Funding to enhance schools in Prince Rupert, on the central coast and Haida Gwaii begins to flow.

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B.C. students and families are going to see more green, efficient and safe learning spaces as school districts receive record annual maintenance funding of $217.7 million this year.

“Tackling climate change is critically important for all of us, and our school system can play a part in helping cut carbon pollution,” said Rob Fleming, Minister of Education. “That’s why we’ve significantly increased maintenance funding to help districts better maintain schools, improve energy efficiency and work to provide the best possible learning environments for students.”

This year’s funding is $32.3-million higher than it was in 2016-17. It includes an additional $12.2 million from CleanBC that will give school districts more resources through the Carbon Neutral Capital Program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide operating cost savings from energy efficiencies. This can include adding solar panels, high efficiency boilers and LED lighting upgrades to schools, as well as installing electric vehicle charging stations.

CleanBC is government’s plan to reduce carbon pollution and build a cleaner economy for people throughout B.C., through approximately $1.3 billion in provincial funding over four years.

“All youth deserve a brighter future and that’s what CleanBC is about,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “We’re working with school districts throughout the province to create healthier learning environments for students and modelling a more secure future through energy efficient buildings and transportation options.”

To further support green energy initiatives, school districts will now have the option to purchase electric school buses through the Bus Acquisition Program. This new initiative helps school districts switch to zero-emission, clean-energy vehicles.

“B.C. is leading the country in transitioning to electric vehicles, and our government is supporting that movement wherever we can,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. “Helping school districts invest in electric buses contributes not only to a cleaner environment, but also a healthier space for students.”

The 2020-21 Bus Acquisition Program provides $13 million for 31 school districts to buy 101 new buses, including up to 15 electric buses. Districts that buy electric buses will also have access to provincial funding for charging station infrastructure.

Along with the new CleanBC funding, the Carbon Neutral Capital Program is providing $17.2 million to school districts for 67 energy efficient projects this year, such as a new solar-power system at Edgehill Elementary in Powell River that will help reduce emissions and provide future cost savings.

The School Enhancement Program supports school districts to upgrade roofing, fire systems, washrooms (including conversion to gender-neutral washrooms), windows and more. This year’s funding is $64 million, which includes gender-neutral washroom upgrades at 10 schools in the Coast Mountain School District.

Through the Building Envelope Program, districts are receiving a combined $8 million to remediate schools that have suffered water damage.

In addition to these programs, the $115.5-million Annual Facility Grant will allow all school districts to undertake additional maintenance projects that promote the continued safe and efficient operation of schools. Many of the projects will benefit school districts by saving money on electricity, natural gas, fuel and ongoing maintenance. Those savings can be reinvested in classrooms to support student learning.

Education funding is a shared priority between government and the BC Green Party caucus, and is part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.