K-12 support staff might not be considered front-line workers during the COVID-19 crisis, but in Burnaby, British Columbia, they’re certainly doing their part to hold up the front line.

“I’m proud of what our members are doing,” said CUPE 379 President Paul Simpson. “Members have been volunteering to provide much needed support to the community.”

Simpson said that EAs are providing educational and emotional support to both students and parents. They have been proactive in connecting with parents and students to make sure they have what they need to continue learning. EAs have been supporting children of Tier One and Tier Two essential workers, and the district is now in the process of bringing in vulnerable students.

“Clerical are still in Burnaby schools, holding it all together and making sure that everything can be tracked so that we know who comes into schools and where they are,” said Simpson.

CUPE 379 members have been delivering supplies to students and, in some cases, providing supplies of their own where necessary. Those who work in IT have been providing support to more people than usual, answering questions for both staff and parents. Trades are looking at bigger projects that they can start before summer. Noon-hour supervisors and crossing guards are helping with grounds and exterior maintenance, as well as posting signs.

“Custodians are making sure that schools are disinfected and safe for the people who need to come in,” said Simpson, calling these workers the cornerstone of the system.

Burnaby School District is providing 600 meals a day, which CUPE 379 members are packaging and delivering in the community as needed.

Simpson, acknowledging that these are frightening and challenging times for everyone, said that having a respectful relationship and working together with the District goes a long way.

“The bottom line is that CUPE 379 members are showing up to support their community,” he said. “We knew we could provide the services that are needed in these times.”