School boards across Alberta are set to receive a second wave of funding from the federal government’s Safe Return to Class Fund.
The $125-million allotment will be delivered this week and will be distributed based on enrolments.
The money is to be used to cover costs related to COVID-19 and can be spent on things like staffing, supports for special needs students, online learning, cleaning and personal protective equipment. School boards have been given the leeway by the Alberta government to focus the funding in areas of greatest need.
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange was not available for an interview, but a spokesperson said in a statement that the minister commends the hard work being done by school authorities and teachers to ensure staff and student safety is a top priority.
That is something the Alberta Teachers’ Association wants to have a conversation about.
“We’ve seen, since Jan. 11, cases in schools where we have 12 per cent of our schools right now,” ATA president Jason Schilling told Global News.
“We need to have a serious conversation about how to strengthen this plan, or maybe look at what parts of this scenario need to be improved.”
For a start, Schilling said he hopes this money can help address concerns inside the classroom, starting with class sizes.
“About 25 per cent of our schools in the province have classes that are 30 or 40 students,” he said.
“When you’re trying to do social distancing, it’s not very conducive to that.”
Schilling would also like to see another round of personal protective equipment provided. Teachers and students were each given two masks at the start of the school year — schools were also provided with hand sanitizer.
In total, the Alberta government received $262 million in two payments from Ottawa through this agreement. The vast majority of it, $250 million, was distributed on a per student basis. The other $12 million was dedicated to helping school authorities deal with a surge in demand for online learning programs.
Watch below: Some Global News videos about COVID-19’s impact on schools in Alberta.