Families in North Vancouver who are feeling financially squeezed by the rising cost of living are eligible to apply for special financial assistance this year from the school district for help with a variety of school-related expenses, like school lunches and field trip costs, as well necessities including family groceries.
The extra help for cash-strapped families is being made possible by special one-time funding from the province.
The provincial government announced in September it would provide $60 million to school districts throughout B.C. to help make going back to school more affordable for families struggling with the rising costs of living.
North Vancouver School District will receive just under $1.5 million in one-time funding, while West Vancouver Schools will receive just over $650,000.
Funding available to families in need
In North Vancouver, a portion of that money is being made available directly to families, through a district “Special Family Affordability Fund.” Different amounts of funding have been allocated to each school, determined by need within the local community as measured by a social services index, according to the school district.
Prior to the Thanksgiving long weekend, gift cards were provided to each school, so principals could hand them out to families struggling to buy groceries.
Further assistance is available to help families with costs of course supplies, clothing or footwear for school sports or other activities, as well as hot lunch programs.
Schools have also been working to make sure kids have needed cold weather boots and coats for winter.
Help with groceries and school-related expenses
Families can also apply for help with basics like groceries and clothing for kids.
There is no formal “means test” included in the application and families don’t have to submit receipts. In most cases, the decision about who gets funding is made by the school principal.
Bursaries and fee waivers
An existing bursary program also allows families to request bursaries to pay for Cheakamus camp programs, Artists for Kids programs and costs of elementary band and strings programs.
Families can also apply for extra help if needed, by asking for a waiver of costs for courses or programs, cultural events, activities, one-day field trips, instrument rental and athletics fees.
Families can request financial help by completing a form on the school district’s website.
The school district didn’t provide information about how much of the money has been given out so far. A report to the Ministry of Education and Child Care explaining how school districts have spent the money is due in January.
West Vancouver's school district received approximately $650,000 from the province to help families with similar cost-of-living expenses. Details on how that money will be divvied up are still being finalized, according to the school district.
Here are some frequently asked questions about the program, answered by North Vancouver School District.
How do I request support?
Complete one or both of the forms available through the Student and Family Affordability Fund webpage and return them in confidence to your child’s teacher, principal, counsellor or front office staff.
Will I be asked to provide receipts to support my request?
Can I request support for school fees already paid?
Maybe. Please speak with your child’s principal to request a refund for fees already paid.
How does the process work in conjunction with Outdoor School, Artists for Kids and/or Elementary Band & Strings bursary application process?
Families may request bursaries through the existing bursary application process for each program. If additional financial support is needed, families should complete the Application to Waive School Fee form.
Does this fund support academy program fees?
No. The program fee for academies is not eligible. However, a limited number of bursaries is available for each academy. Visit the Academies webpage for a link to each academy's program information.
Can computers be purchased with this fund?
Does this support extend to community sports?
No. Funding is intended to support school-related activities and sports only.
Does this fund cover the costs of rent or housing?
Does this fund cover the costs of household utilities?
Does this fund cover the costs of gas for vehicles