With less than two weeks to go before schools are set to welcome back students for the fall term, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today announced more than $2 billion in funding to help provinces and territories re-open their schools and economies safely.
The announcement comes as some provinces are reporting increases in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases.
The funding is meant to allow provinces and territories to work with local school boards to implement measures to protect students and staff from COVID-19. The money can be used to help adapt learning spaces, improve air ventilation, increase hand sanitation and hygiene and buy extra personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies.
Trudeau also announced an extra $112 million for First Nations communities to ensure a safe return to school on reserves.
While education falls under provincial jurisdiction, Trudeau said the money is meant only to top-up provincial resources.
“We respect the Constitution but we needed to find a way to help Canadians, and that’s what we’ve done,” he said.
Trudeau said MPs have been hearing from a lot of parents who are extremely anxious about schools reopening. The provinces will decide how they spend the money, he added.
Most students have been learning from home since the COVID-19 outbreak shut down schools and businesses in mid-March.
Trudeau said returning kids to school safely is critical to restarting the economy, since it would allow parents to return to work without stressing about the health of their children.
Trudeau said that, as a parent and a former teacher, he knows first-hand the importance of school for kids’ social development and mental well-being.
“Our children must be safe in the classroom. That’s non-negotiable,” he said. “No parent should be losing sleep because they have to go back to work, but aren’t confident schools are properly prepared.”
The funding is being allocated based on the number of children aged four to 18 years old in each province and territory, with a $2 million base amount for each jurisdiction.
Here’s a breakdown of the allotments:
- Alberta: $262.8 million
- British Columbia: $242.4 million
- Manitoba: $85.4 million
- New Brunswick: $39.8 million
- Newfoundland and Labrador: $26.2 million
- Northwest Territories: $4.9 million
- Nova Scotia: $47.9 million
- Nunavut: $5.8 million
- Ontario: $763.3 million
- Prince Edward Island: $10.4 million
- Quebec: $432.2 million
- Saskatchewan: $74.9 million
- Yukon: $4.2 million
Funding will be provided in two instalments; the first payment is expected this fall and a second is to arrive early in 2021.
WATCH: NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh on safe schools plan
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the federal money should support smaller classroom sizes.
“There is a real need to see dollars that are tied to schools being safer, and specifically what the health care experts and what the school experts are saying: classroom sizes,” he said. “We need smaller classroom sizes.”