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.

Bulletin – Rapid Antigen Tests rolling out to K-12 sector this week

Over 200,000 self-administered COVID-19 rapid antigen tests are being sent out this week for immediate use in the K-12 sector. This initial allotment from the provincial government is specifically for use by school and district staff. They are being sent to districts early this week, with each district getting enough for two tests per staff member.

This first shipment of rapid tests will be for at-home use by symptomatic staff members to rule out COVID-19. They will not be used to determine if asymptomatic staff can attend school.

The Provincial Health Services Authority has another pending allotment of rapid tests. Once this allotment is confirmed, the Ministry of Education will roll out plans to expand rapid testing to students. It is expected more tests will arrive from the Government of Canada later in January that will support the expanded use of rapid tests within the sector.

Deployment and distribution to staff will be managed by the individual school districts. The tests will arrive prepackaged in boxes of five, so they will need to be repacked on by school districts into sets of two. This may cause a slight delay in getting them to staff.

Once ready, the Ministry of Education is recommending they be given out to staff to take home, so they are immediately available when needed. The tests will come to staff with a letter including guidance on when to use them, instructions on how to use the tests properly, and direction on what to do in the case of a positive or negative result.

These rapid antigen tests being provided are in addition to existing testing in the province, available for individuals when recommended by public health.

All other existing safety protocols and practices in schools should also be maintained.

Rapid testing resources

Understanding Test Results – Find out what your COVID-19 test results mean. BCCDC

Rapid antigen at-home test instructions for K-12 School District/Authority Staff. Ministry of Education

Symptoms of COVID-19. BCCDC

COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test Deployment – Information for the K-12 Sector. Ministry of Education bulletin

 

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Bulletin – Presidents Council discuss back-to-school issues

The K-12 Presidents Council held a special meeting last week in advance of the full return of students to schools. Presidents compared how their respective districts were implementing updated safety plans to help curb COVID cases in schools in response to the recent surge causes by the Omicron variant. The Council provided feedback on enhanced measures being considered by the Public Health Officer and Ministry of Education and identified other possible measures that should be advocated for by CUPE.

The PHO and Ministry of Education have released updated protocols – they are available online and we provided a summary that is available on bcschools.cupe.ca.

CUPE continues to call for prioritized rapid testing for staff and students in schools, N-95 or equivalent three-layer masks be provided, prioritized vaccine boosters for school staff, support for improved ventilation, and adding regular daytime cleaning of all school environments across the province.

In support of K-12 Locals, CUPE BC President Karen Ranalleta has issued press releases over the past two weeks advocating for these measures, with emphasis on the importance of adding regular daytime custodial services in all B.C. schools. With the potential for increased absences due to illnesses that my lead to functional school closures, regular daytime cleaning is vital to stopping the spread of common illnesses (i.e., the flu and colds), and relieving pressures on staff caused by COVID related absence.

CUPE and the K-12 Presidents Council remains in close contact with the provincial government and districts through the Ministry of Education’s provincial education steering committee. We will continue to advocate for our members as they work to keep B.C. schools healthy and clean for students, families, and our communities.

Mask Exemptions

Well-fitted, and properly worn masks are vital to keeping our public education system open for in-person learning. A refresher for students and staff on proper usage will be provided by districts for the return to class this week.

There are, however, certain situations where a staff member or student may not be able to wear a mask and may be exempt from mandated mask use in school environments. This guide from the B.C. government can help identifying legitimate mask exemptions in the K-12 education system and provide guidance on how to deal with these situations that protect the rights and health concerns of individuals while protect public health in our schools.

Working remotely

For working remotely, CUPE has confirmed that it is up to school districts to determine whether employees can work from home. Locals who wish to advocate for this option should do so directly with their employer.

Recent CUPE BC press releases on K-12 Sector

CUPE BC welcomes one-week delay to in-classroom education in K-12, urges additional safety measures

School support workers call for daytime cleaning to keep schools open

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Bulletin – Guidelines released for January 10 return to school

With students returning to school next week, the Public Health Officer (PHO) and Ministry of Education have released updated protocols in response to the recent surge in COVID cases caused by the virus’ Omicron variant. The protocols are in place for the full return of students on January 10 with the goal of keeping schools open for in-person learning.

Summary

Three-layer masks will be provided to students and staff on return to school, and a refresher on the proper use of masks will be provided.

Students and staff will be asked to do a self-health check each day before attending school. Parents will be asked to report results of self-administered rapid antigen tests to help identify cases in schools.

The PHO says with higher levels of community transmission, a shorter virus incubation period of the Omicron variant, contact tracing and close contact notification by public health is a less effective way to limit COVID-19 transmission in schools. So, school districts are being directed to closely monitor staff and student attendance and absences due to illness to identify potential outbreaks or other problems that might lead to functional closures.

School districts will be responsible to make the decision if a functional school closure is required, in consultation with the regional medical officer.

The district will have plans in place to transition to online learning. CUPE has made clear through the Provincial Education Steering Committee that the union expects wage continuity for all school support staff in the event of functional closures.

School districts have taken the week delay in the return to school to put in place updated protocols. These plans include staggered breaks, restricting visitors, revised plans for distancing and reduce crowding, and the use of virtual assemblies and staff meetings. Policies and protocols allowing for school staff to work remotely are at the discretion of school districts.

The updated COVID-19 Protocols for School & District Administrators and Staff: Management of School-Associated Activity is available online and at bcschools.cupe.ca.

Rapid testing

The Public Health Officer says self-administered rapid antigen tests will be circulated to vital public services in the coming weeks, and school staff showing COVID symptoms will be a priority for these tests. More information will be provided when the tests are distributed.

Mental health resources

The recent surge in COVID cases has been incredibly stressful for many students and staff. Mental health resources are available to assist schools in supporting students and staff in their return to school:

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Bulletin – Delay in return to school for students

Due to the rapid surge in COVID-19 cases over the holiday break, return to school for most students will be delayed until at least January 10, 2022. This delay, ordered by the Public Health Officer today, will allow for enhanced safety measures to be planned and put in place to help contain the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 through the K-12 education system.

School staff will be returning to work as planned on January 3 & 4 to help prepare for the return of students and implementing the enhanced precautions. Some support staff will be needed to provide supports for students during the delayed full return to school. Wages will continue for all staff during this delayed return to classes. CUPE is advocating for wage continuity for all K-12 support staff in the case of any other school closures.

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.

Respirator-style masks – ideally N95s – 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.

CUPE believes these precautions are necessary to keep our schools clean and healthy. If implemented they will help keep all learning environments open and accessible, while offering the highest protections for students and staff.

K-12 support staff do vital work with students, many of whom have unique needs that require face-to-face interaction. Others work closely with vulnerable students that require special supports that can’t be provided online. Much of the work done by school support staff must be done in close contact. It is extremely important that we take all necessary safety measures to keep learning environments open and accessible for students, families, and communities.

The COVID-19 Omicron variant has made this already stressful pandemic even more challenging. This public health crisis continues to evolve at a very quick pace. CUPE and the K-12 President Council Executive remains in close contact with the Ministry of Education as the situation unfolds and return to schools are developed and implemented.

READ Press Release: CUPE BC welcomes one-week delay to in-classroom education in K-12, urges additional safety measures

View PDF.

 

 

Bulletin – Important update on COVID asymptomatic self-isolation leaves in K-12 sector

Public health has recently removed the requirement to self-isolate after an exposure for those who have been fully vaccinated. As a result, BCPSEA has just advised the K-12 Presidents Council that the without prejudice and without precedent general paid leave previously available for asymptomatic staff members who are required to isolate due to a COVID-19 exposure will be ending as of December 31, 2021, subject to the following conditions:

The general paid leave is being discontinued for employees who can be vaccinated but have chosen not to receive the vaccination. After January 1, 2022, an unvaccinated asymptomatic employee who is required to isolate because they have been exposed to COVID-19 will be placed on an unpaid leave of absence.

An employee who has medical documentation from a practitioner substantiating a medical exemption from vaccination, as recognized by the Provincial Health Officer as being a contraindication to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, would still be eligible for the paid leave.

Employees who have not received the COVID-19 vaccine due to a reason other than a medical condition, that they believe would otherwise entitle them to an accommodation under the Human Rights Code of British Columbia, may be asked for additional information to substantiate that request to be eligible for the paid leave.

Please contact your National Representative if you have any further questions regarding this matter.

View PDF.