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Education workers discuss safe return to the classroom

August 4, 2021   ·   0 Comments

Education workers from schools in Simcoe County, Muskoka, and Grey and Bruce counties had the opportunity to voice concerns and provide some input regarding a safe return to schools this fall.

Education support staff from the regions’ schools met with provincial leaders from their union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in Barrie on July 23.

CUPE represents around 900 school board employees in the region, and around 55,000 province-wide.

There were two sessions in the day long event – the first in-person meetings of the area’s education workers since the start of the pandemic.

The sessions included education workers from the Simcoe County District School Board, Bruce Grey Catholic District School Board, and the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board.

“Education workers have deep knowledge and unparalleled skills when it comes to what students need and the ways that schools work,” said Laura Walton, President of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions. “We’ve supported students, schools, families and communities throughout the pandemic. Our input is critical to a safe September. We want to make sure we’re doing our part to make schools safe places learn and work again.”

Ms. Walton added, “We will be discussing these and other issues to ensure that health, safety and the quality of students’ education are prioritized again in schools in the region.”

Walton and fellow CUPE members have previously identified some needs, including better ventilation standards, smaller class sizes, and a provincial cleaning standard.

“The group that was holding the meeting is a council within CUPE,” explained a CUPE spokesperson. “It represents education workers in CUPE. They wanted to hold this meeting to see what everyone’s experiences were, and if there is a common theme that people are talking about. Ventilation was a big topic at the meeting, as well as keeping class sizes small, and keeping adults who are with the smaller classes with that group of students so they aren’t going from class to class.”

The topic of vaccinations was also discussed. While it is not, at this time, mandatory, CUPE is encouraging all of its members to get vaccinated.

“One issue that was raised was young children that can’t be vaccinated or students who can’t be vaccinated for medical reason, or if they can’t wear masks – what should the alternative be?” the spokesperson said.

Ventilation in school buildings was also a topic discussed. As school buildings vary in age, not all have windows that can be opened to allow air circulation.

Union representatives will now take these concerns to the Ministry of Education.

At the Simcoe County District School Board, CUPE 1310 represents approximately 400 custodial and maintenance staff.

By Brian Lockhart
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter


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