PETERBOROUGH, ON –/COMMUNITYWIRE/– With little more than two weeks left before in-class learning resumes for Ontario students, education workers from the Peterborough area are gathering for discussions about the provincial government’s back-to-school plan, its recently announced COVID immunization policies, and the best ways to make sure that students and staff have a safe return to class in September.
Today (August 19), education support staff from the region’s school boards will meet provincial leaders from their union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents over 2500 school board employees at Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board and Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board.
A wide range of workers – including custodians, education assistants, school secretaries, library assistants, maintenance workers, office and clerical staff, and many more – will take part in the sessions, sharing their experiences of working during the COVID-19 pandemic, asking questions about the government’s policy on immunization and disclosure, and contributing to a series of recommendations that put students’ education and well-being at the heart of school re-opening plans.
“We are disappointed with the lack of clarity around the government’s plans for school reopening. We hope that, by getting together and sharing our collective knowledge and experience, we can help make schools safe places for students and workers,” said Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OSBCU), which represents 55,000 CUPE education workers province-wide.
“Education workers know how schools work and what students need,” continued Walton. “Our input is critical to creating robust plans that will keep everyone in school safe and healthy.”
Walton and her fellow CUPE members have previously identified the need for increased supports to help students recover from two years of disruption to their education, as well as strategies to improve ventilation in all school buildings, smaller class sizes, more physical distancing, cohorts that include workers, medical masks for all students who can tolerate them and fitted respirators for staff who work with unmasked students, a provincial cleaning standard and – crucially – more staffing to carry out the additional work that these measures will entail.
“We will be discussing these and other issues to ensure that health, safety and the quality of students’ education are prioritized again for schools in the region,” said Walton.
The sessions are the first in-person meetings of the area’s education workers since the COVID-19 pandemic began, although CUPE members will also have the option of joining online. Participants at the in-person meetings will obey strict COVID-19 guidelines.
For more information, contact:
Laura Walton, President, Ontario School Board Council of Unions, 613-813-9951
Mary Unan, CUPE Communication, 647-390-9839