Union says province has to have an 'official' plan in place for schools
The Ontario School Board Council of Unions is travelling the province, meeting with local leaders and calling on Stephen Lecce, the Minister of Education, to do more before September.
As it stands now, President Laura Walton said there is no official plan for returning to school this fall. And that has many people concerned, including her members within CUPE.
"We're talking to members and leaders about what's going on," said Walton. "How are they feeling about going back, especially in light of no plan being proposed at this point by the ministry? But also where are they heading -- we're about a year out from bargaining."
Concerns include how kindergarten will be handled this year, she said.
"Many of them are unsure about what they're going to be doing and that has a ripple effect on our membership, as well, because the less students there are, there's an opportunity that we may see less jobs as well," she said.
"We've heard from this minister that everything is going to be A-OK, but just looking at his track record, we know that it's not going to be A-OK. We have seen nothing but chaos since this pandemic broke out. One week they're saying schools are fine, 'schools are safe. And then the next week, it's oops, we're closed again."
After seeing Lecce reach out to local public health officers but not reach out to them, the union decided to start a campaign in which they would reach out to public health, as well.
They're hoping to be on the radar of the minister when the next decisions are made.
Charity Sedore is president of CUPE Local 1369, a custodial union that works under the Sudbury Catholic School Board.
Sedore, also a mom, is hoping students return to class this fall.
"The schools need to be made safer, they need to be putting the funding into the schools to make sure we can go back in September and stay in the schools for the entire year," she said.
Sedore said she's not concerned not only for her team, but also the kids who will be entering school buildings.
"The answer needs to be the funding and the funding needs to go to more manpower and it needs to go to the ventilation and we need to make sure we have adequate -- even a provincial cleaning standard would be something," she said.
CTV News reached out to Lecce, who was unavailable for comment. But his spokesperson, Caitlyn Clark, released the following statement:
"We will continue to work with Ontario’s chief medical officer of health to get all students back to in-person learning this September, supported by rising vaccine rates and $1.6 billion in resources to continue to keep schools safe.
"As part of our plan, and as recommended by Ontario’s Science Table, all students aged 12 and over and education workers are prioritized for double vaccination prior to September and significant investments have been made to improve air ventilation in 100 per cent of schools. We will continue to invest and continue to keep schools safe, following the advice of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health."
After the Sudbury stop, Walton's tour of northern Ontario continues in North Bay and Timmins.