SOUTH DUNDAS – A joint federal and provincial infrastructure program will spend $27.6 million on COVID-19 related improvements to schools in the four school boards that serve Eastern Ontario outside of Ottawa.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced the funding last week through the area’s two government MPPs, Steve Clark (Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes) and Jim McDonell (Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry).
The funding from the two governments is part of a $656.5 million spending package to improve schools in Ontario.
Over $10.2 million is earmarked for the Upper Canada District School Board. In a statement after the federal/provincial announcement, the UCDSB said 73 schools, plus three alternative and continuing education sites will see upgrades This includes upgrades to HVAC systems in three locations, two replacement portables at one site, window replacements in two locations, over 300 bottle filling stations installed and nearly 450 power doors with touchless sensors installed. The UCDSB operates 79 schools across Eastern Ontario.
The board will also upgrade some child care facilities within certain buildings, upgrade outdoor fencing, air conditioning, washroom fixtures, add video intercoms and improve Wi-Fi connectivity at select locations.
“We fully appreciate the funding being provided by the federal and provincial governments,” said UCDSB Director of Education Stephen Sliwa. “Any enhancement we do in our schools and buildings has a direct and positive impact on our students and staff.
The Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario will receive $4.3 million in funding with this announcement. CDSBEO spokesperson Amber LaBerge said that the details were still being worked out as to which schools will receive upgrades.
She told The Leader that the funding will be used to improve air quality in schools, and install additional water bottle filling stations. Also receiving funding is the French-Catholic board ($8.9M) and the French-Public board ($4M). No details were available about spending plans with the two French-language boards.
“Schools are inherently a congregate setting, and as a society, the protection of our young people is paramount,” said Clark. “This new funding will go a long way to ensuring that our local schools can undertake the crucial upgrades that will enhance safety through the pandemic and promote better health into the future,” said McDonell. Specific timelines for completing the work associated with the announcement was not available except from the UCDSB. That board expects to have improvements completed by late-Fall 2021.
Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leader