'Too late to implement these funds': Federal gov't support won't help with back-to-school plan, WRDSB trustee says
KITCHENER -- Federal government funding won't help the Waterloo Region District School Board with its reopening plan for next month, according to the chair of the board of trustees.
"Right now, it would be too late to implement these funds, because we don't know when we'll receive them," Chair Jayne Herring said Wednesday. "These funds will not be used for September, but they certainly will be used beyond that and we'll put them to good use, but they certainly won't help us with our opening at this time."
The federal government announced Wednesday that it was providing up to $2 billion to provinces and territories to cover extra costs as students return to the classroom. The "Safe Return to Class Fund" will be handed out in two instalments: the first this fall and the second in early 2021. Ottawa said the money will be distributed based on the number of students between the ages of four and 18.
Splitting the funding into two instalments will "ensure that provinces and territories have support for the whole school year," according to the Prime Minister's Office.
Herring said the WRDSB doesn't know yet how much funding it will receive, or when the money will be available.
"We will put [the funds] to good use once we get them," she said.
Even without the federal funding, Herring said schools are ready to welcome students back next month.
"They've done everything possible to mitigate the risks," she said. "Hopefully it'll be safe for everyone."
Herring said the school board will evaluate how best to use the federal funding once Ottawa gives them a dollar figure.
"It will depend on how much it is and when we receive it and what the needs are at the time," she said.
The Waterloo Catholic District School Board is also waiting to see how much money it will receive from the federal government.
"We'd have to see how much money is allocated to Waterloo Catholic," WCDSB board of trustees Chair Bill Conway said. "Certainly the feedback from the community would be the opportunity to reduce class sizes, so perhaps if the opportunity is to use it for hiring more teachers."
Conway also said the school board is facing a deficit after buying personal protective equipment to keep staff and students safe.
He also said the funding could possibly help with virtual classes for students who won't be attending school in-person in the fall.
"It sounds like a big number, but it's a big number shared across Canada," Conway said. "So, what actually comes to the actual board is always sort of what really tells us how much we can spend."
On Monday, the WCSDB trustees voted to write a letter to the provincial government, asking for money to help support smaller class sizes, more buses, fewer contact points for teachers and PPE.
Both the WRDSB and WCDSB have voted to make masks mandatory for all students in the fall. The provincial guidelines only mandate mask use for students in Grades 4 to 12.
The two school boards will also have a staggered start for elementary school students.
With files from CTVNews.ca's Rachel Aiello