Manitoba commits $1.6M for 5 schools to build community services

Five schools across Manitoba are set to get new provincial funding for community programming, as the province expands its efforts to build school capacity to serve the needs of students and their families.

Funding comes through community schools program, launched in 2013 to build schools into community hubs

Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen speaks to kids at Dalhousie School on Wednesday at an announcement bringing that school and four others into the province's community schools program, which offers funding to help schools serve community needs. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Five schools across Manitoba are set to get new provincial funding for community programming, as the province expands efforts to build school capacity to serve the needs of students and their families.

Two schools in Winnipeg — as well as one school each in The Pas, Selkirk and Brandon — will get a share of $1.6 million over the next three years, starting in January 2020.

"This is a way of us beginning to do community work, adding to the opportunities before and after school that we provide for our children," said Marina Wilson, principal of Dalhousie School in Winnipeg's Fort Richmond neighbourhood.

The kindergarten to Grade 6 school serves students from 56 countries around the world, Wilson said. Some students come to the school speaking no English, and others have never been to school before after spending time in refugee camps.

For parents in the area, the school can be a first point of contact to seek services, she said.

Marina Wilson, principal of Dalhousie School, says the funding from the Community Schools Program will help her school build on services like its breakfast program and Boys and Girls Club. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

"The loneliness and the need for the school to be there for them, to help them meet people, to become part of the community — the school is really a gathering place for them," she said.

"Everybody feels safe at school, and our families come to the school for help, often, and for ways to understand and navigate the things that you need to do in the community."

Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen was at the school Wednesday afternoon to announce the funding, which is part of the province's community schools program. The program was created through the Community Schools Act in 2013 in an effort to build schools into community resource hubs.

Thirty-one schools in Manitoba already received funding through the program.

"There are students who are coming into our schools who have challenges that exist beyond their ability to learn. Some of that can be social problems, challenges, some of it can be hunger, some of it can be related to mental health," Goertzen said Wednesday.

"This funding and the ability to connect into the community helps to alleviate some of those challenges so they can just focus simply on learning."

Literacy programming, parenting information, meal programs

The $1.6 million announced Wednesday will go to Dalhousie School and Victor Mager School in Winnipeg, as well as Ruth Hooker School in Selkirk, George Fitton School in Brandon and Scott Bateman Middle School in The Pas.

A portion of that pot will also go toward expanding programming already offered at 14 kindergarten to Grade 6 schools in the program.

Schools that will receive funding are selected by the province based on need, Goertzen said, and schools and school divisions work with the province to figure out what programming they'll offer.

Examples at some schools include early childhood literacy programming, parenting information and programs, mentoring and youth development programs and meal programs.

Wilson said Dalhousie School hopes to use some of its funding to build on the breakfast program it already offers, which feeds about 100 kids every morning.

"They have loving adults that greet them in the morning, ensure that they have a good breakfast. They have connections," she said.

"Even if you cannot participate in anything else at school — you don't speak English, you don't play a sport, you're not ready to join choir — everybody can eat together. … Everybody belongs in breakfast."


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