Holy Family approved for COVID-related funding

The Holy Family Roman Catholic Separate School Division was approved for less than half of the funding for COVID, as the focus for COVID needs was narrowed by the Ministry of Education to cover costs for remote learning.

The update on the COVID funding was provided to the Holy Family board of trustees at their monthly board meeting on Jan. 13, held via Zoom.

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Chief financial officer Lisa Wonsiak said Holy Family had applied for about $2 million in funding, and were approved for $858,000 by the ministry.

In making the application for funding, education director Gwen Keith said they consulted with the staff of their schools first.

“With the deployment of resources, we listened to the staff to find out their concerns and where the needs are, and how we could support our staff through COVID,” she said.

Wonsiak noted that the application was first narrowed in its focus to $1.5 million, and for this round of funding, the ministry decided to provide funding to support remote learning, and for cleaning and sanitizing needs in the school facilities, including equipment and supplies needed for these areas.

The funding will help pay for 8.4 hours a day for cleaning and sanitizing of school facilities, and for remote learning, they will have five full-time equivalent (FTE) teachers available. The smaller schools will have a shared teacher, and the larger schools will have their own positions.

Holy Family was also able to add an IT assistant, to help their IT staff member with the added technology support required for remote learning, along with an administrative assistant, and two counsellors. Keith said the hope is for the counsellors to be in the field soon to lend support to families and students.

For mental health, Holy Family has a registered nurse consultant, Joan Pratchler, “on speed dial” to answer any COVID-related questions from any of the schools.

In terms of equipment, there are also additional water bottle-filling stations being added, more smart boards, and digital library resources.

Keith said the school division wanted to be sure that teachers are able to pivot to Level 3 or 4 if students have to be sent home for remote learning. At this point, all of the schools remain open at Level 2.

“I have to commend our staff for putting this in order in January,” said Keith.

There will be two more funding periods for school divisions, at the end of March and at the end of June, said Wonsiak, with the costs of substitute teachers one of the files they have to keep track of for the ministry.

“There’s no way we could have managed to do this without the extra funding,” said board chair Bruno Tuchscherer.

“It’s ultimately about keeping the academic progress, and meeting social and emotional needs,” added Keith. “It makes our people feel like they’ve been heard.”

“There’s no doubt some of the equipment we’re getting now will help us in the future,” said Tuchscherer.

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