ONTARIO – The governments of Canada and Ontario have announced $656.5 million in funding to provide critical infrastructure upgrades to improve air quality in public buildings, especially schools. Rainbow District School Board (RDSB) will be receiving some of this funding for projects, including Central Manitoulin Public School and Manitoulin Secondary School (MSS).
The announcement was made last week by federal infrastructure and communities minister Catherine McKenna, along with Ontario infrastructure minister Laurie Scott and Ontario education minister Stephen Lecce.
While the funds are for all public buildings, schools are a particular target, with the joint federal and provincial funding through the Investing in Canada Plan which will support over 9,800 projects at almost 3,900 schools and co-located childcare facilities across 74 school boards throughout Ontario.
The government of Canada is investing $525.2 million towards these projects through the COVID-19 resilience stream of the investing in Canada infrastructure program. The government of Ontario is contributing more than $131.3 million to the projects.
This funding will go toward HVAC upgrades and improvements to air quality; support physical distancing for students and staff; technology to help facilitate remote learning; and funding towards supporting health and safety initiatives such as installing handwashing stations or touchless faucets and soap dispensers.
The RDSB is slated to receive $8,222,500 in funding.
Norm Blaseg, director of education for RDSB told the Recorder this past Monday, “the ministry approved funding of $8.2 million for our board, and we will providing funding to various schools within the board for five different initiatives. For instance, funding will go toward ventilation projects at S. Geiger Public School, Chelmsford Valley District Composite school, Loellen Park Secondary School and MSS.”
Mr. Blaseg noted for MSS, “we had a lot of work done in ventilation projects for MSS prior to the pandemic, and now we will be able to do more work to improve and complete the ventilation work on the school.”
The RDSB will be able to provide water bottle filling stations at 17 various schools within the board, window replacement at four secondary schools, as well as hand washing stations being installed in several schools.
“And we are now going to be able to put in a new daycare kitchen at Central Manitoulin Public School,” said Mr. Blaseg.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the well-being of students, parents and teachers,” said Catherine McKenna, federal minister of infrastructure and communities. “As we continue to battle this crisis, ensuring a safe learning environment for our kids is critical. That’s why the Government of Canada is investing 80 cents on every dollar for a total of over $500 million to make schools across Ontario safer for students and teachers.”
Laurie Scott, minister of infrastructure for Ontario said, “as the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly highlighted, investments in the health and wellness of Ontarians is more critical than ever. Supporting air-quality and other infrastructure projects in schools helps to protect our communities, making them stronger, healthier and safer today, and for years to come.”
Stephen Lecce, minister of education for Ontario said, “Ontario’s government is focused on protecting the lives of students, staff and their families. We put a plan into action that leads the nation-delivering air ventilation improvements to over 95 percent of schools, 7,000 additional staff, and improved cleaning, testing and stronger screening. This one-time investment will help improve the safety of schools, building upon Ontario’s annual investment of over $1.4 billion to maintain schools and $550 million to build new schools. We also recognize that in addition to these school-based infrastructure investments, Ontario’s plan to defeat this pandemic includes vaccines for school staff. We have prioritized education staff in high priority communities and all special education staff across the province, and will expand to all staff as supply becomes available.”