OTTAWA – The Alberta government will receive just over $262 million from the federal government for back to school preparations.
The money is part of the $2 billion in additional funding from the federal government to help provinces and territories ensure that kids can safely return to class this fall.
“We appreciate this funding as it demonstrates how all levels of government can support the return to in-class learning across Canada,” said Colin Atchison, spokesperson for Education Minister Adriana LaGrange.
“Given this is a very sudden announcement by the federal government, officials from Alberta Education are currently reviewing the program details in order to determine how to best distribute this funding to school authorities quickly and effectively.”
#Alberta is getting $262M from the Feds. Ottawa is pumping $2B to the provinces to get schools safely restarted. Education Minister LaGrange's office says they're reviewing the program details to determine how best to use the federal money. #yyc #abpoli #ableg — Full statement: pic.twitter.com/akpiLQUAgl
— Saif Kaisar (@StaySaif) August 26, 2020
Atchison goes on to say this money is in addition to the millions the government has already provided to schools for maintenance and personal protective equipment.
While it’s not clear yet what the extra funds will be used for, the Alberta Teachers Association and the Opposition NDP are calling for the UCP to rehire the thousands of staff let go at the beginning of the pandemic.
In a tweet, NDP leader Rachel Notley added class sizes need to be reduced and the government must support students with special needs.
Alberta now has $262.8M to invest in safe schools. Jason Kenney and Adriana LaGrange should start rehiring the teachers and EAs they fired. We need to reduce class sizes and we MUST support students with special needs. Do the right thing. #ableg #abed https://t.co/UnNAFDKDQh
— Rachel Notley (@RachelNotley) August 26, 2020
During a live stream, NDP Education Critic Sarah Hoffman demonstrated what a classroom would look like with a capsize.
“What we would normally be seeing is about 30 students in a class. Instead, we’ve set this up with 15.”
“Fifteen is what our recommendation is. It’s also what other jurisdictions were looking at, including Ontario for high school and other jurisdictions internationally that have been able to limit the rate of increase of COVID-19 in their communities.”
She says a capsize of 15 students in an average-sized class would allow for one metre between desks and two metres in classes above the average size.
In the demonstration, she says three-quarters of the budget would be used to ensure there is enough staffing
“They said $10 million for hand sanitizers and some masks, so we do believe that our full costing proposal is about $1 billion and that’s what we think would require to have a fully safe September.”
“We know that if we don’t have a safe September, we’ll experience things that other jurisdictions have including outbreaks in schools and potential closures again.”
Trudeau said provinces and territories, which have sole jurisdiction over education, will have the flexibility to spend the money as they see fit to bolster their efforts to ensure schools can reopen this fall as safely as possible.
The Edmonton Public School Board is welcoming news of more money ahead of the school year, but says the province should’ve been the one stepping up–not the federal government.
“I want to be very clear—education is a provincial responsibility, and we are disappointed we have not seen a significant investment for school re-entry from our own government,” reads a statement from Board Chair Trish Estabrooks.
She adds individual school boards don’t have much information on how the money will be divvied up.
“I strongly encourage the provincial government to involve school boards in conversations around how these funds will be used and distributed,” she said.
“We know our schools and students, and their needs, best.”
-with files from Carly Robsinson and Raynaldo Suarez