K-12 operational guidelines updated August 17

School districts have received updated operational guidelines for K-12. Updates include mandatory masks for staff and students in middle and high schools in high traffic areas such as buses and common areas (hallways) or anytime outside their learning group whenever physical distancing cannot be maintained. The guidelines also include increased cleaning of high contact surfaces, increased hand hygiene and installation of transparent barriers where appropriate.

The updated guidelines can be found here.

Bulletin #19 – FAQ #4

Schools will re-open on September 8–11, with days in place for support staff and others in the school to familiarize themselves with procedures before students start back.

New health and safety measures need to be put in place. Districts must submit safety plans to government by August 21. Locals should be meeting with districts now to give input on plans.

The restart steering committee continues to meet throughout the summer.

In solidarity and safety,

Warren Williams
K-12 Presidents Council President

Find all FAQs at bcschools.cupe.ca

Health and safety

On July 22, 2020 the WorkSafeBC board of directors passed the changes adding a presumption for communicable viral pathogens to the Workers Compensation Act. Bill 23 was made law on August 14.

21.  What does a “presumption” of workplace causation mean?

22.  What exactly is changing?

23.  Will members who contract COVID-19 at work have access to Workers Compensation?

24.  Do districts have to follow provincial standards for cleaning or the guidelines from the PHO?

25.  What are the protocols for the public and others coming into schools?


26.  Is the K-12 Presidents Council working with teachers to support each other and increase our abili­ty to work safely and effectively?

View PDF.

Phased-in approach to re-opening schools a solid plan—CUPE BC

BURNABY—CUPE BC and the CUPE K-12 Presidents Council welcome Education Minister Rob Fleming’s announcement today that schools will re-open the week of September 8–11 as scheduled, with orientation days in place for support staff, teachers and other workers in schools to familiarize themselves with procedures before students return to classrooms on September 10.

“The number one goal of the restart plan is to open schools safely for all—students, and everyone who works in our schools. The details announced this morning will help ensure that all K-12 workers will understand how schools will operate in the ‘new normal,’” said CUPE BC President Paul Faoro.  “All stakeholders generally support this phased-in approach.”

Faoro noted the importance of following the health and safety guidance of Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry as schools reopen. “Dr. Henry and her public health team will keep a close eye on what’s happening, and plans may change as needed.”

CUPE K-12 Presidents Council President Warren Williams said that it’s important for locals and districts to work together to develop safety plans. “Safety plans are paramount for the K-12 Restart,” said Williams. “Time is short and this step is crucial for a safe opening for students and staff.”

CUPE BC represents 100,000 workers delivering important public services in nearly every community in the province.  The K-12 Presidents Council is comprised of presidents from 57 K-12 locals, representing 30,000 support staff in schools throughout B.C.

Bulletin #18 – FAQ #3

We have received questions on many topics including: the impact on family bubbles with multiple children in different learning groups; WorkSafeBC coverage for COVID; and what happens in a family if their child’s learning group is quarantined.

CUPE and the K-12 Presidents Council continue to seek answers and clarity on many issues from government and the PHO. We will include them in upcoming FAQs as we get information.

Please visit bcschools.cupe.ca for the most updated COVID-19 questions at the top of our home page. The numbered questions are listed in the following four categories: duty to accommodate, learning groups, health and safety, and other.


In safety and solidarity,

Warren Williams
K-12 Presidents Council President

Find all FAQs at bcschools.cupe.ca

Learning groups (cohorts)

16. Can you explain how physical distancing works in learning groups?

17.  What safety plans are being put into place when staff from outside a learning group enter the group?

Health and safety

18. What PPE will EAs have access to when working with complex-needs children, who have a tendency to spit or bite?

19. Will every district be required to have a safety plan in place before school starts?


20.  Are there enough trained custodians to meet the requirements for cleaning schools as set out by the PHO?

View PDF.

Listen to the Mike Smyth show on the K-12 Restart

Hello Everyone,

Many of you may know that CUPE BC President Paul Faoro was a guest on the Mike Smyth Show on CKNW on Friday last week talking about the September Restart Plan for BC Schools. Paul talked about the importance of Local Safety Plans, the vital work custodians and support staff do to make schools safe and inclusive, as well as the hard work and dedication Education Assistants bring to the classroom every day.

I’ve attached the transcript of the interview for your information and you can listen to the program here.   The discussion on the restart begins at 00:56. I encourage you to share this with your members.

It will also be posted on the bcschools.cupe.ca webpage.

In Solidarity & Safety,

Warren Williams
K-12 Presidents Council President

Bulletin #17 – FAQ #2

Duty to accommodate

9.  What will happen to members who have compromised immune systems or other health issues that present challenges for returning to work?

10.  Can I be accommodated because I live with someone who is immunocompromised?

Learning groups (cohorts)

11.  How will the learning groups work on buses?

12.  What about members who work on multiple sites or throughout the school like Indigenous support workers, IT, custodians, education support workers, first aid attendants and noon-hour supervisors?

Health and safety

13.  What if a member, student or teacher contracts COVID-19?


14.  We hear conflicting information about how children transmit, and if masks should be worn. How do we know what we should do?

View PDF.

Bulletin #16 – COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

This bulletin is the first in series dealing with frequently asked questions. Stay tuned to this web site for additional FAQs as we will continue to address members questions. The first FAQ includes some questions on duty to accommodate, learning groups, and health and safety.

View bulletin here.

Duty to accommodate

  1. What if members have compromised immune systems, or other medical conditions that put them at a higher risk for COVID-19?
  2. What if members refuse to go to work in September?

Learning groups (cohorts)

  1. What is a learning group (cohort)?
  2. Are learning groups similar to household bubbles?
  3. Why use learning groups?

Health and safety

  1. Will all school districts need to follow the same safety protocols?


  1. How will stage 2 planning work?
  2. How is government helping?


K-12 Restart: A Letter to Members

Hello everybody,

I understand that the restart announcement came as quite a surprise to members. CUPE, along with other stakeholders, have been involved by providing input on the plan. The consultation involved all K-12 education stakeholders throughout the development process, and CUPE’s concerns helped shape the plan that went forward. Unions have equal representation on the steering committee that is working on the September K-12 restart plan.

We know that members are nervous and fearful; we are in a pandemic—something we’ve never seen before. The restart plan allows for cohorts or learning groups of a maximum of 60 in elementary and middle schools and 120 in secondary schools. These numbers reflect the scientific and public health evidence that has led B.C. to be recognized as a leader in pandemic management and transmission control.

CUPE puts the health and safety of our members first, as well as the safety of students and staff, families and the public. The September restart plan recognizes the importance of education for children and also for our members’ livelihoods. Many of B.C.’s most vulnerable kids remained in schools throughout April, May and June, thanks to our dedicated EAs and support staff who were able to make those environments safe and productive. While there were challenges experienced, those challenges were overcome and informed the development of the plan announced this week.

The design of the school day, learning group system, and overall return plan was developed with the advice and guidance of the Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. It has been her guidance and leadership that has made B.C. a leading jurisdiction in North America in terms of managing the pandemic, keeping transmissions low, and maintaining key services.

In terms of what CUPE and the K-12 Presidents Council have been seeking, there are several elements of the plan that are the direct result of CUPE’s advocacy, including funding for increased daytime cleaning, and the provision of masks to anyone who requests them.

The return to school plan is just that, a plan. It will be adjusted and changed based on experience and new information as it rolls out, as well as on how the pandemic evolves. As we discuss implementation over the next few weeks, our focus will remain on keeping the environment safe for all members who work directly with kids in schools, along with other CUPE members whose valuable work is key to the public school system.

CUPE and the K-12 Presidents Council ‘s advocacy continues each and every day as the plan evolves and is being implemented.

In safety and solidarity,

Warren Williams
K-12 Presidents Council President

View letter here.

PHO updates K-12 Restart: kids back in class this September

Message from K-12 Presidents Council President Warren Williams

B.C.’s response to COVID-19 under the guidance of Dr. Bonnie Henry, has led to the best outcomes in North America. By all doing our part and following the science-based direction of the Provincial Health Officer, B.C. has achieved a low community transmission rate.

Minister of Education Rob Fleming announced today that the stages for K-12’s restart have been updated based on direction from the Provincial Health Officer and her team.

Stage 2 has been revised to allow for all students to go back to class in September by creating learning groups or cohorts with a limited number of students. The Ministry announced today that elementary and middle schools will limit learning groups to 60, while high schools will be limited to 120.

To support the return to school, comprehensive COVID-19 safety measures will be put in place in all districts to help protect students and staff.

These include enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols, extra hand washing and sanitizing stations, signs to direct traffic flow, additional custodians for daytime cleaning, and physical barriers where needed. Staff will have access to masks that will be provided by the government to districts.

We are holding a virtual K-12 Presidents Council meeting on August 4 at 3 p.m. to review the B.C. K-12 Restart plan.

We are also putting together Frequently Asked Questions that we will post on the BC Schools web site by the end of this week. We’ll update this when questions come up as things evolve.

In safety and solidarity,

Warren Williams
K-12 Presidents Council President

View PDF – Bulletin #15

The Study that Caught Dr. Bonnie Henry’s Attention

Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, recently cited a reassuring study out of the Netherlands that explains that the virus is mainly spread between adults, with the spread of COVID-19 among children or from children to adults being less common.

“For young children in particular, they don’t seem to be as affected by it. They don’t seem to have as severe illnesses, and they don’t seem to pass it on to adults as effectively,” said Dr. Henry.

To read the full report by the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment please see here.

View PDF.

The above information was sent to education stakeholders by the Ministry of Education.

SOURCE: Ministry of Education email sent to stakeholder groups.