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Ontario School Boards pushing back against Lecce plan to tap reserves

Ontario School Boards pushing back against Lecce plan to tap reserves

Yesterday Hamilton Wentworth Catholic District School Board Chair Patrick Daly expressed his concern about school boards being asked to dip into their reserve funds to pay for some of the special distancing requirements that will accompany back-to-school next month. Today, Daly’s concerned were echoed by the organization that represents all public school boards in the province. The text of a statement from the Ontario Public School Board Association follows:

“OPSBA and school boards across the province are frustrated and concerned by the government’s announcement yesterday regarding the use of school boards’ reserve funds to address the increased costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The $50 million allocated to improve HVAC systems in schools is a positive step, however, with schools set to reopen in just over three weeks, it will be extremely difficult for school boards to put any additional funding to use prior to the first day of school.

Through prudent budgeting, many boards across the province have, over time, established small reserve funds. That being said, in many circumstances these reserves have already been designated for other high-priority initiatives or unanticipated expenses. 

As Minister Lecce has often said, we are in unprecedented circumstances as a result of this pandemic, and we need an unprecedented response – something more than the use of reserve funds that normal prudent budgeting would allow. 

In planning for a return to school, the safety of our students, staff, and school communities is, and has always been, our top priority. School boards have been hard at work in collaboration with public health officials and their school communities developing plans for multiple possible scenarios, and have been identifying areas where more resources or creative solutions are needed. It is unfortunate that the approach announced by the government yesterday was taken without advanced communication or discussion with OPSBA, or school boards. 

Throughout the pandemic, we have emphasized the need for an ongoing conversation with respect to funding, given the fluidity of the situation. We will continue to advocate for school boards to receive sufficient funding to make the return to school as safe as possible, given the circumstances, and school boards will continue to act in the best interest of our staff and students in these challenging times.”

– Cathy Abraham, OPSBA President

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