Letter to Minister of Education: COVID funding

Limestone Learning Foundation
Letter to Minister of Education: COVID funding
Posted on 07/24/2020
Image of a letter graphicThe following letter was sent to Minister of Education Stephen Lecce on behalf of the Limestone District School Board on July 24, 2020.

To the Honourable Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education,

As school boards across Ontario continue to work on various reopening plans for the 2020-2021 school year, the Trustees of the Limestone District School Board would like to share some important considerations to maintain student and staff safety and well-being during any return to school model.

Regardless of the model chosen – whether that be continued remote learning, a return to in-school learning that follows public health directives, or a blended learning model of remote and in-school learning – considerable costs will need to be incurred by school boards that are not accounted or provided for in current funding models.

Remote learning will require additional investment to ensure equity of access for all students through adequate Internet access (especially in rural and remote areas), appropriate devices (including supportive assistive devices for those whom require them) and maintenance of those devices, technical support and ongoing professional learning for staff.

In-school learning will require a robust staffing plan to accommodate as many students as possible (including those with special education needs) while following public health directives. There will also be requirements for appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff and students (to comply with both health and safety and labour requirements), cleaning and sanitizing supplies and equipment, and transportation requirements. Each of these items requires adequate and reliable funding. Although we are awaiting direction on PPE requirements, we are estimating a cost of up to $3 million for our school board alone. Obviously, extra staffing costs would be high as well, depending on the re-entry model, not to mention replacement staff required for those who become ill or are required to self-isolate.

Whatever model will also require significant investment to provide mental health supports for students and staff who have been adversely affected by the pandemic. We must also consider providing food security supports to our most vulnerable populations which relies on school-based supports and interventions. We cannot  underestimate the affect the pandemic, lockdowns and school closures have on our school communities and we must be appropriately funded to continue this important work for as long as is needed.

We know there are still many unknowns regarding the new school year, and indeed how the pandemic will continue to affect our school communities in both the short and long term. To adequately and responsibly plan for the required changes to keep everyone safe going forward, school boards must receive additional and flexible funding. Recent increases to the Grants for Student Needs (GSNs) and Priorities and Partnerships Fund (PPF) are welcome but do not currently account for the myriad of challenges that lay ahead. It is critical that local boards be engaged in the planning and decision-making and have some flexibility to act with local needs in mind, based on public health expert guidance.

We know you, too, are committed to ensuring the health, safety and well-being of students and staff is a priority. We urge the Ministry of Education to join school boards in helping to ensure a safe return to school for everyone.

Suzanne Ruttan
Chair, Limestone District School Board of Trustees

For more information, please contact:
Karen Smith, Communications Officer
613-544-6925 x 314 | 613-328-0947 mobile
Jane Douglas, Communications officer
Communications Officer
613-544-6925 x 311 | 613-328-0916 mobile

The Limestone District School Board is situated on traditional territories of the Anishinaabe & Haudenosaunee.