CUPE is calling for more support staff and resources following yesterday’s announcement of provincial plans to re-open Manitoba schools in September. CUPE is disappointed that no additional resources will be available to ensure health and safety.

“CUPE Manitoba has members in school support jobs in divisions across Manitoba. We have many concerns and questions about school re-opening,” said Abe Araya, president of CUPE Manitoba.

The Provincial Government announced that the only funds available for schools to implement measures in line with COVID prevention would be the $48 million in savings that divisions achieved during the winter/spring 2020 remote learning phase.

Added Araya: “For this high-stakes school re-opening to be safe and effective, the Province will need to do better. Schools need to hire more support staff in all areas, from bus drivers to educational assistants, from custodians and cleaners to trades, from library staff to clerical staff, from technical staff to community and language liaisons.”

The Provincial Government announced that Manitoba students will return to school on September 8th, with some restrictions in place. CUPE understands that students from Kindergarten to Grade 8 are expected to learn in the classroom. Students with special needs in all grades will also be learning in-class. Students in high school will learn in-class provided physical distancing can be maintained – otherwise, they can expect some remote learning. School buses, schools and outdoor spaces will undergo additional cleaning and procedures to ensure physical distancing.

“As frontlines staff, CUPE members know firsthand that schools are underfunded and often overcrowded,” said Araya. “Before COVID, some schools already had a high demand for bussing, two or more shifts of recess and lunch, mobile classrooms, and hallway education. At around $68,000 per school, the plan to increase staff and resources for Fall 2020 is unlikely to be enough.”

Concluded Araya: “CUPE members will be the ones implementing many of the direct COVID prevention measures. We want to continue working with school divisions for a successful return in the fall. We look forward to proper support and meaningful consultation from the province. Students, families and communities need detailed and practical information and options so that we can all have faith in a safe return to the classroom.”

CUPE represents approximately 5,000 education support staff in school divisions across Manitoba, including educational assistants, custodians, maintenance and trades, secretaries, librarians, mechanics, bus drivers, international student support, school liaisons and more.