COVID-19 FAQ

Duty to accommodate

Members with a medical condition may be entitled to an accommodation. Depending on the circumstances, the School District may be required to consider alternative working arrangements. Those arrangements will be tailored to the individual circumstances, and might include modified work schedules, changes to the working environment, the provision of additional PPE, or working from home arrangements.

The onus is on the member and the union to prove that the member has a medical condition that requires accommodation. That means that the member will need to get at least a written doctor’s note supporting their request.

If members need a medical accommodation, they should make an appointment with their physician immediately to discuss their circumstances.  Members should provide their doctor with as much information as possible about the specific job, and the plan for returning to work so that the doctor can give an informed opinion about whether the workplace is safe for them, and what accommodations might be needed.

Do not leave these issues until September! Members in this situation should schedule an appointment with their doctor right away. Contact your Local for assistance if needed.

Unless they are granted a leave of absence such as a medical leave, school district employees must attend work or risk the possibility of discipline. It is not up to individual members to decide whether or not they are comfortable returning to work. Anyone who has specific circumstances that pose problems for their return to work should raise those issues with their Local and the district well in advance of September.

Existing sick leave benefits and other terms in the collective agreements apply. This means that members should have access to sick leave if they are unable to work due to a health issue. It also means that they may be required to provide medical documentation to support their request for sick leave. However, we recognize that for many members, existing sick pay may not be enough. We have flagged this with government and will continue to push for improvements to sick leave benefits so that members can be sure that they will not be without pay if they cannot work because of COVID-19.

In some cases, members may be entitled to an accommodation. If a member has a documented medical issue, the employer is required to consider alterations to the workplace including adjusted schedules, additional PPE, working from home, or other modifications to the workplace so that the member can continue to work safely. These cases are all unique and will depend on the circumstances. That said, members will be required to provide medical documentation of their condition and restrictions.

In some cases, the employer may be required to accommodate you based on “family status” as described in the Human Rights Code. These cases are rare, and typically only arise where the employee is legally required to care for someone, such as a child. Family status accommodation typically does not apply where the vulnerable person is a parent or other adult family member. Whatever the case, you will need to get a recommendation from a doctor about what is safe and appropriate for you and your family member. If the doctor recommends that you not attend the workplace, you may need a leave of absence or to seek an accommodation. If this circumstance applies to you, you should speak to your union representative immediately to get assistance. You should also schedule an appointment with a doctor to discuss your circumstances and get advice.

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Learning groups (cohorts)

A learning group (cohort) is an extra layer of protection that provides an opportunity for children to interact in school. This recommendation of the PHO increases the ability to better track if there is a COVID outbreak. Learning groups are limited to a maximum 60 students and staff in elementary and middle schools and 120 students and staff in high schools.

Support staff and teachers are included in the learning group numbers. They can leave the cohort as long as they are practising physical distancing.

No. Your household bubble is made up of the people closest to you that you can hug, and you don’t have to practice physical distancing with them. The learning group does not negate physical distancing. We know we can’t always maintain physical distancing at all times in schools and learning groups make sure that risk periods are small and only with a limited number of students.

Learning groups are recommended by the PHO as a way to reduce the number of interactions between students and staff, and to limit potential exposure.

UPDATED AUGUST 17, 2020

Parents and caregivers must assess their child daily and if a child has any symptoms, they must not take the bus to school.

Students should clean their hands before they leave home to take the bus, when they leave school prior to taking the bus, and when they get home.

Middle and secondary students are required to wear non-medical masks when they are on the bus. Non-medical masks are not recommended for elementary school students.

If space is available, students should each have their own seat (unless sharing with a member of their household) and sit separated side to side and front to back.

There may be slight variations to the above by individual school districts, but PHO recommendations must be followed by all districts.

(See pages 12 and 13 of the updated health and safety guidelines for K-12 settings.)

UPDATED AUGUST 17, 2020

Staff outside of a learning group must practice physical distancing when interacting with the learning group.

In situations where staff outside a learning group cannot practice physical distancing, other measures must be explored, such as reconfiguring rooms, securing an alternate space to allow for physical distancing, installing a physical barrier made of transparent material, or providing virtual services where possible.

When staff are interacting with people outside of their learning group—or are in a situation where physical distancing cannot be maintained and none of the strategies outlined above are viable options—staff are required to wear a non-medical mask, a face covering or a face shield (in which case a non-medical mask should be worn in addition to the face shield).

(See page 7 of the updated health and safety guidelines for K-12 settings.)

A learning group is a group of students and staff who remain together throughout the school quarter, semester or year and who primarily interact with each other.

Within a learning group, K-12 students and staff do not need to maintain physical distancing. All staff must still make efforts to minimize physical contact within learning groups.

Outside of their own learning group, middle and secondary students and all K-12 staff need to practice physical distancing of two metres, and other safety protocols like frequent hand washing and covering coughs. Most importantly, anyone who feels unwell must stay home.

Extracurricular activities will likely involve students interacting outside of their learning groups and appropriate physical distancing is required in those circumstances.

As stated in the BCCDC guidelines, outside of a learning group, all K-12 staff as well as middle and secondary students, need to practice physical distancing of two metres, and implement other safety protocols like frequent hand hygiene as identified by the PHO and BC Centre of Disease Control. Staff from outside of the learning group must practice physical distancing at all times in all interactions at work.

Learning groups and physical distancing are complementary strategies to reduce the spread of COVID-19. By organizing students and staff into learning groups, the number of different interactions and potential exposure is reduced, and contact tracing is better supported if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a school community.

Within learning groups, minimizing physical contact is the rule. Those outside of a learning group must practice physical distancing when interacting with a learning group. If a two-metre distance can be maintained between people from different learning groups, two classes from different learning groups can be in the same space at the same time.

Staff outside of a learning group must practice physical distancing when interacting with the learning group. Where physical distancing is not possible, other measures must be explored, such as reconfiguring rooms, securing an alternate space to allow for physical distancing, installing a physical barrier made of transparent materials, or providing virtual services where possible.

(See pages 5, 6 and 7 of the updated “Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings.”)

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Health and safety

All districts must adhere to the same safety guidelines as set out by the Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. Implementation may vary slightly to district to district as they meet their individual needs.

Please bring your safety concerns to your site health and safety committee.

The PHO, in collaboration with health authorities, will oversee all outbreaks as they have been doing. Their response will vary depending on how the person contracted COVID-19. The public health team will do contact tracing and the PHO will give direction on what response is needed. This could range from isolation to quarantine depending on the situation. If the rate of community infection rises, the PHO will revise recommendations as needed.

Please bring your safety concerns to your site health and safety committee.

UPDATED AUGUST 17, 2020

Managing students with complex behaviours, medical complexities or those receiving delegated care may require staff providing health services or other health care providers to be in close proximity or in physical contact with a medically complex or immune suppressed student.

In community-based clinical settings where there is a low incidence and prevalence of COVID-19, additional personal protective equipment over and above that required for normal practices is not required. The same guidance is applicable to staff providing health services and other health care providers who are providing health services in schools. However, if a person providing health services assesses the need for personal protective equipment beyond routine practices following a point of care risk assessment, it should be worn.

Staff providing health care services and other health care providers are required to wear a mask when working in close proximity with students.

When staff are in close physical proximity with a student within their learning group, personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves, is not required beyond that used as part of the personal care routine normally encountered in their regular course of work (e.g. gloves for toileting).

Wearing a non-medical mask, a face covering, or a face shield (in which case a non-medical mask should be worn in addition to the face shield) in schools outside of the circumstances outlined above is a personal choice and will be respected.

(See pages 10 and 21 of the updated health and safety guidelines for K-12 settings.)

All districts are required to submit their safety plan to the Ministry by August 21. Districts are also required to consult with unions prior to developing their plan. The K-12 Presidents Council has recommended that locals meet with their district now to give input on the safety plan. Many locals have started these meetings and will continue to do so as they work towards the August 21 deadline.

Please bring your safety concerns to your site health and safety committee.

Normally, when a worker files a Work­Safe claim due to an occupational disease, the worker is required to prove that the disease was caused by the workplace. This places an onerous burden on the worker to prove causa­tion, which is often highly controver­sial. However, WorkSafe maintains a list of diseases and industries in which the disease is presumed to be caused by the workplace if the workers work in one of the associated industries. Usually this occurs where scientific evidence establishes that certain occupational diseases occur more commonly in that industry. For example, the list includes a presumption for mesothelioma in industries where there is exposure to airborne asbestos dust. In those cases, the worker does not need to prove that their illness was caused by the workplace in order to access compensation.

WorkSafe has added a presumption that covers any “communicable viral pathogen” that is subject to an order of the Provincial Health Officer, or the subject of a state of emergency. The applicable industries include those where the risk of exposure to the disease is significantly greater than that of the public at large during the times and in the places covered by the Provincial Health Officer’s notice, or the state of emergency. The change means that anyone who contracts one of these diseases—and who works in an industry that is at greater risk of exposure to the disease—does not need to prove that they contracted the disease at the workplace.

The change is not restricted to COVID-19 and would also apply to future epidemics that are the subject of orders from the Provincial Health Officer or subject to a state of emergency.

Normally, changes to the list of pre­sumptions requires 90 days before they come into effect. Bill 23 overrides that time frame and allows the change to come into effect immediately.

In most cases, yes. Workers who contract COVID-19 will be able to claim Workers Compensation as long as they work in an industry that is at greater risk of exposure than the public at large. WorkSafe has not provided any guidance on what types of workplaces will be covered by this description, however, so there remains some uncertainty. In all likelihood, any workplace that includes exposure to the public or larger numbers of people will be covered.

Districts must follow the cleaning guidelines of the BC Centre for Disease Control and the Provincial Health Officer/BC Ministry of Health. This document provides guidance for K-12 schools settings, and it is updated regularly by the government as changes are made. For current and updated information on cleaning and disinfecting for public settings check out this document.

WorkSafeBC has added K-12 Guide­lines to their website. Find these additional resources here.

Parents and others who are permitted to come into schools will be required to follow the safety protocols outlined in the district’s safety plan. These protocols must follow PHO guidelines for safety at all times. CUPE and the K-12 Presidents Council have been advocating that all members of the public, including parents and volun­teers, check in with the school office or call prior to arriving at the school, and that schools limit the number of outside visitors whenever possible.

Please bring your safety concerns to your site health and safety committee.

Please refer to question #18 on the bcschools.cupe.ca website which deals with the need for personal protective equipment beyond routine practices.

(See pages 20 and 21 of the updated “Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings.”)

Wearing non-medical masks at all times is not recommended in schools because there are multiple, more effective infection prevention and exposure control measures in place. These measures provide multiple layers of protection that reduce the risk of transmission. They include:

  • Ensuring students and staff stay home when they are sick or required to self-isolate, including ensuring everyone who enters the school does a daily health check
  • Enhanced cleaning and disinfection
  • Placing students and staff into consistent groupings of people (learning groups)
  • Adapting learning environments to maximize use of space
  • Ensuring physical distancing can be maintained between learning groups
  • Frequent hand hygiene

Members will need to review their district’s safety plans in terms of the use of masks as some may vary.

(See page 21 of the updated “Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings.”)

Visitor access during school hours should be prioritized to those supporting activities that benefit student learning and well-being. Schools should ensure that visitors are aware of health and safety protocols and requirements prior to entering the school. Schools should keep a list of the date, names and contact information for any visitors who enter the school.

(See page 15 of the updated “Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings.”)

As per WorkSafeBC guidelines, employers must involve frontline workers, joint health and safety committees, and supervisors in identifying protocols for their workplace. School districts and schools should ensure they have active Site Committees and Joint Health and Safety Committees that meet regularly,including prior to any transitions between stages, and are included in school district/school planning efforts.

(See page 22 of the updated “Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings.”)

CUPE recommends three levels of health and safety committees, sometimes known as Joint Health and Safety Committees (JHSC) or Joint Occupational Safety and Health Committees (JOSH).

District Health and Safety Committee

The central, or district committee, oversees health and safety for large employers, employers with multiple work sites, and employers with complex or systemic issues that have wide impact such as violence in the workplace, as well as issues that require a lot of resources or require major actions to resolve.

Joint Health and Safety Committee

The second type of committee is the joint health and safety committee, which is the only type of committee recognized by WorkSafeBC. This joint committee is required under The Workers Compensation Act and should be included in a local’s collective agreement along with the other two levels of committees. This joint committee meets monthly and is required to comply with The Workers Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, as well as the committee’s Terms of Reference.

Site Health and Safety Committee

The third type of committee, a site (or local) health and safety committee is important for large locals that have numerous job classifications, complex and varied health and safety issues, or are spread out geographically  with a variety of departments or locations. Site committees know their workplace and gather information that is provided to the Joint Health and Safety Committees when action is required.

Specific information about K-12 site committees will be covered in a future bulletin.

To support physical distancing requirements, schools should consider installing barriers made of transparent material in places where physical distance cannot be regularly maintained, and a person is interacting with numerous individuals outside of a learning group. This may include a front reception desk where visitors check in, a library check-out desk, or where food is distributed in a cafeteria.

(See page 9 of the updated “Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings.”)

At this time, there is no evidence that a building’s ventiliation system, in good operating condition, is contributing to the spread of the virus.

School districts are required to ensure that heating, ventiliation, and HVAC (air conditioning) systems are designed, operated, and maintained as per standards and specifications for ongoing comfort of workers. The WorkSafeBC website has an FAQ on ventilation.

(See page 21 of the updated “Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings.”)

Please bring your safety concerns to your site health and safety committee.

Schools will have non-medical masks and face shields available for staff.

(See page 10 of the updated “Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings.”)

Staff are required to wear a non-medical mask, a face covering or a face shield (in which case a non-medical mask should be worn in addition to the face shield) in high traffic areas such as buses and in common areas such as hallways, or anytime outside of their learning group whenever physical distancing cannot be maintained (e.g., itinerant teachers, specialists interacting with multiple learning groups). Staff can also wear a mask, a face covering or a face shield within their classroom or learning group if that is their personal preference.

Schools and school districts will have non-medical masks available for staff and students, including anyone who becomes ill while at school. Schools and school districts should consider distributing masks and face shields at the beginning of the school year on an opt-out basis, rather than at the request of students/staff.

Wearing a non-medical mask, face covering or face shield in schools outside of the circumstances outlined above is a personal choice for students and adults. It is important to treat people wearing masks with respect.

Those that choose to wear non-medical masks, face coverings or face shields must still seek to maintain physical distance from people outside of their learning group. There must be no crowding, gathering or congregating of people from different learning groups, even if non-medical masks are worn.

(See page 20 of the updated “Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings.”)

Schools will have non-medical masks and face shields available for staff.

(See page 10 “Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings.”)

Staff are required to wear a non-medical mask, a face covering or a face shield (in which case a non-medical mask should be worn in addition to the face shield) in high traffic areas such as buses and in common areas such as hallways, or anytime outside of their learning group whenever physical distancing cannot be maintained (e.g., itinerant teachers,
specialists interacting with multiple learning groups). Staff can also wear a mask, a face covering or a face shield within their classroom or learning group if that is their personal preference.

Schools and school districts will have non-medical masks available for staff and students, including anyone who becomes ill while at school. Schools and school districts should consider distributing masks and face shields at the beginning of the school year on an opt-out basis, rather than at the request of students/staff.

Wearing a non-medical mask, face covering or face shield in schools outside of the circumstances outlined above is a personal choice for students and adults. It is important to treat people wearing masks with respect.

Those that choose to wear non-medical masks, face coverings or face shields must still seek to maintain physical distance from people outside of their learning group. There must be no crowding, gathering or congregating of people from different learning groups, even if non-medical masks are worn.

(See page 20 “Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings.”)

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Other

Districts are required to consult with unions in the district as part of the planning for stage two. Locals are encouraged to contact their districts to start these discussions now.

The Ministry of Education has allocated $45.6 million to schools to be used for various needs including hiring more staff, purchasing masks, and $3 million to support remote learning (including the purchase of devices and software).

UPDATED AUGUST 17, 2020

Provincial COVID-19 Health and Safety Guidelines for K-12 settings were updated on August 17, 2020. The updated guidelines require middle and secondary students to wear non-medical masks when they are on the bus. However, no student is required to wear a mask if they cannot tolerate it. Non-medical masks are not recommended for elementary school students.

Students in middle and secondary school are required to wear non-medical masks in high traffic areas such as buses and common areas such as hallways, or any time outside of their learning group whenever physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Staff are required to wear a non-medical mask, a face covering or a face shield (in which case a non-medical mask should be worn in addition to the face shield) in high traffic areas, common areas, and anytime they are outside of their learning group and cannot maintain physical distancing of two metres.

Staff can also wear a mask, a face covering or a face shield (combined with a non-medical mask) within their classroom or learning group if that is their personal preference. It is important to treat people wearing masks with respect.

(See pages 12 and 20 of the updated health and safety guidelines for K-12 settings.)

CUPE advocated for funding to hire additional staff and the government has allocated $23 million to immediately hire additional qualified custodians to fulfill the cleaning requirements in schools. BCCDC’s requirements include general cleaning and disinfecting of the premises at least once every 24-hours (includes items like an individual desk and locker that only a single student uses); cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces at least twice every 24 hours (e.g. door knobs, light switches, toilet handles, tables, desks and chairs used by multiple students, keyboards and toys); and cleaning every surface that is visibly dirty.

Yes. CUPE and the BCTF both sit on the steering committee and we support each other. We are all in this together.

Public schools will receive $42.5 million and private schools will receive $3.1 million through the grant.

Public School Safe Return to School Grant

($ millions)

Reusable Masks / Face Shields                  2.2

Computers and Assistive Technology       3.0

Cleaning Supplies                                          5.1

Improved Hand Hygiene                              9.2

Cleaning Frequency*                                     23.0

*This line item covers hiring additional staff for cleaning and disinfecting.

Staff and students can continue to bring personal items to school, but they should be encouraged to only bring necessary items, such as backpacks, water bottles, clothing and school supplies.

Staff and students should not share personal items, including electronic devices, pens, etc.

Personal items should be labelled with the student’s name to discourage accidental sharing.

(See page 11 of the updated “Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings.”)

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You can find pdfs of the updated Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings and K-12 Education Restart Plan under the Resources tab.

WorkSafeBC has added K-12 Guidelines to their website found here.

The steering committee continues to meet and we will continue to advocate on behalf of members’ concerns.

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, Caretakers, First Nations Support Workers, IT Workers, Strong Start Facilitators, Trades and Maintenances Workers, and Bus Drivers.

We strive to protect quality public education for all.

Bulletin #31 – Contact tracing in K-12 schools

Contact tracing is a vital tool in limiting the spread of COVID-19 in our schools and communities. It helps people get diagnosed earlier and reduces the chances they’ll spread it to others. The BC
Centre for Disease Control and Provincial Health Services Authority have set out the step-by-step process being used for contact tracing across the province. For more information on contact tracing – including an accessible video and infographic explaining the process – visit bccdc.ca, and links are posted on bcschools.cupe.ca.

In solidarity and safety,

Warren Williams
President, K-12 Presidents Council, Local 9876

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View PDF.

Bulletin #30 – Responding to COVID-19 cases at school

It is important to take appropriate action if students or staff become sick at school. The flowchart below shows what you should do in these situations. More comprehensive guidance is also available in the Work Safe BC K-12 protocols, available online at worksafebc.com, and linked on our website at bcschools.cupe.ca. Please check our site regularly for more information and updates.

In solidarity and safety,

Warren Williams
President, K-12 Presidents Council, Local 9876

View PDF.

Source: Centre for Disease Control, September 1, 2020.

Bulletin #29 – Orange Shirt Day: honouring residential school survivors on September 30th

As a young girl, Phyllis Jack Webstad was gifted a new orange shirt by her grandmother before she was taken to a B.C. residential school. On her first day of classes, the shirt was confiscated and destroyed by a teacher.

Phyllis’ story has come to symbolize the trauma and abuse suffered by thousands of Survivors of the church-run government mandated residential schools. Generations of Survivors have similar stories of being torn from family, community, language and culture.

Inspired by Phyllis’ story, people now wear Orange Shirts on annually on September 30th. It is the time of year when Indigenous children were taken from their homes to residential schools. Today, it is a time for us all to set the stage for the coming school year to address anti-Indigenous racism and the ongoing legacy of colonialism in BC and across Canada.

Wearing an orange shirt is our way to honour those who survived residential schools and remember those that didn’t. It’s an opportunity to listen, keep discussions on all aspects of residential schools open, learn and understand.

I hope you will join CUPE members across Canada in wearing an orange shirt on September 30th and take some time to reflect on responsibilities to fostering reconciliation in our schools, our communities and in our union.

In solidarity & safety,

Warren Williams
President, K-12 Presidents Council, Local 9876

 

Orange Shirt Day Resources

Learn more about Orange Shirt Day, listings for events in your area, and more about Phyllis Jack Webstad’s story at orangeshirtday.org.

CUPE’s Walking the Talk: a practical guide to reconciliation for CUPE locals is available online at cupe.ca. This guide provides CUPE locals and members with key resources to better acknowledge and include Indigenous members in our union, and to help locals and members take concrete action towards reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (nctr.ca) the permanent home for all statements, documents, and other materials gathered by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It has an extensive collection of education resources on the legacy of residential schools. The NCTR is also hosting Every Child Matters, an online event for youth grades 5-12 on September 30, 2020.

View PDF.

Bulletin #28 – Updated public health guidance for K-12 schools

As we return to classrooms and adapt to our new normal, the BC Centre for Disease Control has updated its public health guidance for K-12 settings.

These updates reflect lessons learned over the past few months to minimize the transmission of COVID-19 and maintain a safe and healthy school environment for students, families and staff.

Below you will find a summary of the most significant updates. Links to the complete document can be found at bcschools.cupe.ca. Please check the site regularly for more information and updates.

In solidarity & safety,

Warren Williams
President, K-12 Presidents Council, Local 9876


  • Updated information on public health actions required when a confirmed case(s) of COVID-19 affects a school, and information on contact tracing and managing clusters (pg. 6-7, Appendix B)
  • Updated guidance on physical distancing (pg. 10)
  • Updated guidance for staff or students experiencing symptoms of illness, and outlines what should be done before returning to class (pg. 15-17, Appendix C).
  • New sections have been added concerning;
    • Ventilation and air exchange (pg. 8)
    • Water stations and fountains (pg. 18)
    • Personal items and school supplies (pg. 18)
  • A new Appendix D (pg. 24) provides additional guidance for school meal programs, breakfast clubs and other food access initiatives.

The guidance document has also updated the roles of Medical Health Officers and school health officers (pg. 1-4). The complete document can be found in the BCCDC website school section and linked at bcschools.cupe.ca.


Reminder: Any news media calls or inquiries regarding possible COVID-19 exposures or cases, as identified in the Operational Guidelines for K-12, should be directed to your local regional health authority.  Thank you.

View PDF.

Bulletin #27 – We will miss you, Sister Kristine

Kristine worked as a child and youth care worker in School District #20 (Kootenay-Columbia). This 2017 photo in which she appears with Taya, daughter of CUPE 1285 member Tammy Cox, was taken shortly after Kristine became president of CUPE 1285.

It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of CUPE National Servicing Representative Kristine Taggart. Kristine passed away at home in Sylvan Lake, Alberta on September 10.

Kristine was living and working in Red Deer, Alberta as a CUPE National Staff Representative. Previously, she serviced the B.C. Region out of the B.C. Regional Office and worked in various sectors including K-12, in which she served briefly as servicing rep for CUPE 728.

Prior to her work on CUPE staff, Kristine was president of CUPE Local 1285 (SD20 / Kootenay-Columbia). She served her local for many years in many capacities, including chief shop steward, before becoming president.

Known for her big-hearted kindness, her sense of humour and her solid commitment to members, Kristine will be fondly remembered in B.C. by all who came into contact with her.

Kristine will be dearly missed by so many. We send our sincerest condolences to her family, friends and colleagues during this difficult time.

In Solidarity & Safety,

Warren Williams
K-12 Presidents Council President

View PDF.

Bulletin #26 – Welcome back

WELCOME BACK!

I hope everyone had a good week and that orientations went smoothly. If issues come up around safety or a concern with the district’s safety plan, contact your site health and safety committee representative. Site committees can bring issues to the district joint health and safety committee for further action. Please continue to visit bcschools.cupe.ca as we will update information as it changes.

In solidarity and safety, 

Warren Williams
K-12 Presidents Council President

 

BUS DRIVER
Site safety committee members are the eyes and ears of safety for their specific site. Get to know who your CUPE site contact is. They know their workplace and gather information to provide to their local’s joint health and safety committee. Site safety committee members are crucial during the pandemic to give feedback if the district safety plan and site safety plans need to be modified as we move through the fall and winter. If they see anything unsafe at work, they need to bring it to their local’s joint health and safety committee.

Sherri Kreklau
CUPE 716 (Richmond)

HORTICULTURIST/GROUPS
It’s harder to work because we have to socially distance. We constantly sanitize our hands and equipment. Safety protocols are definitely more involved. Things have changed, and we’re really careful. We do our utmost to keep everyone safe.

Our work is even more important now, because the outdoors is being utilized more at schools — especially the fields. The fields are considered an outdoor classroom, a place where students play, learn, and exercise. It takes a lot of work to keep these grounds safe and functioning properly. Playing fields, particularly the sport fields, require a great deal of horticultural work to ensure that students can be out there on living grass instead of mud. We’re proud of our work and happy to see this.

Richard Prevost
CUPE 606 (Nanaimo/Ladysmith)

CLERICAL
I started back a couple of weeks ago.  The school was clean, and we’re all aware of our roles. We modelled our re-opening on the district health and safety plan. We’re a little different than elementary schools, but I think we have a pretty good plan in place. The kids are resilient and will pick it up. I know that the staff has.

Things seem to be going smoothly. I enjoy my work and having the kids back. I deal with student records and assist with the scheduling. We have lots of new staff, and learning and teaching new things keeps me coming back.

Becky Rousseau
CUPE 440 (Golden)

IT
We’re pretty much always helping someone. The work itself might not be super glamourous, but I always feel appreciated. We had been investing in online tools for the last couple of years and had Microsoft Teams rolling before the pandemic. We had to step up training and support.

With schools being open, there’s less training but there’s always computers to fix. In our district, each IT worker supports five or six schools – we provide consistency. If the teacher has a lesson plan that involves the computer, it will actually work. They can rely on the technology when they plan an online lesson or a virtual field trip.

Kyle Clark
CUPE 523 (Okanagan/Shuswap)

EDUCATION ASSISTANT
We were so happy to open the school to our kids and the kids were happy. Children are actually very intelligent. Once they are shown and taught how things have changed for them, for their safety, they’re very good about it.

We did a lot of things to remind them of what social distancing looks like. Yesterday we showed all of our kids how to properly wash their hands, so it becomes a healthy habit. The kids get it. They know they need to wash their hands, to sanitize, to give people space.

Our school district is working hard to make schools a safe environment.

Patty Astorino
CUPE 3742 (Prince George)

CUSTODIAN
Kids spend most of their day in school so you want to keep it clean so that they enjoy being there. This pandemic has been a nightmare. My biggest worry is that we won’t have enough time to keep the school clean and safe. My kids go to school, too. I want all kids to be safe and I’ll try to do whatever it takes to keep school safe. Today was the first day kids were back—that’s the best thing! They’re learning and doing what they are supposed to do—be kids and go to school to learn. If kids don’t go to school and learn, everything is pointless. They are our future and will build our country. We need to keep schools safe for our kids.

Houman Anasory
CUPE 1851 (Langley)

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Bulletin #25 – COVID-19 FAQ #7

For more information on the K-12 Restart, please continue to visit bcschools.cupe.ca as information is regularly updated.

In safety and solidarity,

Warren Williams
K-12 Presidents Council President

Health and safety

36. Will staff have access to masks and face shields?

BCCDC School FAQ

The following FAQs are under the Schools section on the BC Centre for Disease Control website. This information was updated on September 4. Find answers to questions here.

Is it safe to be with older people, like grandparents or Elders, once schools are back in session?

Each family is different. Some families may live with older people or Elders. Other families may visit or depend on them to help with childcare. Families need to think about their own unique situation to decide if and how to be with older people, like grandparents and Elders, in the safest way possible.

If you live with or spend a lot of time with older people or Elders, there are things you can do to lower the chances of getting and spreading the virus. This may include decreasing the number of contacts your family has outside of your household. For example, you can limit contacts to only family members outside of school, work and other commitments. You can also visit outside when the weather is good and keep a 2 metre distance when visiting.

Adults and children are more likely to catch COVID-19 in the community than in schools, based on the rigorous health and safety measures that will be in place.

Can students and staff without symptoms go to school if someone else in their household is sick?

Students and staff without symptoms can still go to school even if someone else in their household is sick. They cannot go to school if public health has told them not to. This is the same as for other settings like workplaces and public spaces.

Most people who are sick or have symptoms of illness in B.C. are not sick with COVID-19. So, it is very unlikely the person in their household has COVID-19.

If someone has been diagnosed with COVID-19, public health will identify close contacts and ask them to stay home and self-isolate.

The person who is sick or has symptoms should be assessed by 8-1-1 or a health care provider. Testing is recommended for anyone with cold, influenza or COVID-19-like symptoms, even mild ones.

What should happen if staff or students become sick while at school?

A student will be separated, provided a non-medical mask or tissues to cover their coughs or sneezes, and cared for if they become sick at school. Their parents or caregiver will be notified and asked to pick them up as soon as possible.

Staff will be separated and asked to go home as soon as possible.

In both cases, the spaces they were in will be cleaned and disinfected.

 

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Additional K-12 funding will support a safe restart

Education Minister Rob Fleming’s funding announcement on Thursday is good news for our members and for a safe restart in B.C. schools.

If you missed the announcement, you can watch it on the B.C. government YouTube channel here. The announcement starts at minute 6:00.

The federal funding of $242.4 million builds on provincial funding of $45.6 million to support a safe restart for B.C.’s schools. Funding will allow schools to expand health and safety measures, purchase more personal protective equipment (PPE) and increase capacity for remote learning.

The Ministry release says that the funding will support school districts to hire and train more teachers and support staff for remote learning; purchase additional software licences, electronic course materials and textbooks; purchase computers or tablets; and create Wi-Fi hubs and internet access in remote and Indigenous communities.

The release highlights some areas where funding can be spent including learning resources and supports, health and safety, transportation, as well as before and after school care. Answering a question, Minister Fleming said that flexibility of funding allowed for hiring additional support staff, including custodians and attendants on buses.

Districts will determine where funds are allocated. This chart shows the amount of federal funding allocated to each district in the last column of Table A: SUMMARY OF GRANTS TO DATE 2020/2021.

Have a safe and happy Labour Day!

In solidarity and safety,

Warren Williams
K-12 Presidents Council President

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Bulletin #23 – CUPE K-12 Site Safety Committees

CUPE K-12 site health and safety committees do not fall under the jurisdiction of WorkSafeBC. The Workers Compensation Board and the Workers Compensation Act only recognize the joint health and safety committee, not the central /district joint safety committee or CUPE site/local health and safety committees. CUPE K-12 site health and safety committees identify problems and bring them to their local’s joint health and safety committee to address.

1. What does a site health and safety committee do?

Site safety committee members are the eyes and ears of safety for their specific site. Get to know who your CUPE site contact is. They know their workplace and gather information to provide to their local’s joint health and safety committee. Site safety committee members are crucial during the pandemic to give feedback if the district safety plan and site safety plans need to be modified as we move through the fall and winter. If they see anything unsafe at work, they need to bring it to their local’s joint health and safety committee.

2. How does the site committee know what safety guidelines are in place?

Site committee members need to be familiar with the Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings as well as the district safety plan and any site-specific guidelines in place at their schools. All district safety plans have been approved and are on the district’s individual website. The provincial guidelines document is regularly updated and can be found here.

3. What are the responsibilities of committee members?

Site committee members note issues that are unsafe. They are sometimes a point of contact for members working at the site who notice safety issues that need to be addressed. Get to know who your Committee members should refer to the Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 Settings and safety plan for their district, especially during the pandemic. They sometimes also assist their local joint health and safety committee and the employer with member safety.

4. How does a site health and safety committee work with the district?

CUPE K-12 site health and safety committees report concerns or issues in the school directly to the local’s joint health and safety committee. The joint committee then raises it with the district. The local’s joint health and safety committee, in consultation with the local, may ask the site committee to assist in other ways.

5. My school doesn’t have a site health and safety committee. How do we get one?

Contact your local immediately, as these committees are crucial as our members return to work at schools.

6. Is the site health and safety committee a joint committee that includes the union and management?

Typically, site committees include one or more representatives from each union or association and the site administrator.

7. What should our site safety committee do when we see safety guidelines aren’t being followed?

It is important to remember that the site committee is in addition to the required local joint health and safety committee. The site committee should refer their issues and concerns to the local’s joint health and safety committee which deals with issues arising throughout the district. The joint health and safety committee should try to resolve the issues and concerns, including by making formal and informal recommendations as part of the committee’s mandate. Where this is not successful, the joint health and safety committee may contact WorkSafeBC for assistance. In addition, workers always have the right to refuse unsafe work under Section 3.12 of the OHS Regulations.

Please check out the WorkSafeBC guidelines for schools returning to operation.