One-time funds to help families struggling with inflation will primarily go directly to schools to deliver, a Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools working group has decided.
NLPS received $1.458 million in one-time funding from the province in August to go toward expansion of school food programs and assist families in need with costs of school supplies and fees related to activities like field trips and graduation.
Known as the student and family affordability fund, the province allocated $60 million to public school districts and $3.8 million to the Federation of Independent School Associations to address high costs from inflation.
A working group with members of senior NLPS staff, the chief administrative officer for Snuneymuxw First Nation, CUPE, Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association and district parent advisory council representatives and school principals decided how to allocate the funds, with input from teachers and Nanaimo Ladysmith Schools Foundation.
The majority, $800,000 will go to schools, calculated at $50 per student. Schools will receive a minimum of $10,000 each. Nanaimo District Secondary School, which has the largest student population in district, will receive $77,300. Gabriola Elementary, which has 143 students, will get $10,000.
“It’s going to be really open for them to be able to support families as they know best, and so, of course, probably more families…than they have in the past,” noted Secretary-Treasurer Mark Walsh at the Oct. 12 business committee meeting.
Nanaimo Ladysmith Schools Foundation, which delivers school food programs, will receive $100,000 to support current programming, including bulk food purchases and supplies for students.
The remaining, $558,182, will be held in reserve to address gaps identified by schools and stakeholders, and for the working group to switch gears if the delivery is not proving effective, Walsh said.
“We all know there are needs out in the community that are far in excess of $1.458 million, but it’s actually harder than you think to spend that money from a school level.
“The inherent problem with these funds is it is going to be the principals having to find the people that they know, or families having to reach out, so there’s not just an automatic mechanism, but we are able to support equity with what we have left over.”
The increased dollars should have a demonstrable effect on school food programs, such as at NDSS and John Barsby Community School. The cost of food has meant programs that used to provide fresh vegetables and protein have had to scale back and provide less nutrient-dense foods like macaroni and cheese, Walsh said. The provincial funds must be spent by June 30, 2023.
Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder