The provincial government announced on Thursday that federal funding towards COVID-19 back-to-school plans will be spent according to the needs of individual school districts.
The federal government is providing $242.4 million, half of which will be made available this fall and allocated as follows:
- $101.1 million for school districts
- $8 million for independent schools
- $12.1 million held in reserve for emerging COVID-19 issues between September and December 2020
The remaining $121.2 million is expected to be provided in January.
In a press conference on Thursday, BC Minister of Education Rob Fleming said school districts will have control over how their portion of funding will be spent.
“This funding will be used in different ways by different school districts based on what their priorities are for additional resources for COVID safety,” said Fleming.
“It may be hiring additional teachers and supporting remote learning options where the need for that is great. It may be different in a rural or remote community where the emphasis might be on transportation.”
He added that school districts are relying on feedback from parent surveys that were sent out recently to determine how funds will be spent.
The Ministry of Education says that early reports from school indicate that most students are prepared to return to full-time, in-class instruction.
A representative from Saanich School District 61 said in an email to Victoria Buzz that preliminary results from their survey showed approximately 85-90% return of students to in-class learning.
The province says that funding can support a wide range of COVID-19 initiatives for school districts, including hiring and training more teachers and support staff, installation of protective barriers, and/or purchasing additional equipment for remote learning.
The BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) welcomed the announcement in a statement posted to their website on Thursday.
“Meaningful and easy to access remote learning options will help reduce class sizes and school density,” said BCTF Mooring.
“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.”
Other areas that school districts may spend federal funding on include:
- Mental health support for students and staff
- Improving air systems in schools, such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning
- additional handwashing and hand sanitizing stations, or installing touchless faucets
- Cover additional transportation costs to have fewer students on buses
- assisting with gas costs for parents who transport their children to school
- Additional staff to support before- and after-school care during the pandemic