Welcome to the CUPE BC K-12 Presidents’ Council site

Welcome to the CUPE BC K-12 Presidents’ Council site

The K-12 Presidents’ Council represents 57 CUPE locals in school districts across British Columbia.

CUPE represents more than 30,000 education workers including: education assistants, school secretaries, custodians/caretakers, Indigenous support workers, IT workers, Strong Start facilitators, trades and maintenance workers, and bus drivers.

We strive to protect quality public education for all.

Bulletin – Update on vaccine mandates in K-12 system

The B.C. government has announced mandatory vaccinations for the province’s over 30,000 public service workers. While this mandate does not directly cover workers in the K-12 education system, CUPE anticipates school districts will be applying similar mandates in K-12 schools in the near future.

CUPE BC President Karen Ranalletta issued a statement saying, “the B.C. government implementing mandatory vaccinations across the public service makes sense as they are the best proven measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities…. Given the rise in COVID cases in our schools, we think it also seems prudent to apply this mandate to the K-12 system.”

In preparation for possible K-12 system vaccine mandates, the Ministry of Education held the first meeting of an ad hoc advisory committee last night with BCPSEA, CUPE and other partners to develop common principles, standards, and guidelines. CUPE supports this work and is calling for the B.C. government and all school districts to adopt a uniformed approach that ensures all immunization plans are effective, efficient, and respect the rights of K-12 school workers. CUPE also stresses that any vaccination mandate must ensure there are reasonable accommodations for the small number of education workers with recognized human rights exemptions.

If your school district is considering a mandatory vaccination policy, here are some steps your local should be taking with your National Representative:

  • Ensuring that the employer consults with the local before implementing a policy. It is not the local’s role to ‘approve’, ‘agree to’, or ‘consent’ to any employer policies, but the union should have notice and an opportunity to comment on new employer policies.
  • Considering whether the policy gives reasonable timelines for employees to be vaccinated.
  • Reviewing the process for employees to raise legitimate human rights grounds for exemption from the policy – is there a clear direction about who those requests should be directed to and how they will be handled?
  • Asking how member’s personal information will be handled and ensuring that the personal information is not shared outside or used for any other purposes
  • Looking closely at what steps will be taken for those who refuse vaccination and what consequences will follow. Advocate for consequences less than termination, such as unpaid leaves of absence, with an opportunity for review if, and when, the threat of the pandemic recedes.

All CUPE members are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, as it is the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. In addition to considering vaccine mandates, CUPE is urging school districts to expand safety measures that promote clean and healthy schools, such as permanent daytime custodial services.

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Bulletin – Mask mandate expanded to include K-3 students

Public Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister of Education Jennifer Whiteside announced today masks will be required for all students in K-12 schools effective October 4, 2021, expanding the mandate to include kindergarten to Grade 3. As of Monday, all BC students will be required to wear masks while inside a school building, including on buses and at desks.

The K-12 Presidents Council and CUPE BC have been advocating for a broad K-12 mask mandate this school year, both publicly and at the provincial K-12 Education Steering Committee. CUPE looks forward to continuing working with the BC government and the other stakeholders on the steering committee in monitoring and adapting COVID-19 safety measures during this ever evolving and changing pandemic.

While CUPE welcomes today’s announcement, the union is also advocating for additional measures to keep schools clean and healthy, such as reinstating daytime cleaning by custodial staff to reduce the spread of disease through frequently touched surfaces. The extremely positive health benefits that students, workers, and communities have seen from expanded daytime custodial services during the pandemic must be made permanent.

CUPE will continue advocating for daytime custodial services with school districts, as well as long-term ventilation infrastructure upgrades and rapid testing in schools.

The Provincial COVID-19 Communicable Disease Guidelines for K-12 Settings have been updated to include the new mask requirements and can be found on online on the BC government website.

CUPE strongly recommends vaccinations to all members, as they are crucial to limiting the spread of COVID-19.

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Bulletin – Update on COVID-19 safety measures in K-12 schools

The Public Health Officer and BCCDC have updated the process for COVID-19 exposures in K-12 schools. Exposure notices will be posted online. Links can be found on the BCCDC website.

The Ministry of Education has also released an update on COVID-19 safety measures for the K-12 education system that provides further guidance regarding proof of vaccinations, safe isolation of students showing COVID-19 symptoms, and school attendance for students not showing symptoms but having close contact with a confirmed case.

Proof of vaccination

The PHO has confirmed that all K-12 school activities are excluded from proof of vaccination requirements.

This applies to all educational and extracurricular activities, any programs for children and youth offered by a school or other school-led event. This applies to students, parents/caregivers, volunteers, and staff.

This exemption applies to field trips. Public venues, however, will still require proof of vaccination if members of the public will be present.

The exemption does not apply when school facilities are rented out for non-school events. In these cases, the person or organization is responsible for verifying proof of vaccinations (not the school or school district).

CUPE strongly recommends vaccinations to all members, as they are crucial to limiting the spread of COVID-19.

Safe isolation of symptomatic students

Students who develop symptoms of illness at school should be provided with a separate space outside of the classroom where they can wait for their parent/caregiver.

Ideally this would be a separate room such as a first aid room or empty office, or a low traffic area with barriers or where physical distance can be maintained.

Asymptomatic attendance

People (including staff and students) that have close contact with confirmed COVID-19 cases (someone in your own household) may be permitted by public health to continue to attend school/work, as long as they are not showing symptoms of illness (asymptomatic) and are fully vaccinated.

Public health officials will help determine if self-isolation is required for household members while following up on a confirmed COVID-19 case and advise if school attendance permitted for other asymptomatic household members.

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Bulletin – Help prevent workplace violence in schools

K-12 Health & Safety Toolkit workshop on September 23rd

K-12 schools are unique and complex workplaces, and both the number of claims and the injury rate related to workplace violence in K-12 schools rose steadily between 2015 and 2019.

Workers may interact with people who do not yet have the capacity to understand that their behaviour could cause physical and/or psychological injury to others. All workers, supervisors, and employers have a responsibility to help prevent workplace violence in schools.

To support schools in their efforts to prevent workplace violence, WorkSafeBC established a working group with K-12 sector partners – including CUPE BC – to develop and raise awareness of resources and tools tailored to school settings.

The K-12 Presidents Council is hosting a workshop on September 23, 2021, from 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. to unveil a new K-12 Health and Safety Toolkit.

Panelists Tom McKenna, CUPE Occupational Health and Safety specialist, and Hans Loeffelholz, BCPSEA sector lead for OH&S, will present an overview of the new toolkit and answer questions on its use in the workplace.

CLICK here for registration information

The tools, along with a guidance document, posters, and a video, are now available on the WorkSafeBC K-12 violence tools website. To preview the materials, please visit https://www.worksafebc.com/en/about-us/news-events/campaigns/help-prevent-workplace-violence-in-schools

These materials represent the culmination of two years of work by K-12 Workplace Violence Prevention Working Group – Canadian Union of Public Employees British Columbia (CUPE BC), BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA), BC Principals’ and Vice Principals’ Association (BCPVPA), BC School Superintendents Association (BCSSA), BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), School Safety Association of BC (SSABC), and occupational health and safety specialists representing both rural and urban school districts.

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Bulletin – Employer Proof of Vaccine Requests

While there are currently no public health orders (PHOs) that directly address mandatory immunization for education workers, some of our members may be indirectly impacted by the B.C. Government’s vaccine certificate program.

Where an employee’s job duties place them in locations or at events that require vaccination, employers may require vaccination status disclosures. Such policies would likely be found to be a reasonable exercise of management rights. Employers adopting such policies, however, are required to provide reasonable accommodations for employees who choose not to be vaccinated for medical or religious reasons.

Aside from protected human rights grounds, where employees are not vaccinated (or choose not to disclose their vaccination status) there may be employment consequences. These will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Some examples may include modified work duties, transfers, or unpaid administrative leaves. CUPE will continue to advocate for the protection of our members’ jobs and will address the employers’ actions on a case-by-case basis.

COVID-related Documents from Parents

Some support staff in the K-12 sector have recently been presented with documents from parents which claim to exempt their child from various COVID-19 public health measures. These documents are sometimes titled “Notice of Liability” or “Non-Consent Exemption”. They contain a dense collection of legal jargon related to compliance with mask mandates, testing protocols, and other public health measures.

CUPE members in the K-12 sector can safely disregard these notices. K-12 support staff are in no way personally liable for any of the alleged ‘harms’ described in these documents. CUPE members are not responsible for developing safety protocols or public health orders. Those matters are the responsibility of public health officials, the government, and the employer. Our members should continue to act in accordance with the direction from their employers and may forward the notices to the employer.

Online Learning Representative Sought

We are looking for a CUPE member who provides online learning as part of their job and is active in their local. Please contact your National Representative if you have a member you could recommend.

PEBT member-trustee opening

There is a vacancy for a Public Education Benefits Trust (PEBT) member-trustee. More information for anyone interested will be circulated soon.

Bargaining Committee Elections

A reminder to all locals to elect their bargaining committees for the upcoming round of negotiations, and to regional councils to elect their representatives to the provincial bargaining committee (Northern, Kootenays, Thompson-Okanagan, Fraser Valley, South Island, North Island, and Metro Vancouver).

Health & Safety Tool Kit

A workshop on the new health and safety toolkit developed by the K-12 violence prevention working group will take place on September 23, 2021, 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. This workshop, hosted by the K-12 Presidents Council, is recommended for K-12 presidents, unit chairs, health and safety committee reps and CUPE staff. A reminder with registration info will be sent separately.

Notice of Next Meeting

The K-12 Presidents Council will hold its next meeting on October 13th, 2021, from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. The zoom link and agenda will be sent in a separate notice. Those regions that have not yet elected their provincial bargaining committee representatives will hold their regional elections at this meeting.

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