Justin Trudeau visited a school in Toronto on Wednesday, where he officially announced $2 billion in additional funding to help provinces and territories ensure that kids can safely return to class this fall.
The money is on top of the $19 billion the prime minister has already promised provinces and territories to help them cope with the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their economies and health-care systems.
He informed premiers of the new funding during a conference call Tuesday afternoon.
The funding is expected to be allocated based on each province and territory’s number of students.
“As a former teacher and a parent, I know first-hand the importance of school for kids’ social development and mental well-being, not to mention their ability to learn. The return to school is also an important step to restart our economy and get parents back to work while not worrying about the health of their children.”
The money will flow through a new fund specifically for school reopenings called the Safe Return to Class fund. As part of the spending, $112 million will go towards helping schools in First Nations communities.
Federal officials say provinces and territories, which have sole jurisdiction over education, will have plenty of flexibility in deciding how best to spend the money.
Trudeau said he “absolutely respects” that each jurisdiction operates differently and feels that the new fund is designed to support each province in the best way possible.
Provinces will have the freedom to spend the federal government money as they see fit to bolster their efforts and ensure schools can reopen this fall as safely as possible.
“Canada’s children have shown immense strength throughout this global pandemic. With a new school year about to begin, our government is committed to helping ensure that Canada’s students and teachers can safely return to their classrooms,” added Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.
Schools have been shut down across the country since COVID-19 started sweeping across the country in mid-March.
A return to school has been on many parents and teachers minds as concerns continue to mount as September nears.
Here in British Columbia, the BC Teachers’ Federation has called on the provincial government for stricter mask regulations, smaller class sizes and the creation of remote learning opportunities.
Parents have also stressed their concerns about the health risks of sending children to facilities.
B.C.’s Ministry of Education has continued to make amendments to their initial plan in order to increase safety, including mandating masks in high-traffic areas, however, have mostly backed the original return to school plan, which was ultimately approved by Dr. Bonnie Henry.
Students across British Columbia are scheduled to return to facilities on September 10.