Public schools principals in Thunder Bay will have a new way to help underprivileged students this school year.

The Lakehead Learning Foundation will provide money to be used at the discretion of the principal when she sees the needs of a child not being met.

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Catherine Siemieniuk, director of the Lakehead District School Board, says principals needs flexibility to use foundation money for what they see as important. (Lakehead District School Board)

"They [principals] need to have the flexibility and the authority to be able to purchase exactly what it is they think that students need," said Catherine Siemieniuk, director of education at the Lakehead District School Board and president of the foundation.

The foundation traditionally raised funds for scholarships and awards but this year it is taking steps to help low-income families by raising money for students basic needs.

Principals are authorized to pay for items ranging from food to eyeglasses.

Siemieniuk said the foundation can only provide up to $1,000 per school and will not duplicate the work of charities.

"There are often children who don't adequately warm clothing in the wintertime," said Ellen Chambers, local president of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario.

She adds that the funding is a welcome acknowledgement that schools have a role to play in helping children in need.