WINNIPEG -- The Manitoba government has set aside an additional $52 million for its plan to help students get back to school safely, which includes providing masks for students and enhancing sanitization.

Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen made the announcement at a news conference on Monday at Laidlaw School.

With the additional funding, the province has now set aside a total of $100 million for the school reopening plan. A total of $48 million in funds that school divisions already saved was previously announced.

 “As we’ve acknowledged all along in this process, these protocols and these precautions for the safety of our students are going to cost money,” Goertzen said.

“It is why in spring, when savings were being incurred and accrued from the closure of in-class learning, we asked the school divisions to hold on to those savings, knowing that in fall there was going to be a need for them.”

Goertzen said this money will go towards the province’s Safe School Fund and all school divisions will be able to access the funds. The funding will be distributed on a per-student basis, with part of it being held in a reserve for any emerging challenges.

“The funds will be allocated as needed on a per-people basis for the school divisions,” Goertzen said.

“And there will also be funding available for students in the independent schools.”

Goertzen said this money will be used to implement public health measures, including:

  • Providing medical and non-medical masks and personal protective equipment to students, teachers and staff;
  • Enhancing cleaning and sanitization, including increased supplies and custodial staffing;
  • Increasing bus transportation capacity by adding more drivers and routes; and
  • Making sure substitute teachers and educational staff are available to keep schools open.

Goertzen noted it’s expected there will be more absences for both students and staff, which will present human resource-related challenges, and the Safe Schools Fund will help with this.

“The new funding, along with the $48 million that was saved collectively by the school divisions, will mean that there is significant resources available to meet the demands the pandemic is putting on our schools,” Goertzen said.

“We will, as we’ve been saying all along, continue to work with school divisions to determine what their pressure points are and what challenges lay ahead.”

The minister said the province will share more details with the school divisions in the coming days.

The Manitoba Teachers’ Society (MTS) said it’s pleased the government has set aside this money, but noted many questions remain.

“There’s not a lot of details in this announcement today, and so we have a lot of questions still at the society, to tell you the truth,” said Nathan Martindale, MTS vice president.

Martindale said one of the main issues that need to be addressed is the lack of qualified substitute teachers in Manitoba. He noted there was a shortage of substitute teachers last year and there will likely be an even bigger one this year as more people call in sick.

“How much of this money is going toward substitute teachers?” he asked.

“I would argue there would need to be much more money devoted so that school divisions can hire an appropriately compensate substitute teachers.”

He said without knowing all the details and without knowing what will happen in the future, he doesn’t know if this will be enough money.

“When we’re talking about all the safety of students in Manitoba and the safety of all the staff in the building, you can’t put a price tag on that,” Martindale said.

He added another area the MTS is still pressing the government on is class sizes.

Martindale said students maintaining two metres of physical distance in the classroom isn’t realistic the way things are right now.

“We want to see the government do something to address class sizes,” he said. “So that would mean more funding.”


In a statement, the Manitoba Liberals allege the province is using the pandemic to deny people access to public education.

Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said the province is “undermining the public school system by refusing to provide a public 'distance learning' option for parents and students."

He said parents are being faced with the choice to either send their kids to public school, or pull them out and move to private school or homeschooling options.

The Liberals also said Monday’s announcement is “misleading” Manitobans about how much money the province has set aside to make schools safe.

“With new COVID-19 cases reaching new daily highs in Manitoba, the PCs new spending on back-to-school COVID-preparedness funding is only half the $100-million the PCs claim, and there’s no guarantee the funds will go to students who need it most,” the statement said.

Over the last few weeks, the Manitoba NDP has been calling on the government to invest more to make schools safe for the return of students and staff, which includes the reduction of class sizes.

On Monday, NDP Education Critic Nello Altomare said in a statement that the province is not only still refusing to commit to reducing class sizes, but it’s making schools “jump through more hoops” to get money.

"Schools need money now, before students come back, so that masks are stockpiled and the infrastructure is in place--but the province could take months to approve applications," Altomare said.

Manitoba schools will reopen in September after closing in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.