BURNABY—CUPE BC welcomes the provincial government’s announcement today of a one-week delay to returning to in-classroom education in B.C. schools and urges the province to implement additional measures to keep students and staff safe, CUPE BC President Karen Ranalletta said today.
“With the rapid surge in COVID-19 cases over the holidays, it makes sense to delay the return of students to classrooms, and it’s essential that the Education Ministry and school districts use this week to ensure that schools be made as safe as possible for everyone, students and staff alike,” said Ranalletta. “We all know how rapidly conditions can change but we need to make sure that detailed information is provided so that everyone in the education system is on the same page. Anything that school districts can do to reduce stress and anxiety for parents and staff is hugely important. Across all our sectors, I know our members appreciate their employers’ flexibility and understanding as they deal with the impact of this pandemic on their families.”
Ranalletta said that CUPE has been meeting regularly with the Ministry of Education and other K-12 system stakeholders over the holiday break and has offered several priority recommendations to protect school district staff, students, and communities. These recommendations include:
– Rapid tests should be made widely available to staff, students, and their families at no cost.
– K-12 staff should be prioritized for booster shots to ensure maximum possible immunity levels in the K-12 sector.
– N-95 or equivalent respirator-style masks should be provided to staff and students. CUPE also supports increasing education efforts on the importance of wearing masks, and the proper use of well-fitted, high quality, Canadian manufactured respirator-style masks.
– Daytime custodial services be utilized for twice daily cleaning of frequently touched surfaces, including at least once during school hours.
– Support for improved ventilation in school district buildings. In situations where mechanical HVAC or open windows are not feasible (particularly in winter), portable HEPA filters in classrooms and other school spaces to ensure maximum air filtration.
“I know these are stressful and worrying times for everyone, particularly for families of students and education workers,” said Ranalletta. “And that’s especially true with the New Year and the end of the holiday season coming up so soon. I know we’re all so frustrated that this pandemic is still with us, but I also know that together we will find the energy to finish the fight against COVID-19.”