Workers and disability advocates are calling on School Divisions to keep education assistants (EAs) and other support staff working for our students while schools are suspended.

“Education assistants are providing critical support to children with disabilities during the COVID-19 virus crisis,” said Janet Forbes from Inclusion Winnipeg. “The COVID-19 virus puts children with disabilities at greater risk due to existing health conditions, reliance on outside support and disruptions to daily routines.”

“Families are more isolated than ever and there is so much work that needs to be done to support those children and their families, who may not be used to instruction from home.”

As the union that represents 5,000 school support staff in twenty-four school divisions across Manitoba, CUPE is ready to work with School Divisions to help ensure there are no layoffs to education assistants and other support staff.

CUPE has reached out to School Divisions to see how we can work together to help EAs either work remotely from home or find creative ways to support their students during this crisis,” said CUPE Manitoba President Abe Araya. “With so many students studying at home, we need a strong, fully-staffed education system to get these students the support they need.”

“It is important that all students have access to the supports they require to learn at home during this time,” said Amanda Hamm of Inclusion Westman. “We know that education assistants have a role to play in providing this needed support especially in terms of supporting students with additional needs. We are calling on schools to provide this consistent support to all students so they can continue their learning at home.”

In a letter to School Superintendents, the Education Minister suggested that “savings generated as a result of the closures of schools must be held in a separate account”. It is CUPE’s position that this is not a time to generate savings, rather it’s a time to support staff and be creative.

“School Divisions in Manitoba have already budgeted for their staff for the year, and those staff need to be focused on helping students succeed,” said Araya. “Many students and their families face additional challenges working remotely and addressing those challenges cannot happen without school support staff.”

This position is also endorsed by the Children’s Coalition, an advocacy organization for children with disabilities.

CUPE Manitoba represents approximately 5,000 education support staff in twenty-four school divisions across Manitoba, including EAs, custodians, maintenance and trades, secretaries, library techs, mechanics, bus drivers, international student support, school liaisons and more.

Inclusion Winnipeg is a registered charity which, for 60 years, has been dedicated to making life better for children and adults living with intellectual disabilities.

Inclusion Westman is a not-for-profit organization committed to enriching the lives of people who live with an intellectual disability in the Westman region, by promoting their full inclusion in the community. The work we do benefits not only the individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families, but the community in which they reside.

The Children’s Coalition is a network of organizations which exists to unite the voice of families in matters that have a direct impact on their supports and services. The Coalition is committed to working in partnership with community-based agencies and government departments including Family Services and Housing, Education, Citizenship and Youth, and Health, to achieve a coordinated network supporting the full inclusion in community life of children with disabilities and their families.