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NORTH VANCOUVER, B.C. - School District 44 Trustees next Tuesday, June 10, 2003 have their last chance to stop a dangerous threat to the health of students.

“Clean schools mean healthy students and maximum potential for a suitable learning environment” says CUPE Local 389 president Mike Hocevar.

Hocevar is referring to the move by the District 44 Board to slash custodial services with a potentially devastating consequence in the not so distant future. They have made cuts despite having the money in the budget to maintain the current hours. said Hocevar. The planned cuts will save just $27,500 next year, while the Board still has $157,000 in unallocated funds. Part of that money, at least, could be used to restore the cut.

In the 2003-2004 budget adopted recently, the trustees have earmarked reductions in janitorial work schedules from full-time 12 months, 40 hours a week to just school term and a maximum of 37.5 hours. Summer cleaning is at risk of falling below current service levels, which are already stretched to the max due to staffing cuts in recent years.

Stress and safety of the janitors themselves has also been evident due to very heavy expectations and workloads, particularly with the recent expansions of existing schools with no additional staffing provided for these areas.

A reduction of cleaning appears ill considered in this day and age of SARS and other contagious diseases. The staffing for janitors is already below what it should be, according to CUPE. In fact, in district high schools a janitor who is away ill for any reason is not replaced until at least three days have expired, and on numerous occasions high school janitors must be seconded for a period of time to substitute at elementary schools to cover absences.

At next Tuesdays board meeting (June 10), they will discuss a motion to determine if they will keep the unallocated funds aside as a reserve fund, or to use the money to restore any of their cuts.

CUPE is calling upon the Trustees to do the right thing. It simply does not make sense to put District children at risk by reducing standards of cleanlinessespecially when the money exists to avoid such action. said Hocevar.

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Mike Hocevar, CUPE Local 389, 604-987-1231