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Here's how New Westminster schools will use affordability funds

One-time provincial funding will help with fees, food and extra support for families who need a hand.
School lunch GettyImages-501229164
Making sure all New Westminster students are well fed is one of the priorities for SD40 as it lays out its plan for spending $700,000 from the new provincial Student and Family Affordability Fund.

New Westminster families who’ve been hit hard by the rising cost of living are getting a helping hand with some school-related costs.

School District 40 has outlined its plans for using the almost $700,000 it received from the province as part of a $60-million Student and Family Affordability Fund announced Aug. 29. The one-time fund is intended to support students and families who’ve been affected by global inflation and cost-of-living challenges.

Bettina Ketcham, the school district’s secretary-treasurer, said the district is divvying up the money into three categories:

Fees and fundraising (all families): $220,000

This money is intended to support all students and families in the district. It may include covering the full or partial cost of supply fees, providing funding for activities or subsidizing the cost of field trips.

It’s being handed out to schools on a per-student basis, and principals can decide how to use it at their particular school.

Food/nutrition (some families): $325,000

The district expects to provide further subsidies for its school lunch programs. It’s also providing some money to allow schools to purchase shelf-stable snacks and breakfast items — such as granola bars — to have on hand for students who need them.

Customized supports (individual families): $153,000

The district is allocating the money based on provincial data from a “vulnerability index” that shows which neighbourhoods may have the greatest needs. Money will be used to help at individual schools, with individual families; how exactly it’s spent will be determined locally in consultation with staff, parent advisory councils and individual parents.

Ketcham gave the example of providing Walmart or grocery store gift cards or gas cards for families when affordability hits “crisis points” in their lives.

SD40 will monitor use of funds, change as needed

Ketcham said the district will monitor the spending closely and will be in constant touch with principals to see how and when (or if) money is being used. If the district finds changes are needed — such as redirecting money to a different school or for a different purpose — it will adjust accordingly as the year goes on, she said.

Superintendent Karim Hachlaf said the district’s central Welcome Centre, which works with newcomer families, is another avenue for the district to find families who may need support.

Trustee Maya Russell lauded the funding plans.

“It is very, very difficult times for families,” she said, noting it’s often left up to school staff to help “hold things together” for local families.

These funds, she said, will give school staff some extra “tools in the toolbox” to help those who need it.

Follow Julie MacLellan on Twitter @juliemaclellan.
Email Julie, [email protected]