The upcoming provincial election is proving to be a boon to public education.
The provincial government announced late last week that it is providing BC school districts with $95 million to help them extend the life of their facilities, put new supplies in classrooms and buy new school buses.
That includes schools in Osoyoos and Keremeos, together promised more than $1.2 million to upgrade washrooms and install fire sprinkler systems.
“The project at OSS involves upgrading the change rooms, showers and washrooms to bring them to code,” explained Superintendent Beverly Young in an email. “The project at SESS is for Phase 2 of 2 of upgrading and installation of the sprinkler system.
“Both these projects have been approved.”
A $119,600 learning grant is also on the way to the Okanagan Similkameen School District.
The funding appears to suggest the provincial government is committed to helping keep Osoyoos Secondary open.
Last year, the school was the subject of an intense struggle after the district board determined it could no longer fund the operation of the school, noted its deteriorating shape and available capacity at nearby South Okanagan Secondary in Oliver and made a decision to close the school.
That decision was later reversed when the provincial government introduced additional funding for rural education.
Every school district in the province will receive a portion of this funding, which is being allocated through four provincial programs, the province says.
- Under the School Enhancement Program, all school districts will receive a $53-million investment, supporting 223 school improvement projects. This program helps school districts extend the life of their facilities through of a variety of upgrade projects.
- Every school district will also receive a portion of $27.4 million from the new Student Learning Grant, which was announced in February.
- Fifteen school districts will become more energy efficient with a $5-million investment under the Carbon Neutral Capital Program. School districts will use the money to fund projects that cut greenhouse gas emissions. These upgrades benefit schools by saving them money on electricity, natural gas and maintenance. Schools can put the money they save back into classrooms.
- Students in 25 school districts will benefit from 71 new and replacement buses with a $9.4-million investment under the School Bus Replacement Program. The new buses will make traveling to school safer and more reliable for students.
The province says the increased public education funding is a result of “B.C.’s strong economy and balanced budget.”
The provincial government is also committing an additional $740 million in operating funds over the next three years.
Combined with $400 million in previously announced budget increases, this means an additional $1.1 billion in funding will benefit the K-12 system over the next three years, the province promises.
In addition, Budget 2017 supports $2 billion in capital spending to upgrade or build new schools over the next three years.