Coronavirus Canada Updates: Edmonton Public School Board pegs COVID-19 cost at $68.3M

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Coronavirus: B.C. adds 357 cases of COVID-19, lowest single-day total since February
Coronavirus: B.C. adds 357 cases of COVID-19, lowest single-day total since February

The Edmonton Public school division is estimating COVID-19 will cost it an additional $68.3 million this school year, approximately $30 million more than what it received from the federal government in COVID-19 support.

The division is looking to spend up to $28.2 million of the nearly $44 million it had saved up in reserves to make up most of the difference, spokeswoman Megan Normandeau confirmed Friday. The remaining cash is being redirected from savings like moving professional development days online, she said.

According to an information report released ahead of Tuesday’s school board meeting, the division is estimating it will spend $39 million on staffing, including substitute teachers, and online curriculum development by the time the school year ends on Aug. 21, 2021.

Approximately $5.5 million is listed for custodians, $2.75 million for cleaning supplies and $2 million for PPE.

In August, the federal government announced $2 billion dollars in school pandemic support funding. Alberta received $262.8 million and of that Edmonton Public Schools was allotted $37.4 million.

In Alberta, the government has spent $10 million on PPE for students and staff, and accelerated $250 million in capital maintenance funding, including for improvements like ventilation. The ministry is also allowing schools to dip into a total of $363 million they have built in reserves, though school officials have raised concerns about using that money.

Michael Forian, acting press secretary for Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, said in an email that Edmonton Public has received $1.1 million in PPE and $31.4 million from the capital maintenance funding.

Edmonton Public school trustee Michael Janz, who asked for the report to be produced, said schools in Edmonton and Calgary have been particularly hard hit during the pandemic as well as by changes to the Ministry of Education’s funding model.

While the government maintains that it has increased funding over last year — Edmonton Public got an additional $13.4 million in operations funding — those in education point out that that money has not kept pace with growth or increased costs.

“I just feel like we’re up against the ropes,” Janz said Friday.

He wants Alberta to step in with more funding for education, both overall and specifically related to COVID-19.

He said students are struggling during the pandemic with everything from mental health concerns to limited access to education.

“If it’s $68 million forecasted additional cost to Edmonton Public. What is it to education in Alberta? he said.

Forian said provincial and federal funding combined “provides schools authorities with access to $1 billion in additional funds, of which three quarters were funded directly by Alberta taxpayers.”

“Alberta’s government remains committed to providing schools with the resources they need to ensure a safe school year,” he said.

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