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Local education workers meeting today to plan for safe return to class in September

Gathering includes reps from Simcoe County, Muskoka and Grey-Bruce; Health, safety and quality of education among priorities
cupe office sign

The final bell may have rung on the 2020-21 school year, but education workers from schools in Simcoe, Muskoka and Grey and Bruce counties are already putting their heads together to ensure a safe return to class in September.

On July 23, education support staff from the region’s schools will meet provincial leaders from their union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents some 900 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 Barrie’s Hampton Inn and Suites on Bryne Drive. All participants will obey strict COVID-19 guidelines.

The gathering will bring together education workers from Simcoe County District School Board, Bruce Grey Catholic District School Board, and Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board. CUPE members who perform a wide range of jobs in schools 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.

“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.

“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.

“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 the region,” said Walton.

Simcoe County District School Board, CUPE 1310 represents approximately 400 custodial and maintenance staff. CUPE 3987 represents over 200 custodians at Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board and CUPE 3447 represents close to 300 education workers from a wide range of classifications at Bruce Grey Catholic District School Board.