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HomeNewsInvestments in ventilation, remote learning needed as schools receive more COVID-19 support...

Investments in ventilation, remote learning needed as schools receive more COVID-19 support money

BC Teachers Federation President Teri Mooring says school districts need more direction from the province on spending the COVID-19 support money they’ve been receiving.

Over 100-million in additional funding will be rolled out to schools across the province later this month including those in our region.

She told Vista Radio conversations on how the money should be spent, needs to occur locally with teachers spearheading the conversation.

“Teachers need to be a part of the conversation around priorities for spending the money because they are front line workers, they are the ones in the classroom and need to provide information on what’s needed and give a lot of feedback about what is happening and what’s working and what’s not.”

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The head of the teachers union in BC is also calling on the province to ensure the hardest hit school districts in the north, receive additional money to fight the pandemic.

Last year, Ottawa allocated 242 million dollars in one-time funding to support BC’s K-12 COVID-19 response where the first installment was allocated toward the final few months of 2020.

Mooring stated only a million of that went to support remote learning, an area that needs more investment.

“We have families right now saying that they aren’t comfortable sending their children back and they are being told that they don’t have to but there does need to be some funding associated with those remote learners because currently, they aren’t receiving their full education because of a lack of staffing.”

“There are many families in the north who have taken advantage of that remote learning option and it really varies from district to district.”

Ventilation is another key issue would like to see addressed at the provincial level.

According to a statement from the Ministry of Education sent to Vista Radio, the province has already put in place more than $167 million in provincial and federal funding to improve air quality systems, purchase cleaning supplies and PPE, support remote learning and hire more staff where needed, with another $122 million committed from the Federal Government for the end of January.

According to the Ministry, during the first phase of funding, 41 districts had upgraded their HVAC systems this year to increase air exchange, and that 24 districts upgraded their HVAC systems to MERV-13 filters – the recommended rating by the federal government. Districts also upgraded 45,283 air or ventilation filters.

In addition, the province stated public schools have budgeted almost $10 million this school year for HVAC improvements and $5 million from Phase 1 has been spent so far on such improvements.

However, Mooring has heard rumblings parents and teachers are buying portable ventilation units, which normally falls as a district responsibility.

“That sets up an inequitable dynamic where you have situations where parents can afford to buy a portable ventilation system for their child’s classrooms. You know, some of those classrooms have them while others don’t so there is a lot of inequity of having to rely on teachers or parents or fundraising to provide these sorts of protections that should be in place.”

“We know that replacing old ventilation systems in schools can be very expensive and time-consuming but an alternative to that is looking at classrooms that don’t have windows or doors set open and looking at classroom-based portable ventilation systems, hep a filter and that sort of thing can be beneficial in those situations.”

In December, the provincial government issued a news release stating K-12 COVID-19 funding would be used to hire new staff and cleaning.

School districts hired 1,868 new staff including:

  • 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.

According to the Ministry of Education, school districts and independent schools invested in the following during the first installment of federal funding:

Staff and educational resources

  • Delivering education programs, including services and supplies, staff, and capital costs – $45.53 million
  • Additional staff to implement safety plans – $4.48 million
  • Mental health support – $1.33 million
  • Before- and after-school child care – $410,000

Cleaning measures

  • Enhanced cleaning of schools, including staff, equipment, and supplies – $14.87 million
  • Hand hygiene purchases, upgrades, and supplies — $2.93 million
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) – $2.93 million
  • Ventilation and air quality improvements – $5.03 million
  • Plexiglass or other barriers and adapting school spaces – $2.08 million
  • Health and safety training – $980,000

Transportation

  • Enhanced cleaning of buses – $1.07 million;
  • Additional bus routes or reduced bus utilization – $1.91 million
  • Technology for ridership tracking and route planning – $292,604

Remote learning

  • Support for remote learning, such as technology loans or software to support students with disabilities or complex needs – $1.06 million
  • This funding also supported the purchase of 10,309 new computers, laptops, or tablets.

A link to the news release can be found here.

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