Remote learning expected to cost UCDSB $16.6 million this year

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The Upper Canada District School has committed nearly $16.7 million to establish its virtual learning model for students for the current school year, which is scheduled to start over the course of the next week.

The figures were outlined for the Board during its meeting last week in an update on expenses incurred during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which could also include an extra $3 million because of the greater number of staff expected to use their sick leave this year. 

Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Superintendent of Business Services, presented the update to the board. 

On remote learning, roughly 20 per cent of students opted to learn remotely to start the school year, a number the report noted was “extraordinary,” and has led to staffing and infrastructure costs that total $16.67 million so far. 

The board also anticipates more staff and teachers to stay home this year when experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, which means increased staff costs with over 4,000 people currently employed by the board. It expects a 30 to 50 per cent jump in sick days over last year, which would cost around $2.8 million. 

Together, sick leave and the virtual learning model could mean extra costs of $19.45 million for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. 

While the board is now sourcing personal protective gear from the province, it also spent $1.8 million stockpiling gear like masks and plexiglass before the school year began. 

Hobbs said he will continue to update the board on its fiscal situation as the school year progresses. 

The board has staggered the start to its school year for both elementary and secondary students, with all students returning over the course of Monday through Friday of this coming week.