The province is sharing its plans for the $242 million in federal funding earmarked for reopening B.C. schools

The first half of the one-time grant is expected to arrive sometime this month, and education minister Rob Fleming says a good portion of it will be allocated to public school districts based on enrolment. 

From the first installment, $101.1 million will go to school districts, $8 million to independent schools and $12.1 million will be kept aside for emerging COVID-19 related issues between September and December. 

The ministry is expected to receive up to another $121.2 million in January, which will be allocated out at that time.

Fleming says there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to the way B.C. schools will implement their restart plans.

“It’s going to look different depending on the needs of each community,” Fleming said. “As we’ve seen from school districts’ restart plans, we know it is local solutions that work best for individual students and families, and with the support of the ministry, many districts have already developed, or are developing, additional remote options as reported in their K-12 restart plans.”

On Aug. 26, Fleming told school districts and independent schools to contact all families to confirm if their child will be headed back to classes in September or if they would need remote learning options. 

Over the past week, schools 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.

The funding will support school districts to hire and train more teachers and support staff for remote learning; purchase additional software licences, electronic course materials and textbooks; purchase computers or tablets; and create Wi-Fi hubs and internet access in remote and Indigenous communities.

School districts and independent schools will be able to spend the funding in the following areas:

Learning resources and supports

  • Implementation of online and remote learning options
  • Hiring additional teachers and staff
  • Training for staff
  • On-call teachers costs and other on-call staff
  • Mental health support for students and staff

Health and safety

  • Increasing staff and covering salary costs for additional hours needed to meet health and safety guidelines in schools
  • Improving air systems in schools, such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning improvements, portable air scrubbers and increased utility costs
  • Increasing hand hygiene, including additional handwashing and hand sanitizing stations, installing touchless faucets or additional supplies
  • Installing plexiglass and other barriers, providing outdoor learning spaces, and adapting classrooms and school buses to minimize physical contact
  • Purchasing additional cleaning supplies such as sprayers or fogger machines for frequent cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces
  • Purchasing additional masks, face shields or other PPE as needed

Transportation

  • Cover additional transportation costs to have fewer students on buses and/or to accommodate new school schedules and additional routes
  • Supporting alternative transportation strategies, such as assisting with gas costs for parents who transport their children to school

Before- and after-school child care

  • Opening up more space and covering the cleaning costs for before- and after-school care so that groups can be smaller and to ensure students can remain within their learning groups
  • Additional staff to support before- and after-school care during the pandemic

The province says the one-time provincial and federal COVID-19 funding investments “build on the record levels of funding schools are already receiving, with $546 million of new money in B.C.’s Budget 2020 for K-12 education.”