TORONTO – Education minister Stephen Lecce announced at Queen’s Park today that school boards are now able to access reserve funding to help pay for COVID-19 related safety measures in schools.
The reserve funds are money that has been sent to school boards for specific projects but is unspent.
“These are the rainy day funds,” Lecce said.
The funds can be used by boards to spend on leasing additional space, bringing in portables, and other supports for local community needs.
Both Upper Canada District School Board and Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario have budgetary reserves in place. The UCDSB ran a compliance surplus of $224,860, while the CDSBEO ran a compliance deficit of $287,000 for the 2019-20 school year.
Nearly $5 million of revenue with the UCDSB’s current budget has been designated as being able to be reallocated for COVID-19 related expenses. The board finished the school year with $6.6 million in surplus funds. This does not include funds set aside for capital projects.
CDSBEO spokesperson Amber LeBerge told The Leader that the Catholic board does not have any surpluses to access. The CDSBEO is one of the four boards that will receive a one-time, $11 million top up from the Ministry of Education.
“When combined with previous announcements over the past few weeks, school boards will be able to access over $900 million in funding this year,” said Lecce. “This is in addition to the increases in Grants for Student Needs.”
In addressing recent concerns voiced about indoor air quality, Lecce said the province is adding another $50 million to make improvements.
Lecce said that school boards have already been in discussions with municipalities to provide space if needed.
When asked by The Leader, South Dundas deputy mayor Kirsten Gardner said that to her knowledge, no discussion between the local school boards (UCDSB and CDSBEO) and the Municipality of South Dundas has taken place to rent space to increase physical distancing at schools.