A special $100 million Safe Schools fund is being created by the Manitoba government to ensure safe and healthy learning environments this fall, Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen announced today.
“This additional investment in our education system will support our Restoring Safe Schools plan to help ensure our schools remain a safe, familiar place for our students and staff,” said Goertzen. “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.”
All school divisions will be able to access the Safe Schools funding, which consists of $48 million in preparedness savings already set aside for this purpose, plus an additional $52 million.
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, including 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 and children learning.
Manitoba Education and public health officials are committed to ensuring a safe return to school. Already, 4.7 million masks have been delivered to school divisions from the province, with more to come throughout the school year. Funding will also be available to enhance the sanitization of schools and buses and to ensure that school divisions have access to additional supports needed to keep schools clean and safe. The province continues to work with school divisions to assess the need for this extraordinary funding support and to identify challenges as they arise.
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.
“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.
(Province of MB News Release)