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

Just Posted

LETTER: Writer questions spread of variant and timing of vaccinations

Will there ever be a return to normal, or will people need to invest in respirators?

A family of geese wandered through the beach area of Whonnock Lake recently. (Heather Colpitts/Black Press Media)
VIDEO: Whonnock Lake visitors marvel at cute goslings

Defecating fowl can also bring with them potential issues for Maple Ridge park

Edward Wang shared this picture of an alpaca amid a field of hay in Pitt Meadows, seeking a little shade under the summer-like skies. (Special to The News)
SHARE: Grazing in the field

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon

Sandie Bannie is opposed to Pitt Meadows council move to put an RCMP detachment in a park. (Special to The News)
LETTER: Pitt Meadows resident opposed to costly RCMP detachment for small population

Letter writer urges residents to voice opposition before June 28 deadline

Dylan Ross, a Maple Ridge resident for 25 years, is like so many other local residents. He gravitates to the local trails and waterways for a little relaxation. He shared a few pictures along the local dikes near Sharpe Road during a recent kayaking adventure. (Special to The News)
SHARE: Regular relaxation retreat

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

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

(Black Press Media files)
Burnaby RCMP look for witnesses in hit-and-run that left motorcyclist dead

Investigators believe that the suspect vehicle rear-ended the motorcycle before fleeing the scene

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A police pursuit involving Abbotsford Police ended in Langley Saturday night, June 20. (Black Press Media file)
Abbotsford Police pursuit ends in Langley with guns drawn

One person arrested, witnesses say an officer may have been hurt in collision with suspect vehicle

Most Read