A physically distanced classroom is seen at Kensington Community School amidst the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday, September 1, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio

$242M in federal back-to-school funding to be divvied up by districts based on enrolment

Funds to be used to buy more personal protective equipment, increase capacity for remote learning

The B.C. government has announced just how much of the federal government’s previously announced funding for classrooms will be coming to the province – and exactly what school districts will be able to spend it on.

Roughly $242.4 million in one-time funding has been earmarked for B.C.’s school reopening plan, with half to arrive in September and the rest in January. That is in addition to the $44.6 million in provncial funding announced earlier this summer.

“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,” Education Minister Rob Fleming said in a statement Thursday (Sept. 3).

“We are appreciative of this additional support to provide more resources to districts and independent school authorities, so they can continue providing ongoing learning opportunities in a safe way.”

Fleming said the funds will be allocated to school districts based on enrolment numbers.

Of the first $121 million, $101.1 million to school districts, $8 million to independent schools and reserving $12.1 million for emerging COVID-19 related issues between September and December.

School districts will determine how to use the money it receives, to expand health and safety measures, purchase more personal protective equipment and increase capacity for remote learning.

This includes hiring and training more teachers and support staff for remote learning, purchasing additional software licences, electronic course materials and textbooks, as well as increasing internet access in remote and Indigenous communities.

On Aug. 26, Fleming directed school districts and independent schools to contact all families in their catchments to confirm if they planned for their child to attend school classes in September or if they would need remote learning options.

Over the past week, the ministry said that school officials have reported that the majority of students are returning to full-time, in-class instruction. However, some families are looking for remote options or transition programs.

Horgan says back-to-school plan could change once kids are in classroom again

Earlier Thursday, Premier John Horgan told reporters that the province is prepared to change its back-to-school plan as it works to address safety issues raised by teachers and staff.

It’s not about “here is the plan, we are sticking with it,” Horgan said.

“Here is the start and we will amend the plan as we need to in order to address safety and provide a quality education for our kids.”

The BC Teachers’ Federation has been vocal in recent weeks over concerns of physical distancing in classrooms amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The union has been calling for more remote learning options in order to reduce class sizes to curb transmission rates.

Horgan, Fleming and federation president Teri Mooring met Wednesday, Horgan said.

More to come.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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