WATERLOO -- Waterloo Region’s Public School trustees have passed the budget for the 2020-2021 school year.

The $805 million spending plan agreed upon Monday night is 5.2 per cent high than last year’s plan.

“The ministry, I believe, will understand fully the nature of these costs and will accept our deficit recovery plan that these costs are purely related to COVID-19 and to reopening schools,” said Superintendent Matthew Gerard.

This includes $7 million in special COVID-19 response projects, like new signage, barriers, personal protective equipment, more cleaning, and new midday high school bus routes.

“What you’re looking at tonight is our best estimates of the costs associated with reopening our schools” said Gerard.

The board says it’s a good plan to keep schools safe, but notes that there are a lot of moving parts still and a possibility of having to use savings to cover the a deficit that’s higher than the province would typically allow.

“Regardless of the plan coming forward, this is a safety budget that needs to be put in place to ensure our students and staff are safe,” said Director of Education John Bryant.

The board says they are still learning about new provincial funding that could reduce the savings they have to dip into as well as allow them to hire more staff an educators.

Trustees will get an updated look at the numbers next week and provide an update on how many students are expected back in classrooms.