A bill introduced by the Ministry of Education and Research provides for the allocation of 55.3 million euros to 22 local governments in order to support the modernization of school buildings as a part of the reorganization of the country's school network.
The investments will reduce local governments' costs on the buildings and more resources will be dedicated to substantive activities in education.
Last year, local governments who withdrew from providing upper secondary-level education or with state high schools were able to apply for support from an investment program for the upgrading, construction or demolition of schools as needed in order to bring them in line with changes in the number of students.
A total of 31 qualifying proposals were submitted during the application round. The program's original investment volume was 46 million euros, however the Ministry of Education and Research increased its budget to 55.3 million euros.
Projects to receive funding will reconstruct and build over 61,000 square meters of modern and efficient school space. As many school buildings have grown too large for shrinking numbers of students as well as become outdated, another 62,500 square meters of unnecessary space will be reduced in turn, with buildings to be either repurposed or torn down.
The reorganization of the country's school network will include at least two funding application rounds, the second of which will open this year to local governments working on reorganizing their own school networks.
The total investment volume of the two application rounds, together with copayments, is approximately 106 million euros, 92 million of which will come from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
Fewer pupils means upgrades, downsizing
The number of students in Estonia's schools has fallen nearly 40 percent compared to late-1990s figures. The country's school buildings were in large part built during a time when the national annual birthrate was approximately 21,000. That number is expected to drop to 10,000 by 2040, however.
The goal of the reorganization of the country's network of municipal and state schools is to reduce local government and state costs on the upkeep of its schools, which in turn would allow for more resources to be dedicated to teacher, school director and support specialist wages, the learning environment as well as the quality of education.
The education sector used a total of nearly 3.5 million square meters of space in 2014; the plan is to reduce this figure to three million by 2020. More than half of the country's education infrastructure consists of general education schools.
In spring 2015, the Estonian government confirmed the principles of investment in the network of general education schools, a precondition for the launch of a 241 million euro school network investment program.
Investment funds will be used for the modernization and optimization of use of space of basic and high school infrastructure.
Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla