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

The RCMP was called to a condo complex in Langley City in the early hours of Jan. 18, 2021, for a shooting. (Shane Mackichan/Special to the Langley Advance Times)
Violence hits Langley as gang war boils over in Lower Mainland

Three violent local incidents haven’t been definitively linked to gangs, but are apparently targeted

Langley Advance Times publisher Lisa Farquharson and Real Canadian Superstore Langley manager Jason Pietzarka presented Kristi Kocherkewych with her $200 prize in the third annual Win Everything You Didn’t Get for Christmas Contest. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)
Walnut Grove woman spreads cheer as winner of Langley Advance Times and Superstore contest

The third annual Win Everything You Didn’t Get for Christmas Contest received thousands of entries

Township of Langley crews were called to a structure fire in the 7200blk 208th St in Willoughby on Friday, Jan. 22, 2020 (Curtis Kreklau/South Fraser News Services)
VIDEO: Two-alarm blaze in Langley’s Willoughby neighbourhood

Crews respond to multiple reports of a structure fire in the 7200 block of 208th Street on Friday

Black Press Media Files
BC Teacher’s Federation asks for vaccine prioritization

‘Hopefully more vaccines are approved and the immunization strategy will be adjusted and accelerated’

Sources White Rock/South Surrey Food Bank is located at 2356 156 St. (File photo)
Door-to-door canvassers not working on behalf of Sources Food Bank, says manager

Accredited White Rock, South Surrey, Langley food bank does not canvas for donations

Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 is International Lego Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 24 to 30

Lego Day, Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day and Puzzle Day are all coming up this week

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

Surrey Fire Service responded to a fire in the industrial area of 192nd street and 54th Avenue early Saturday morning (Jan. 23, 2021). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Surrey crews respond to fire in industrial area

Fire happened early Saturday morning

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

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

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered B.C. teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely B.C.’s first in for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Most Read