The federal government is giving the provinces up to $2 billion for back-to-school plans. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the contribution through the “Safe Return to Class fund.”
“As a former teacher and parent, I know first-hand the importance of school for kids’ social development and mental well-being, not to mention their ability to learn,” Trudeau said. There was an additional $112 million announced to support First Nations to support a return to school on reserves.
“We know families are worried about sending their children back to school. The COVID-19 pandemic has put pressure on our schools and families,” Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen said. The funding breaks down to two installments, with the first coming this fall. Education is a provincial/ territorial responsibility, and the Finance Department has emergency authority under legislation passed in the House of Commons earlier this year.
Ontario’s portion is $763.34 million. “Today’s investment by the Federal government complements the already landmark investments made by our government in support of safe and healthy schools,” Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce said.
The federal funding will be used as follows:
Reopening Plan Implementation – $200 million
- $100 million to complement the health and safety components of school reopening plans, in consultation with local public health units, including the hiring of custodians, HVAC, improvements, internet connectivity for students and other local needs.
- $30 million to support additional PPE for schools.
- $70 million for the temporary hiring of educators as required.
Student Transportation – $70 million
- $44.5 million in support of the Driver Retention Program (DRP).
- $25.5 million for route protection and to help reduce the number of students on buses.
Special Education and Mental Health Supports Enhancement – $12.5 million
- Will allow boards to hire and train additional staff and provide more mental health supports for students.
Additional Public Health Nurses – $12.5 million
- Supports up to 125 additional nursing positions in public health units across the province to help schools manage potential COVID-19 cases.
Remote Learning – $36 million
- Ensures that every school board offering virtual learning has a dedicated principal and administrative support for both its secondary and elementary virtual schools.
Ontario is also setting aside $50 million additional funding for future pandemic education needs.