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COVID costs would have wiped out Burnaby school district reserves: secretary-treasurer

Without nearly $12M in extra funding from province and feds, district 'would have had no money left over' by end of June, says Russell Horswill

Without extra money from the provincial and federal governments, COVID-related costs would have wiped out the Burnaby school district’s reserves by the end of the year, according to secretary-treasurer Russell Horswill.

The district is getting nearly $12 million for extra expenses associated with the pandemic this year, Horswill told the school board in a presentation on the amended 2020/21 budget Tuesday.

About $7.8 million of that has gone to hiring extra teachers, $2 million to other extra staffing and just under $2 million to services and supplies related to battling the spread of COVID-19, like utilities, masks and air filters, according to the presentation.

Costs for custodial staff, including overtime and extra staff for cleaning will be “substantial” this year, Horswill said, but the hiring of extra teachers to provide direct support for students will take up most of the funds.

“A lot of teachers were hired to support students to make sure that whatever program they needed to be in to be successful was something that we could provide,” Horswill told the NOW.

Some examples are teachers providing programs to kids who are immune compromised or live with someone who is, teachers who deliver at-home learning programs and teachers who provided additional supports to students returning to school in September after staying at home for the end of 2019/2020 because of the pandemic.

“That’s quite a few teachers that we were able to add into the system to provide those direct supports,” Horswill said.

The extra funding from the province and feds has been crucial to cover the extra costs, according to Horswill.

“If we hadn’t received that funding, we would have had to take the money out of our reserve, which means that we would have had no money left over at the end of this year,” he said.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor