The COVID-19 pandemic has created financial and educational challenges for all school divisions, including the Louis Riel School Division (LRSD).
These challenges have required LRSD to make significant investments so that we are able to continue to deliver high-quality education while keeping students and staff safe, healthy and in schools throughout the pandemic. As of Dec. 31, 2020, the division has spent $6.4 million on pandemic-related expenditures.
Staffing costs account for almost half of all pandemic-related expenditures to date, amounting to more than $3 million. We hired and continue to hire additional teachers and educational assistants to ensure two metres of physical distancing in all learning spaces. We created and staffed the Learning from Home School/L'École Apprendre-chez-soi (LFHS)
which serves over 900 students in kindergarten to Grade 12.
We hired more custodial staff and have spent almost $1 million on cleaning and sanitizing supplies. Substitute costs have risen among employee groups because of an increased number of absences due to illness and self-isolation related to the pandemic.
Over 150 teachers have been redeployed to new assignments or locations, including the LFHS, which has helped us mitigate even greater staffing costs. We are so grateful to all staff for their continued flexibility and generosity.
Technology has also been a significant focus of investment. The division has spent $1.5 million on technology equipment to date.
To accommodate physical distancing on buses we have increased the number of bus runs at a cost of approximately $350,000. We have also made modifications and improvements to classrooms and schools, including investments to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) units, barriers to support physical distancing and tents for outdoor learning. LRSD has spent more than $530,000 on investments in infrastructure.
Although the costs related to COVID-19 are significant, the division has reallocated $2.5 million dollars in the current year’s budget from programs that are unable to run due to current public health restrictions. These include:
- sporting and physical education activities
- industrial arts and human ecology programs
- music and performing arts
- professional learning activities
The provincial government has allocated almost $6.5 million of its Safe Schools funding
to LRSD. We have used $1.4 million in savings that we incurred last spring to help cover costs when school resumed in the fall.
We continue to carefully monitor our projections, reallocate resources wherever possible, and look for opportunities to access additional funding that will assist us in mitigating our costs. We will update the community about our pandemic-related expenditures throughout the year.
Marna Kenny, Secretary-Treasurer
Christian Michalik, Superintendent
This story is part of a series posted in advance of the Draft Budget Public Consultation Live Event. These stories are being shared with our community to provide insight and transparency on how the annual LRSD budget is prepared and finalized. We encourage all members of community to let us know their thoughts by participating in this Thoughtexchange.