The final bell may have rung on the 2020-21 school year, but education workers from schools in and around Sudbury are already putting their heads together to ensure a safe return to class in September.
A meeting is planned for today involving education support staff from Sudbury-area school boards and provincial leaders from their union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents more than 300 school board employees in the region.
Two sessions – the first in-person meetings of the area’s education workers since the pandemic began – are scheduled to take place at the Fairfield Inn and Suites on Barrydowne Road; all participants will obey strict COVID-19 guidelines.
The gathering will bring together education workers from Rainbow District School Board, Sudbury Catholic District School Board, as well as French-language boards Conseil scolaire public du Grand Nord de l'Ontario and Conseil scolaire catholique Nouvelon.
Custodians, cleaners, maintenance workers, building services technicians, and others will share their experiences of working during the COVID-19 pandemic to help develop a plan that puts students’ education and well-being at the heart of re-opening plans, said a press release from the union.
“Education workers have deep knowledge and unparalleled skills when it comes to what students need and the ways that schools work,” said Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OSBCU), which represents 55,000 CUPE education workers province-wide, in a press release.
“We’ve supported students, schools, families and communities throughout the pandemic; our input is critical to a safe September. We want to make sure we’re doing our part to make schools safe places to learn and work again.”
Walton and her fellow CUPE members have previously identified the need for increased supports to help students recover from two years of disruption to their education; and the need for other measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 in schools, including better ventilation standards, smaller class sizes, and a provincial cleaning standard, the press release said.
“We will be discussing these and other issues to ensure that health, safety and the quality of students’ education are prioritized again in schools in Sudbury,” said Walton.
At Rainbow District School Board, CUPE 895 represents approximately 240 custodial and maintenance staff.
At Sudbury Catholic District School Board, CUPE represents some 65 workers, including custodians, cleaners, maintenance workers, and building services technicians who are members of CUPE 1369.
At Conseil scolaire public du Grand Nord de l'Ontario and Conseil scolaire catholique Nouvelon, CUPE members are also employed as education workers in a range of classifications.