Investment In Local Schools To Protect Against COVID-19

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Norm Miller

The governments of Ontario and Canada are providing $5.6 million to upgrade infrastructure at local schools in Parry Sound-Muskoka to protect against COVID-19. The funding is being provided through the COVID-19 Reliance Infrastructure Stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.

The funding for these schools will support building retrofits, updates and upgrades to their schools and co-located child care facilities. Projects can include HVAC renovations to improve air quality, installing water bottle refilling stations to improve access to safe drinking water, and space reconfigurations such as new walls and doors to enhance physical distancing.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly highlighted, investments in the health and wellness of Ontarians is more critical than ever,” said Ontario’s Minister of Infrastructure Laurie Scott. “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.”

The investments build on the more than $1 billion the Ontario government has invested since 2019 in new schools and child care spaces and additions to provide working families with access to quality, safe, and state-of-the-art learning spaces. Supported by provincial funding, 95% of Ontario schools have reported upgrades or enhancements to their air filtration systems, with over 40,000 HEPA filters and other ventilation devices in classrooms.

The Government of Canada is investing up to $525.2 million towards these projects through the COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure Stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program. The Government of Ontario is contributing $131.3 million to the projects.

“Ontario’s government is focused on protecting the lives of students, staff, and their families,” said Education Minister Stephen Lecce. “We put a plan into action that leads the nation — delivering air ventilation improvements to over 95% 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.”

Ontario schools have been provided with more than $1.6 billion to better protect students, staff and families from COVID-19 including support for online learning, promoting student mental health, hiring additional staff and investing $100 million ear-marked for immediate improvements to air quality and ventilation. Ontario is conducting voluntary targeted testing for asymptomatic students and school staff as an added layer of protection against the transmission of COVID-19.

“It is great to see this money being invested in 23 of our local schools right here in Parry Sound-Muskoka,” said MPP Norman Miller. “This will improve ventilation in classrooms, provide access to safe drinking water through water bottle refilling stations, increase hand washing facilities, and more – all in an effort to ensure our schools continue to be a safe place for students and staff.”

This funding is part of the COVID-19 Resilience stream which will deliver $656.5 million to support individual school board submissions for education related projects.

The Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) is a 10-year, $30-billion federal, provincial and municipal program that provides funding to improve public transit; community, culture and recreation; green; and rural and northern community infrastructure. Ontario is investing $10.2 billion in this program.

The federal COVID-19 Resilience stream has been adapted from ICIP to respond to the impacts of COVID-19. This ICIP stream, delivered through bilateral agreements with provinces and territories, has been designed to help add flexibilities, expand project eligibility and accelerate approvals.

Ontario schools have been provided with more than $1.6 billion to better protect students, staff and families from COVID-19 including support for online learning, promoting student mental health, hiring additional staff and investing $100 million ear-marked for immediate improvements to air quality and ventilation.

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