CUPE Manitoba is calling on hundreds of School Trustees across the province to do the right thing and keep school support staff working during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, March 31st the Minister of Education informed School Divisions that schools will be suspended indefinitely, and that School Divisions are to decide how to ensure students and families get the supports they need.

On Wednesday, CUPE sent emails to over 150 individual School Trustees from across Manitoba, as well as to the Minister of Education, urging all decision-makers to ensure there are no layoffs in K-12 education.

“With so many students studying at home, we need a strong, fully-staffed education system to get these students the support they need,” said Abe Araya, President of CUPE Manitoba. “School Divisions in Manitoba have already budgeted for their staff for the year, and those staff need to be focused on helping students succeed.”

Laying off staff would also disproportionately harm students and families who need the extra resources.

“There are many newcomer and refugee children in our schools who have language barriers, cultural barriers, and even Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” said Araya, who came to Canada as a refugee youth himself and understands the value these support workers provide to families. “We need our school liaisons and education assistants (EAs) working with our youth and supporting families who have additional challenges at home.”

CUPE is also advocating to ensure school bus drivers continue to provide support to families. “School bus drivers can play critical roles in helping deliver course materials to families, especially those who don’t have their own transportation,” said Araya. “Our rural school bus drivers and EAs know the challenges families face when students are working remotely from different communities and can certainly be invaluable resources to help rural families stay home during the pandemic.”