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B.C. education minister says some Ottawa funds will support new at-home learning options

Click to play video: 'Lessons from other jurisdictions about B.C.’s return to school'
Lessons from other jurisdictions about B.C.’s return to school
As students and teachers prepare to head back to the classroom under unusual circumstances, what lessons can they take away from the back to school experience in other jurisdictions across Canada and around the world. Richard Zussman reports – Sep 1, 2020

British Columbia Education Minister Rob Fleming says he expects school districts to spend part of the money from the federal government earmarked for schools on hiring additional “teaching and learning resources” to support at-home learning amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Ottawa committed $242 million last week for B.C. to spend on the province’s return-to-school plan.

Parents and teachers have been expressing concerns that the plan does not include at-home learning options. Since the plan was announced on July 29, school districts have reached out to parents to ask for feedback.

Click to play video: 'Federal funding for B.C. schools'
Federal funding for B.C. schools

In Vancouver School District, for example, around 30 per cent of parents surveyed wanted an at-home or hybrid option for their kids. The Surrey School District is also introducing at-home learning options for elementary and middle school. High schools are already offering hybrid options.

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“It may well be in districts that online learning does reduce the numbers in a school,” Fleming said.

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“These additional options after surveying parents after July 29 are things we have learned.”

The B.C. Teachers Federation has been calling on parents to send an email to their MLAs asking for the resources from Ottawa to go toward reducing class sizes to improve physical distancing.

“B.C. needs to do more to ensure physical distancing is possible in our schools to help protect everyone from COVID-19,” the email the BCTF is providing to parents reads.

“With $242 million in funding available from the federal government, improvements are possible.”

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Click to play video: 'A look at B.C.’s back to school plan'
A look at B.C.’s back to school plan

Fleming says the federal money should be used to fund key provincial priorities. The funding will be different in each district and there is no timing yet on when the support will be finalized, he says.

Rural districts may use the money towards transportation services, while some districts larger districts with higher cases of COVID-19 or density issues in classrooms may use the money to provide at-home supports for students.

“That money will be able to be utilized for remote learning programs that districts are offering based on what parent and student needs are,” Fleming said.

“It will be available for additional health and safety measures in schools to complement the investment we have made provincially. That may be having well-stocked supplies in schools, it may be additional Plexiglas barriers in schools, or focus on ventilation compliance.”

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