Representatives of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Nova Scotia Division say the Province’s plan to re-open schools is missing important details to ensure that students, and staff, can return to school safely.
“CUPE education support workers make safe and inclusive learning in Nova Scotia schools possible,” says CUPE Nova Scotia President Nan McFadgen. “Today’s announcement leaves our members with many questions. What we didn’t see today was the additional resources that will be needed due to COVID.”
During his announcement today, the Minister stated that the funding needed for the re-entry plan is covered by the budget already set aside for inclusive education. CUPE believes that statement is misleading and hopes the Minister will amend the plan, so that the resources needed to meet both COVID related guidelines and inclusive education will be met.
“When will Minister Churchill announce the funding and staffing increases that are needed to implement his plan?” asks Lisa DeMolitor, chair of the CUPE Nova Scotia School Board Council of Unions (NSSBCU). “Schools are already operating on ‘bare-bones’ budgets thanks to years of cuts and inadequate funding.”
“Social distancing in schools will require more square footage, more materials, more assistance, and more supervision for our kids. How can we be sure that students continue to receive safe, quality education under these conditions?” asks DeMolitor.
All three of the other Atlantic provinces have announced additional supports to accompany their school re-entry plans. New Brunswick plans to add 60 new buses to its fleet and to hire additional drivers and teachers. In PEI, additional Educational Assistants have been promised, and the province is considering adding bus aides and hall monitors to assist with physical distancing. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the province plans to add 50 extra custodial staff to their casual list to assist with keeping schools sanitized.
“Our concerns with today’s announcement are not with what the Minister said, but what he didn’t say,” says McFadgen. “Our members need a commitment from the Minister that more resources will be put in place before September.”
The NSSBCU represents over 3,500 members, working in all school support job classifications, employed by the Annapolis Valley Regional Centre for Education, Cape Breton-Victoria Centre for Education, Conseil scolaire acadien provincial, South Shore Regional Centre for Education, Strait Regional Centre for Education, Tri-County Regional Centre for Education, and Halifax Regional Centre for Education.