Canada to give provinces, territories up to C$2 billion for school restart

Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau speaks to reporters on Parliament Hill in Ottawa

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada will give up to C$2 billion ($1.5 billion) in additional funding to provinces and territories to help reopen schools safely as students return to classrooms amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday.

“Students and staff are anxious about what the school year may hold. As a dad and as a former teacher, I get that,” Trudeau said at a public school in Toronto where he announced the federal funding.

“We’ve made this funding flexible so provinces and ultimately schools can use it for what they need most from hand sanitizer to remote learning,” he added.

Schools across much of the country have been closed since mid-March, with most students moved to online learning until schools paused for their traditional summer break.

The Canadian school year typically starts in early September, but many districts have said they will either delay or stagger the return this year as they get plans in place to try to limit the spread of the virus among children.

Tensions between teachers, unions, parents, and provincial governments have been mounting ahead of the fall term, with many worried current restart plans do not go far enough to protect students from the coronavirus.

Many want class sizes capped to ensure physical distancing, while critics say some school districts lack the necessary resources, staff and ventilation systems needed to ensure a safe return to school.

(Reporting by Kelsey Johnson; additional reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Tom Brown)

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