To help address expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, school authorities in Airdrie and Rocky View County (RVC) will receive a financial boost from an unexpected source.
Though education falls under the provincial government’s jurisdiction, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Aug. 26 the federal government would transfer $2 billion to provinces and territories to support school divisions in their efforts to limit the spread of the virus. The funding doled out to each province or territory was calculated based on census population data for people ages four to 18 years old, and the provinces had the flexibility to decide how the money would be spent.
At a press conference Sept. 2, Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange announced Alberta’s portion of the federal funding will equal $262 million. About $250 million of that total would be distributed to school authorities on a $350-per-student model, she said, while the remaining funds would support school authorities that are "seeing a large influx in enrolment” due to increased demand for their online learning options.
“School authorities said that they wanted as much flexibility as possible to use this funding in ways that are most important for their schools and communities,” she said in a statement. “I recognize the importance of this and am pleased to set broad criteria for use of this funding. I would also like to express appreciation to the federal government for identifying these dollars to help with a successful school year.”
As per the announcement, the public school division in Airdrie and RVC – Rocky View Schools (RVS) – will receive slightly less than $9.3 million. In a statement, RVS Director of Communications Tara de Weerd said the division was appreciative of the extra funding and officials will discuss how to best allocate the money in the coming weeks.
“The safety and well-being of RVS students and staff remains our number one priority,” she said. “The flexibility and autonomy provided by the provincial government allow RVS to make funding decisions that are in the best interest of our students, families and staff.”
The Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD), which oversees Catholic schools in Cochrane, Airdrie, Chestermere and surrounding areas, issued a similar statement. The Catholic school division is set to receive $20.6 million.
“[CCSD] is very appreciative of the federal funding for schools,” the statement said. “Under the direction of the ministry, our district plans to invest these funds into our classrooms – both in-person and online – [as well as] teachers, support and caretaking staff.”
The funding each school division receives, LaGrange said, must be used to support additional COVID-19-related costs in relation to staffing, supports for students with disabilities, cleaning, online learning and teacher training, adapting learning spaces and personal protective equipment.
“Since last week’s announcement by the federal government, I’ve had numerous conversations with education stakeholders, school boards, disability advocates and school administrators about how this funding would be best used,” she said at the press conference. “Based on those conversations and the guidelines which the federal government has set out, I believe this approach is the fairest and most equitable way to disburse the funding.”
According to LaGrange, the federal government will transfer the funds to the provinces and territories in two phases – once in September and once later in the school year.