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.

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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.

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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

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Bulletin #26 – 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


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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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?


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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