The B.C. government has laid out a clearer plan of how federal funding will be distributed to B.C. schools as kids head back to class under COVID-19.
The federal government is providing $242.4 million in one-time funding for the 2020-21 school year. The first half is expected to be received in September and the rest will come in January.
Funding will be allocated to public school districts based primarily on enrolment.
“There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach,” Education Minister Rob Fleming told a news conference on Thursday.
“It’s going to look different depending on the needs of each community. We know it is local solutions that work best for students and families.”
The province is leaving the power in the hands of school districts to decide how the money can be spent.
This month, districts will receive $101.1 million, while $8 million will go to independent schools. Meanwhile, $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.
The funding will support school districts to hire and train more teachers and support staff for remote learning as well as 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.
The money can also be used for training staff, on-call teachers costs and other on-call staff and mental health support for students and staff. Districts will also have the option to increase staff and cover 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 improvements, portable air scrubbers and increased utility costs is also a possibility for the funding.
The B.C. Teachers Federation is happy with the province’s announcement on Thursday. Union president Teri Mooring was concerned the funding would not be made available to fund remote learning ooptions.
“Meaningful and easy to access remote learning options will help reduce class sizes and school density,” Mooring said.
“Making sure there is space in classrooms and common areas in schools to allow everyone to abide by physical distancing best practices will help keep everyone safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Everyone in BC has heard that physical distancing is the most important measure to protect ourselves and others.”
Additional places schools districts can spend the federal back to school money:
- 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
- Cover 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
- Opening up more space and covering the cleaning costs for before- and after-school care so that groups can be smaller and to ensure students can remain within their learning groups
- Additional staff to support before- and after-school care during the pandemic