Federal funds to pay for new water stations, more food and supplies for school
Ventilation systems will also be rechecked, repaired if necessary
Schools across Nova Scotia will be getting new touchless water stations and extra school supplies, as well as money to test drive new online math, language and literacy programs.
Teachers, students and staff will also receive new face masks and have access to more personal protective equipment as part of a spending spree to use up almost all of the almost $48 million promised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last August.
Nova Scotia Education Minister Zach Churchill laid out his department's shopping list during a virtual news conference Wednesday from the Tri-County Regional Centre of Education office in Yarmouth.
"Today I am pleased to announce the province is providing $14.3 million to our students and staff for well-being and learning," he told reporters.
That spending includes:
- $4.1M to pilot new online math and literacy programs.
- $3.8M for 950 touchless water stations in every school.
- $2.7M for additional inspections to ventilation systems and needed repairs.
- $1.5M for breakfast and lunch programs or for food deliveries if schools are closed.
- $1.5M for personal protective equipment.
- $700,00 to move furniture and supplies if students need to change schools as part of blended learning.
In August, Trudeau announced the creation of a $2 billion Safe Return to Class Fund. Nova Scotia was promised almost $48 million from the fund to "ensure a safe return to school and [to] protect the health of students and staff."
The Nova Scotia government has announced where all but $6 million of that money has been or will be spent. Churchill is holding back the remaining money in case it's needed down the road.
"We do have approximately six million left that we're going to deploy in areas that we believe are necessary moving forward, but we don't just want to spend it all," he said. "There's nothing to spend it on.
"We want to respond to issues that are emerging as challenges that we want to deal with, and having some additional resources in place to do that, I think is a wise thing to do."
On Nov. 23, Churchill announced the purchase of 32,000 Chromebooks to go home with students if they are forced to move to online learning. That $21.5 million expenditure is from the fund. So too is the $5.5 million announced Nov. 3 to hire cleaning staff and buy supplies so that school gyms could reopen to community groups and sports teams.
Although the province was ready Wednesday to announce the purchase of 950 water stations, Churchill was unable to provide a timeline for when they might be installed.
"That's going to be managed at the regional level so I don't have a schedule on which schools are going to be done (and) when, but the work on this will commence immediately," he said.
The $1.5 million earmarked for school breakfast and lunch programs will be used to meet the increased demand for both programs, as well as for food hampers or to buy grocery gift cards if students are sent home again if COVID infection rates warrant the closure of schools.
Deanna Rawding, principal at West Northfield Elementary School near Bridgewater, said her school has seen an increase in demand for both its free breakfasts and its equity meal program, which offers a free lunch to students who cannot afford to pay for it.
"I've seen an increase in need ... because we had some families that lost jobs due to COVID or were unable to get the hours they needed to support their family," said Rawding.
She said the extra funds to be able to continue to help those students would make a difference in the classroom.
"That makes them feel good and that makes them better learners throughout the day," she said.