Sault education workers meet to plan a safe September

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The final bell may have rung on the 2020-21 school year, but education workers from school boards in and around Sault Ste. Marie are already putting their heads together to ensure a safe return to class in September.

On July 20, education support staff from Sault-area school boards will meet provincial leaders from their union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents more than 1,400 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 Delta Sault Ste. Marie Waterfront hotel on St. Mary’s River Drive; all participants will obey strict COVID­-19 guidelines.

The gathering will bring together education workers from Algoma District School Board, Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board, as well as French-language boards Conseil scolaire de district du Grand Nord de l’Ontario and Conseil scolaire de district catholique du Nouvel-Ontario. A wide range of workers – from education assistants to custodians, from secretaries to maintenance workers, from early childhood educators to librarians – 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 Sault Ste. Marie,” said Walton.