Last spring, with the shuttering of schools, school divisions throughout the province saved $48 million. On August 24, Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen announced an additional $52 million added to the pot. That makes a $100 million Safe Schools fund being created by the Manitoba government to ensure safe and healthy learning environments this fall.
Goertzen said, “We know that our education system needs to be ready to deal with today’s pandemic reality as students and staff return to the classroom, and our government is delivering the financial support to help school divisions meet that need.”
The minister specified the funding will focus on putting in place the public health measures needed to keep students and staff as safe as possible while learning. This additional funding will be distributed on a per-student basis, with a portion of it to be held in reserve to be able to quickly respond to emerging challenges.
This one-time, focused funding will be used to directly support schools, teachers, and students across the province by:
• providing non-medical and medical masks and personal protective equipment for students, teachers and staff;
• enhancing cleaning and sanitization, more supplies and custodial staffing;
• increasing bus transportation capacity, including additional bus drivers and routes; and
• ensuring substitute teachers and educational staff are available to keep schools open
Already, 4.7 million masks have been delivered to school divisions from the province, with more to come throughout the school year.
On a per-capita basis, this dedicated COVID-19 funding is the second-highest of any province in the country for the safe reopening of schools. Manitoba’s investment in elementary and secondary education has increased annually since 2016, totaling $33 million in additional funding.
Protocols are changing
“We thank our teachers, students and staff for taking on the extra challenges associated with making classrooms safe under the new constraints of COVID-19,” said Goertzen. “The province will continue to work closely with public health, education stakeholders, school divisions, independent schools, parents, caregivers and students as part of its response to COVID-19 and a safe return to school.”
The Practice Guidance and Protocols for Restoring Safe Schools document, released last month, will change to reflect the latest guidance on this issue and is posted at: www.edu.gov.mb.ca/k12/covid/index.html.
The EngageMB website at https://engagemb.ca/welcoming-our-students-back-restoring-safe-schools remains the best forum for parents, caregivers and students to post questions for response throughout the return to classroom learning.