K-12 Bulletin #7

Message from K-12 Presidents Council President Warren Williams

These have been very trying times with much uncertainty.

Yet you continue to show what it truly means to be a public service worker. It takes courage to continue to provide the services that keep the general public safe and secure during a pandemic. It also takes the support of your families during these challenging times.

As schools are bringing in more students, more classrooms will be used.

We will continue to push employers to provide PPE where necessary, and keep our members safe.

These times are scary and our physical safety is impor­tant. Also, our psychological well-being should not be set aside. We need to make sure all members are coping and taking care of themselves.

Please reach out if you are having difficulties or if you see someone who needs help.

Our members truly care about the students we serve. Thank you for all you do.

Your union is here to protect your safety.

In solidarity and safety,


Warren Williams

K-12 Presidents Council President

View the bulletin here.

K-12 Bulletin #6

Message from K-12 Presidents Council President Warren Williams

It’s crucial that all CUPE locals have their site Health and Safety committees and representatives functional in all work locations. This is how we will ensure that we know what’s happening and are able to address problems. 

As we return to classrooms, we must ensure that the workplace is a safe place for students and staff.  

This bulletin provides info on how to work with different chemicals being used in B.C. schools.

The focus during this crisis has been frequent hand washing, avoiding touching your face, coughing and sneezing into your elbow, and staying home if not well. All of these personal responsibilities continue to be in effect. 

As we return to work, please remember to contact your site Health and  Safety Committee with any safety concerns.

Let’s be vigilant and strong to ensure the safety of all members and students in our schools. 

In solidarity and safety,

Warren Williams
K-12 Presidents Council President

View the bulletin here.

Here is more information on B.C.’s Restart Plan.

Message from K-12 Presidents Council President Warren Williams

CUPE members continue to play a vital role in B.C.’s response to COVID-19 through support and service to our students and vulnerable children, as well as the families of those providing essential services to all of us. I am proud that CUPE members stepped up during this challenging and ever-changing time.

Premier John Horgan announced today that schools throughout B.C. will expand in-person schooling for K-12 on a voluntary basis in June. The government is working out details and will be releasing a plan for how all grades will access additional in-school instruction. We are pleased that the government is developing plans to get kids back in schools because public schools provide a vital service to all communities.

When this crisis started, many of our members were fearful about their safety because of the varied approaches districts were taking. We need to ensure that workers get consistent information on how the safety of students and staff is being addressed in schools. Physical distancing can be a challenge in school, but all districts must follow basic safety standards as set by WorkSafe BC and the Provincial Health Officer.

Our members are on the front line, supporting essential services workers by providing child care and keeping schools clean and safe. School districts brought back daytime custodians to deal with the pandemic. With the announcement today, we know that more students and staff will be coming into schools. Not only do we need to keep those daytime custodians, we need additional custodians to be able to stay on top of disinfecting high-use surfaces and keeping schools safe.

We appreciate how difficult these last six weeks have been for CUPE members; parents; children who miss their friends, teachers and support staff; and essential services workers. Premier Horgan’s planned phases towards our ‘new normal’ allow for a dry run of bringing more students and staff into classrooms in June — but doing that safely for kids and staff.

Thank you to K-12 members for all that you do. We will get through this together.

In safety and solidarity,

Warren Williams
President K-12 Presidents Council

For more information read Premier outlines plan to restart B.C. safely.

Premier John Horgan’s Live update at 3:00pm today

Premier John Horgan’s Live update at 3:00pm today can be found online at: 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BCProvincialGovernment/ <https://www.facebook.com/BCProvincialGovernment/>

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/ProvinceofBC <https://www.youtube.com/user/ProvinceofBC>

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BCGovNews <https://twitter.com/BCGovNews>

You can also watch it live at Global BC News1.

Pandemic underscores necessity for K-12 daytime custodians

NEW WESTMINSTER—CUPE 409 President Marcel Marsolais said that reinstating daytime custodians during the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the important work they do, not only for those attending or working at child care learning centres in schools, but for everyone.

“Custodians are the unsung protectors of the K-12 sector,” said Marsolais. “They are integral in keeping schools healthy and safe for all students, including vulnerable children, and our staff. Now they also support the children of health care and other essential front-line workers in schools.”

Custodians are well-trained in the procedures and protocols developed by districts to keep schools safe. Front-line staff, including clerical support staff, monitor who is coming into each school, where they are and when then leave. Custodians then clean and disinfect areas that have been used so they are safe for the next set of users. They regularly disinfect desks and high-use surfaces.

Daytime custodians have always taken care of students and staff in schools. As well as cleaning desks, bannisters, railings and door handles, they also clean and maintain washrooms; empty garbage; patrol and pick up broken glass and dangerous debris from the school grounds; and help with school functions like assemblies.

Marsolais notes that custodians who work while school is in session provide an educational benefit to students and help build respect for ensuring students’ learning environments are safe and secure.

“I’ll bet most people can remember the name of their custodian when they went to school,” says Marsolais. “Kids build relationships with their school custodians.”

As schools gradually open, custodial work will be increasingly important in each district as more students and staff return.

“The bottom line is that custodians need to be in schools during this pandemic and need to be kept there whenever schools are in session,” said Marsolais.

“Union lobbies for return of daytime custodians in New West schools”, Julie MacLellan, New Westminster Record, April 30, 2020.

“Are BC Schools Clean Enough to Reopen?”, Katie Hyslop, The Tyee, May 4, 2020.


Special address from Dr. Bonnie Henry to B.C. Educators and Support Staff

VICTORIA—Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks to educators and support staff about physical distancing in schools in a video released yesterday.

The PHO recognizes that schools will require flexibility when it comes to providing school care and learning opportunities. This means that there can be more than 50 students and staff in a school at any given time if they are not all in one area at the same time and are actively engaged in physical distancing to the extent possible. Understandably, physical distancing is challenging in a K-12 educational setting, particularly with younger children. At the same time, it is important that we do what we can to try to assist children and staff understand the importance of minimizing the frequency of physical contact with one another.

The following ideas on physical distancing in schools are provided by the BC Centre for Disease Control:

  • Avoiding close greetings like hugs or handshakes and remind children to keep their hands to themselves when possible.
  • Help younger children learn about physical distancing by creating games. For example, put on some music and have children spread their arms side to side and spin around slowly trying not to touch their friends. Older children can be provided age appropriate reading material and encouraged to self-regulate.
  • Take children outside more often, perhaps breaking children into smaller groups to maintain a degree of distance.
  • Organize learning activities outside including snack time, play based learning, and play time.
  • Integrate cross-curricular learning activities in outdoor settings into your lesson plans and encourage younger children in play outside.
  • Regularly clean and sanitize items that are designed to be shared such as manipulatives and digital devices.
  • Set up mini environments within the school to reduce number of children in a group, i.e., set up 2 or 3 learning areas for numeracy and literacy activities.
  • Consider different classroom configurations to maintain distance between children (e.g. separating desks) or different locations in the school (e.g. different classrooms, gym or library, outside).
  • Increase the space between children and staff during activities such as snack/lunch, i.e., move or separate tables, move chairs farther apart.
  • When children want to use the same activity or redirect some children to another area.
  • Set up distinct areas for children who may have symptoms of illness until they can be picked up and ensure these areas are sanitized regularly.
  • Consider staggering snack and lunch time so you can accommodate smaller groups with more space. Discourage any food or drink sharing.
  • Consider using educational videos and online programs as a part of learning so children can sit independently and distanced from each other.

K-12 Bulletin #5

We were pleased to have a phone briefing with Dr. Trevor Corneil, a member of Dr. Bonnie Henry’s team.

In her Monday briefing, B.C.’s provincial health officer said that the province is now working on how and when classrooms might be able to reopen with the proper protections for teachers, staff and students. Protections include physical distancing measures, provisions for frequent hand washing, and regular cleaning of classrooms and other school spaces.

The priority will be providing classroom space for children of essential workers. 

Dr. Henry said that they were not thinking about school over the summer, but want to make sure that they have plans that address all of their issues for the fall.

The return to school could be part of a “hybrid” model that mixes in-person instruction with distance learning.

Dr. Henry expects some children will be back in class before the end of the school year, but how that will look is still being discussed.

View a PDF of the bulletin.

K-12 Bulletin #4

We continue to wait for an announcement from government on what May and June will look like for our members. We will post information as soon as we receive it.

Many districts are opening child care for Tier 2, Tier 3, and for vulnerable children. Please refer to two bulletins from BC Centre for Disease Control and the BC Ministry of Health for information on COVID-19: Public Health Guidelines for Childcare Settings and Cleaning and Disinfectants for Public Settings

Click on blue titles to go to link or find them on the K-12 web site at: bcschools.cupe.ca

Many members are volunteering for things outside of their normal routines. On behalf of the K-12 Presidents Council, I thank them all for their work that supports students and frontline workers.

COVID-19: Public Health Guidelines for Childcare Settings PDF

Cleaning and Disinfectants for Public Settings PDF

Bulletin #4 PDF


K-12 Bulletin #3

Things continue to change rapidly. Our primary concern remains the health and safety of our members. 

Many members have begun to be redeployed in various ways by different districts.  There are details still being worked out and districts are taking varied approaches.  We have sent a survey out to identify what districts are doing and will share your responses with all presidents. 

Thank you to the many CUPE members who are stepping up and providing supports to the children of essential frontline health care workers throughout B.C. Your work and commitment is appreciated by everyone. 

We hope to hear from the government next week about what will happen after April and will update you as soon as we have more information. 

Please remember to continue following the directives from Provincial Health Officer (PHO) Dr. Bonnie Henry.

As Minister of Health Adrian Dix says, “Bend the curve, not the rules.” We are all in this together.

Warren Williams
K-12 Presidents Council President


What’s the latest information on wearing homemade masks?

Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry reissued guidance on wearing cloth masks in public. There is no evidence that a non-medical face covering such as a homemade mask, bandana or scarf can protect the person wearing it. However, a handmade cloth face covering can for the short-term protect others from your droplets and help keep them safe. The PHO reminded us that medical N95 masks should be reserved for front line essential workers.

If I don’t think my district is implementing safety measures can I stay home and refuse unsafe work?

No. In order to refuse unsafe work an employee must see firsthand that the workplace is unsafe. Please refer to the information sheet on Right to Refuse Unsafe Work for the process.

If I quit my job can I get the $2000 per month from the federal government?

No. Canada Revenue Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) funds are not available for employees who are getting paid or who have voluntarily left their jobs.

View a PDF of the bulletin.