Toronto, ON — In announcing a nearly $1.5 billion package to support school boards reopening safely in September, the provincial government also said it will provide $50 million in one-time funding to support improved ventilation, air quality and HVAC system effectiveness in schools.
Boards will focus on improving air systems in older schools, portables and neighbourhoods with higher rates of community transmission, stated a release. School boards will “continue to maximize their use of existing school renewal funding, which totals over $1.4 billion this school year,” said the government.
During the press conference Minister of Education Stephen Lecce noted that older schools can use individual HVAC mobile units with the funding to support current ventilation instead of entirely remodeling a school’s airflow system.
Overall, the government is providing $500 million in supports to school boards intended to enable the boards to provide more physical distancing in classrooms and direct funding to use non-school community spaces. The province will allow access to school board reserves up to $496 million, an increase of $244 million, by allowing boards to access up to two per cent of their operating budget from their prior year accumulated surplus.
“We have demonstrated throughout this outbreak that we will deliver the strongest and safest plan in Canada for Ontario students, with a recognition that we will continuously strengthen it over time,” said Lecce. “This investment and access to reserves will enable more social distancing and improve air quality, and ultimately strengthen the layers of protection to keep students and staff safe.”
Dave Holek, president and chair of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada (MCAC), said the association is hopeful other provinces will follow Ontario’s lead.
“As a national association, we are hopeful that other jurisdictions are mindful of the initiative being taken in Ontario with respect to HVAC systems in schools,” he said. “Modern and efficient HVAC systems are fundamental to the health and wellbeing of Canadians, and the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated this even further. We are supportive of Premier Ford’s efforts and look forward to working with all levels of government and health authorities to ensure buildings across the country are well suited to protect to the health of Canadians.”