K-12 COVID-19 federal funding used to hire new staff, increase cleaning

SCHOOL districts are investing in additional staff time and cleaning to keep schools safe and support student learning with the first instalment of federal funding for B.C.’s K-12 COVID-19 response, the Province announced on Monday.

School districts hired 1,868 new staff, purchased almost 2.5 million pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE), installed or upgraded more than 5,800 hand hygiene or washing stations, and upgraded 45,283 air or ventilation filters.

“School is the best place for most students to learn, and it’s so important for their social and emotional well-being,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education. “We know this funding is making a tremendous difference for students and staff, keeping our schools open and supporting our safety plans during the pandemic.”

The 1,868 new positions created include:

* 968 additional teachers and 1,014,250 more staff hours;

* 252 additional educational assistants and 228,491 more staff hours;

* 403 additional custodial staff and 575,885 more staff hours; and

* 244 other additional staff positions, such as school counsellors, bus drivers or administrative staff, and 202,744 more staff hours.

The federal government announced $242.4 million in one-time funding for B.C.’s K-12 COVID-19 response, with the first half – $121.2 million – allocated between September and the end of the calendar year. The ministry allocated $101.1 million to public school districts and $8 million for independent schools at the beginning of the school year, and $12.1 million in federal funding was reserved for emerging needs.

This reserve funding is now being released to all school districts to cover emerging expenses, including for additional staff or cleaning if an exposure has occurred at a school or refreshing stocks of additional cleaning supplies and PPE as needed.

The second instalment of $121.2 million in federal funding is expected to be available in January 2021. The federal funding builds on the $45.6 million in one-time funding provided through the Province’s COVID-19-specific investment in education.