B.C. will receive $242.36 million as part of the newly created Safe Return to Class fund and school advocates are looking to see how the funds can be used for students. (Stock photo)

B.C. will receive $242.36 million as part of the newly created Safe Return to Class fund and school advocates are looking to see how the funds can be used for students. (Stock photo)

School advocates hope new federal funding can assist B.C. schools with more flexibility

B.C. will receive $242.36 million as part of the newly created Safe Return to Class fund

Some school advocates within B.C. are cautiously optimistic following a $2 billion federal government funding announcement for school safety for the coming year.

B.C. will receive $242.36 million as part of the newly created Safe Return to Class fund, an amount in proportion to the provincial population of students, said Dean McGee of the Surrey District Parents Advisory Council, which represents the interest of Surrey parents in the public education system.

“We’re happy to see that it’s split by population, and now we want to see it split by district. We feel (our district) is always left behind.”

In his announcement this morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the money can be used for anything from hand sanitizer to remote leaning options. McGee hopes some of the funds can be used for options such as paying for cleaning staff.

He said he’s heard from their district’s superintendent they have already “spent more than $5 million on just cleaners.”

RELATED: Feds roll out $2 billion to fund return-to-school safety amid pandemic

A hybrid model of in-person and remote teaching is also a pressing need, along with larger classrooms with fewer students.

For those students who will attend in-person teaching, he believes more infrastructure such as hand sanitizer and plastic barriers are needed, particularly as many schools within the district use portables.

“There are 8,000 kids in portables – that’s a size of a medium school district in the rest of the province. When those kids go outside, they touch the doorknob to go to the bathroom, hopefully, there’s enough soap or sanitizer there, and then they touch the doorknob to go back in. We want to make sure all of that is up to scratch.”

While the federal funds could go towards more PPE within the classroom, Gord Lau, chair of the Vancouver School District Parent Advisory Council explained it would be better used for developing innovative solutions.

“The instructions from the (Ministry of Education) is that within a classroom, we don’t want kids touching, but you don’t have to practise social distancing. If we have more funding, that’s okay but the messaging (around COVID regulations) is ‘this isn’t required.’ The messaging around ventilation is ‘open a window.’ I don’t think that’s satisfactory.”

Lau added flexibility in the provincial mandate combined with the funding is what is required – particularly for elementary students so that a hybrid solution can be implemented.

“I think that would make parents happier than more funding for PPE.”

For Tracy Humphreys, chair of the BCEdAccess Society which serves students with disabilities and complex learners throughout the province, the funds could help with the flexibility of choice for students and parents alike.

In a recent survey done by the organization, 649 respondents out of 1,102 noted they are considering a different option from public, in-person school.

“I feel the loss of so many students with disabilities is a loss of great diversity and strength in the public education system,” said Humphreys. “The biggest finding we had is that students and parents and caregivers want to stay connected to the community school. Flexibility is key and we feel it is so important.”

In a statement on social media, the BC Teachers’ Federation noted the funds can be used for smaller classes, reduced density, better cleaning and ventilation. They added the province should also provide remote options for students that need them in order to reduce density and support medically complex children and youth.

Black Press Media has reached out to the BCTF for further comment.



photos@comoxvalleyrecord.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CoronavirusEducationSchools

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An Amica White Rock resident receives the COVID-19 vaccine during a Jan. 15, 2021 clinic. (Tracy Holmes photo)
PHOTOS: South Surrey seniors grateful for ‘freedom’ of COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccination clinics at Fraser Health long-term and assisted-living sites were to wrap up Jan. 15

Surrey Council Chambers. (File photo)
Surrey city councillors complain not enough public input in committees

City has gone ‘exactly the opposite direction,’ Councillor Brenda Locke charges

A Transit Police officer and another driver were injured on Nov. 4 in a traffic crash while the officer was responding to another officers call for help catching a man who escaped custody. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Police watchdog investigating Surrey crash that injured transit cop, another driver

Crash happened 11 p.m. Nov. 4, at 128th Street and 93rd Avenue in Cedar Hills

Friends and family of murder victim Paul Prestbakmo wore memorial masks outside Surrey Provincial Court Jan. 14, 2021. (From left) Family friend Tyler Whitley, sister Angela Prestbakmo, childhood friend Jimmy Slater, brother Steve Prestbakmo, Semiahmoo First Nation councillor Roxanne Charles and sister Liz Prestbakmo. (Tracy Holmes photo)
Two accused in 2019 South Surrey murder were ‘really angry,’ pacing at party: witness

‘We had this really strong gut feeling that something was really wrong’

Semiahmoo Rock
Record-setting 10 Semiahmoo Rock players selected in B.C. junior lacrosse draft

Kaleb Borg is the highest Rock player selected, going in the second round to the Coquitlam Adanacs

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Most Read