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Feds announce up to $2B in funding to help provinces safely reopen schools

Last Updated Aug 27, 2020 at 12:10 pm MST

Summary

Feds announce $2 billion in additional funding to help provinces with safe restart of schools amid COVID-19


Provincial, territorial governments will decide how the money is spent


Funding announcement comes as some districts in Canada prepare to welcome students back in just days


TORONTO (NEWS 1130) – The prime minister has confirmed the federal government will be providing up to $2 billion in additional funding to help provinces and territories safely reopen schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Justin Trudeau made the announcement on Wednesday after informing premiers a day earlier.

The new funding is in addition to the $19 billion provinces and territories had already been promised to help them cope with the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 on each of their economies and health care systems.

“Parents and staff are anxious about what the school year may hold,” Trudeau, who is a former teacher, said on Wednesday. “We all want what’s best for our kids, including a good education. School matters — I got to see that first hand when I was in front of the classroom.”

The prime minister said getting kids back to school safely, and ensuring both students and parents are confident in how school districts are going to make sure their health is top of mind, is key.

While education is a provincial responsibility, Trudeau said the federal government is fronting the money to support each province and territory, “in the best way possible.”

Trudeau said the money will be distributed through the Safe Return to Class fund.

“We’ve made this funding flexible so provinces, and ultimately schools, can use it for what they need most, from hand sanitizer to remote learning,” the prime minister said, adding the federal government would also be investing $112 million in Indigenous community schools to help them with their restart plans.

The federal government is giving Ontario roughly $760 million, Alberta $260 million, B.C. $240 million, and Nova Scotia around $47 million.

Funding at the 11th hour

The funding comes amid ongoing concerns, anxiety, and confusion from parents on some back-to-school plans. Some of the biggest concerns raised have been around how school districts will pay for personal protective equipment, like masks, as well as smaller class sizes.

It also comes just days before some school districts across Canada and expected to start welcoming students back.

When asked why the government didn’t put the new funding forward earlier, in order to help schools plan ahead, Trudeau said the federal government “recognized” the principles of Canada’s constitution.

“That says that K to 12 education is a provincial responsibility. And even as a teacher and a parent, I recognized that that is something we’re best leaving in the hands of the provinces,” Trudeau said. “However, over the past week or so, I’ve heard from so many Liberal MPs, so many parents across the country, who are still extremely worried about how that reopening’s going to go.”

In an effort to help ease some of these concerns, Trudeau said Ottawa wanted to province provinces and territories “even more resources to be able to do everything that is necessary to keep our kids safe.”

How the money is spent will be decided by the provinces and territories.