With daily COVID-19 cases still numbering in the many hundreds every day, Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district will ask for continued government money to counter the virus.
B.C. and Canadian governments offered one-time, COVID-19 response money to school districts this past school year, and given the uncertainty of the pandemic and ongoing planning for the 2021-22 budget, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ board voted to pen a letter to both governments, seeking continuation of funding at the same level for next school year.
Greg Keller, trustee and business committee chairperson, introduced the motion at the April 28 board meeting, stating that approximately $6.5 million in federal and provincial funding, used to keep facilities clean and students and staff safe, is about to end.
“I think it’s really important for us, as a board, despite some other movements that might be happening at a provincial level, to communicate our leadership and our support to maintain the funding … going forward in September because we don’t know at this point in time what the status of the pandemic will be,” said Keller. “I hope for the best, but I want us to be prepared at the same time.”
Trustee Tania Brzovic spoke in favour, saying enhanced cleaning measures are necessary for everyone to have confidence as the school system transitions to “normalcy.”
“There are concerns that we’ve been in this now so long that people could be fearful even beyond the point that there’s a need to be,” said Brzovic. “Anything we can do to create confidence for the public and for parents, that we are doing everything we can to keep our schools safe, is important and is necessary.”
The district will need financial support to allow it to keep day-time custodians, she said.
Rob Zver, district education support workers’ union (CUPE Local 606) president, told the News Bulletin that cleaning staff are in all schools for most of the day, which has been beneficial.
“It’s been a proven task because even though we’ve had some exposures, very few of them I think, are associated with the school itself … [it seems] flu has been down generally, allergies have not been as high,” said Zver. “I think we’ve learned that by doing additional cleaning during the day, and keeping schools more germ-free, it has a positive. Less students home sick, less everything.”
When asked if current procedures should be the norm, Zver said workers have proven that the added cleaning works.
“It would be nice to see, if indeed it would be somewhat cost recoverable…” he said. “Continuity, maintaining a cleaner school, keeping kids in school because they’re not home sick is a win-win.”
The board passed the motion unanimously.
In related news, the district announced May 1 that it had sent Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools employees information on how to register for the province’s front-line worker COVID-19 immunization program.