outdoor learning spaces, and adapting classrooms and school buses to minimize physical contact;
  • Purchasing additional cleaning supplies such as sprayers or fogger machines for frequent cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces;
  • Purchasing additional masks, face shields or other PPE as needed.

Transportation

  • Covering additional transportation costs to have fewer students on buses and/or to accommodate new school schedules and additional routes;
  • Supporting alternative transportation strategies, such as assisting with gas costs for parents who transport their children to school;
  • Before- and after-school childcare.

Fleming said the Ministry of Education has developed a five-stage approach to operate schools, depending on risk of transmission and guidance from the provincial health officer.

This, he said “helps school districts know what to expect if there is a significant change to school operations required as part of B.C.’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In the meantime, students return to class on Thursday, September 10.

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