Quebec schools to receive $85M to fund pandemic measures

The Quebec school system will be receiving $85 million to help adjust to the pandemic, Education Minister Jean-François Roberge announced on Saturday.

The funds will go toward improving classroom ventilation, school transportation, better training for staff and online learning initiatives.

More specifically, $25 million will go toward the hiring and training of additional staff in schools across Quebec to help implement public health measures, including to help with the disinfecting of school facilities as well as the hiring of psychologists and support staff.

Another $25 million will go toward software and equipment for remote learning, as well as for training on that equipment, while $20 million is allocated toward improving ventilation systems and $15 million is designated for school transportation.

"The amount announced today comes after many requests from our partners in the school system," Roberge said in a news release.

"This will also allow us to offer a safer school environment for all staff and students, as the health and safety of all remains our priority."

The budget comes from the $432 million in emergency funding the province received from the federal government.

But Josée Scalabrini, president of the Fédération des syndicats de l'enseignement teacher's union, says the amount issued today isn't nearly enough. She said when you work out the numbers, it comes out to only about $8,000 per school.

"This is something we've been calling for since the beginning of the year. We told them we don't have the time to do the curriculums, to catch up with our students, because we're too busy working on implementing sanitary measures," she said.

"It's a good start but it comes too late."

Scalabrini said the hiring of additional staff will be crucial amid the pandemic, especially because many schools have had to stagger recess times for their students, meaning they need extra staff to supervise them.

She wants to know what's being done with the rest of the emergency funding the federal government provided.

"Where's the other $350 million?" she said.

Patricia Clermont, spokesperson for a group called Je protège mon école publique (I protect my public schools), said the announcement giver her hope, as it will allow teachers to put more emphasis on their daily teaching duties, and less pressure will be on them to implement the public safety measures.

Clermont was especially pleased with the increase in funds for better ventilation, something she and other parents had been bringing attention to for months.