WINNIPEG -- The Manitoba government is chipping in another $50 million to its school capital projects fund, which among other things, could help improve ventilation in schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic and lay the groundwork for two new schools in Brandon.

On Thursday, Manitoba's new Education Minister Cliff Cullen announced the province is adding the $50 million on top of the $160 million that was approved in the 2020 budget for school projects across the province.

"Clearly, we've seen a need, not just with COVID, but in terms of our need and our want to create additional capacity within schools," Cullen said during a press conference.

Of the capital project funding, $24 million has been set aside for seven land acquisitions for school projects including two in Brandon – a kindergarten to grade 8 school, and a Division scolaire franco-manitobaine (DSFM) kindergarten to Grade 12 school.

The province has also planned K-8 schools in the Sage Creek neighbourhood of the Louis Riel School Division, the Devonshire Park area of the River East Transcona School Division, the West St. Paul area and Precinct G of the Seven Oaks School Division, and in the Waverley West–Bridgwater Lakes area of the Pembina Trails School Division.

Cullen said this is part of a commitment the Progressive Conservative government made to build 20 schools in the next 10 years. He said six schools are already open and in use, two will be tendered in the spring, and four will begin design in 2021-22. Cullen said the province plans to have the rest of the eight schools designed and completed before the 10 years are up.

Cullen said some of the money will also go towards shorter-term projects which he said may include improvements to ventilation in schools due to the airborne transmission of COVID-19.

"Obviously, concerns about COVID exist and we want to make sure that we have safe facilities for use for our students and teachers," he said, though he was not able to provide details on what specific ventilation improvements would be included.

Other projects the province outlined include:

• $10 million for access projects such as elevators, wheelchair lifts, and grooming room improvements for students that require additional support;

• $21 million for mechanical systems such as boilers and ventilation systems;

• $16 million for roof replacements;

• $16 million for structural projects such as foundations, walls, and historic entrance stonework; and

• $8 million for bulk builds of new modular classrooms to be ready when needed.