Plan to safely bring K-12 students back to class full time
On the advice of the provincial health officer, students will be organized into learning groups, a consistent group of staff and students. This will reduce the number of people each student or staff member will come into contact with, reducing the risk of transmission and ensuring quicker contact tracing by health authorities.
All boards of education and independent school authorities will continue to be required to implement a suite of health and safety measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, following the recently updated guidelines from the BC Centre for Disease Control.
“We know how important it is for children to be back in school – to both support their emotional and mental health and their ability to socialize and to learn,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer. “Being back in school is also crucial to support many parents in being able to work, but we must do it safely. We ask for families and workplaces to continue to be flexible as we come into the fall. We’ve put a lot of thoughtful work and consideration into reopening schools this fall and in making sure we’re supporting children in ways that keep them, the people who teach them and our communities safe.”
To support and ensure the health and safety of students and staff during this pandemic, a one-time investment of $45.6 million as part of the BC COVID-19 Action Plan will support school districts and independent schools for the start of the school year. This investment will ensure the increased cleaning of high-contact surfaces, increased number of hand-hygiene stations and the availability of masks upon request, among other safety measures.
Staff and students (or their parents/guardians) must also assess themselves daily for symptoms of COVID-19. If any student or staff member has even mild symptoms, arrangements will be made for that person to return home.
The ministry is developing operational guidelines that will further assist school districts and independent schools with their planning for September. An education steering committee including teachers, parents, Indigenous rightsholders, support staff, principals and vice-principals, school trustees and the public health sector has also been established to identify best practices and find solutions to potential issues.
“B.C. will continue to keep a strong focus on science-based decisions as we learn to adjust the delivery of education during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Stephanie Higginson, president of the B.C. School Trustees Association. “Boards of education across the province will utilize updated health and safety measures, created on the advice of the provincial health officer, to ensure that students can continue to receive the social, emotional and academic supports provided by their community school during this critical time in education.”
Families will hear from their school district or independent school throughout the summer with updated health and safety guidelines for elementary, middle and secondary schools, as well as learning groups, schedules, enrolment and registration information with the final details being submitted to the ministry and posted online by the districts on Aug. 26, 2020.
“The safety of students and staff is paramount and government will continue to make science-based decisions, following the expert advice of Dr. Henry and her public health team,” Fleming said.
Andrea Sinclair, president, BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (BCCPAC) –
“BCCPAC thanks our dedicated board members who have worked on the different restart committees to ensure equity, inclusion, health and safety, and educational programming remain at the forefront in the planning for a return to school in September. Parents should feel assured that as things progress and evolve over the coming weeks, the Ministry of Education will be working directly with BCCPAC and our education partners to ensure student safety remains a top priority.”
Paul Faoro, president, CUPE BC –
“We are pleased to see the provincial government recognize the critical work our members do to keep schools clean, safe and inclusive. The additional investment of resources will help ensure the necessary level of custodians to ensure that schools are properly cleaned and that students and staff are safe in our schools. The June reopening of schools showed that under the guidance of provincial health officer Bonnie Henry, we can safely welcome students and staff back to schools in September. We look forward to continuing to work with the provincial government and all education partners to ensure we’re all ready for September.”
For more information on the K-12 Education Restart Plan, visit: gov.bc.ca/covid19returntoschool
To find a local school district, visit: http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/schools/bcmap.htm
Two backgrounders follow.
In addition to the City of Vancouver recognizing July 22, 2020 as “IUOE Local 963 Day” the Province has also Proclaimed July 22, 2020 as “90th Anniversary of IUOE Local 963 Day” throughout British Columbia.
Congratulations to all the hard-working members, past and present, for this recognition. You have earned it!
To all to whom these presents shall come- Greeting
WHEREAS safe, clean and well-maintained schools are critical to the excellence of Bristish Columbia’s public education system, and
WHEREAS the people who work as building engineers, assistamt building engineers, head custodians, assistant head custodians, custodians, culinary assistants, cafeteria teachers’ aides, food service workers, supervision aides and maintenance engineers for the Vancouver School Board can be counted on to deliver the highest possible standards of service, and
WHEREAS these workers have been represented since 1945 by the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), one of North America’s leading labour organizations, and
WHEREAS the IUOE Local 963 is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year as a leading organization in Vancouver’s labour movement;
NOW KNOW YE THAT We do by these presents proclaim and declare that July 22, 2020, shall be known as “90th Anniversary of IUOE Local 963”
in the Province of British Columbia.
IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, We have caused these Our Letters to be made Patent and the Great Seal of Our Province of British Columbia to be hereunto affixed.
WITNESS, The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of Our Province of British Columbia, in Our City of Victoria, in Our Province, this seventeenth day of July, two thousand twenty and in the sixty-ninth year of Our Reign.
On honour of our 90th year and the great work IUOE members have done in Vancouver schools, the City of Vancouver has proclaimed July 22, 2020 as “IUOE Local 963 Day.”
“It’s nice to be honoured by the City of Vancouver for the hard work our members do” said Local 963 President Tim Chester.
The Proclamation recognizes the “highest possible standards of service from the men and women who work as Building Engineers/Assistant Building Engineers, Head Custodians/Assistant Head Custodians, Custodians, Culinary Assistants, Cafeteria Teachers’ Aides, Food Service Workers, Supervision Aides and Maintenance Engineers for the Vancouver School Board.”
Business Manager Tim De Vivo added, “our Local has worked hard at maintaining certification levels for our members despite constant challenges. We reject a race-to-the-bottom approach that has unfortunately taken place in many school districts across the province and it is being recognized in the statement ‘Vancouver has always been able to count on the highest possible standards of service…’ Congratulations to all members, including all former members. Enjoy your day!”
The following is copied from WorkSafeBC’s website:
Refusing Unsafe Work
Workers have the right to refuse unsafe work. If you have reasonable cause to believe that performing a job or task puts you or someone else at risk, you must not perform the job or task. You must immediately notify your supervisor or employer, who will then take the appropriate steps to determine if the work is unsafe and remedy the situation.
As an employer, workers are your eyes and ears on the front line of workplace health and safety. When workers refuse work because they believe it’s unsafe, consider it an opportunity to investigate and correct a situation that could have caused harm.
If a worker refuses work because it’s unsafe, workplace procedures will allow the issue to be properly understood and corrected. As a worker, you have the right to refuse to perform a specific job or task you believe is unsafe without being disciplined by your employer. Your employer or supervisor may temporarily assign a new task to you, at no loss in pay.
Steps to follow when work might be unsafe
1. Report the unsafe condition or procedure
As a worker, you must immediately report the unsafe condition to a supervisor or employer.
As a supervisor or employer, you must investigate the matter and fix it if possible. If you decide the worker’s concern is not valid, report back to the worker.
2. If a worker still views work as unsafe after a supervisor or employer has said it is safe to perform a job or task.
As a supervisor or employer, you must investigate the problem and ensure any unsafe condition is fixed.
This investigation must take place in the presence of the worker and a worker representative of the joint health and safety committee or a worker chosen by the worker’s trade union. If there is no safety committee or representing trade union at the workplace, the worker who first reported the unsafe condition can choose to have another worker present at the investigation.
3. If a worker still views work as unsafe, notify WorkSafeBC
If the matter is not resolved, the worker and the supervisor or employer must contact WorkSafeBC. A prevention officer will then investigate and take steps to find a workable solution.
Q & A:
Q. I don’t think my employer is implementing safety measures- can I stay home and refuse unsafe work?
A. No, In order to Refuse Unsafe Work an employee must see firsthand that the workplace is unsafe.
Q. My supervisor investigated a Right to Refuse Unsafe work allegation and said my concern is not valid. I do not agree with this and believe there is still an “unwarranted, inappropriate, excessive, or disproportionate” risk, above and beyond the potential exposure a general member of the public would face through regular, day-to-day activity. What should I do?
A. If you still feel the work is unsafe after a supervisor has said it is safe to perform a job or task you have the right to a second investigation, this time with “a worker representative of the joint health and safety committee.” Note: Should the employee agree that the matter is not or no longer a safety concern the issue is concluded.
Q. The joint health and safety committee investigated and said my concern was not valid. I do not agree with this for the same reason as above. What should I do?
A. If the matter is not resolved, the worker and the supervisor (or employer) must contact WorkSafeBC. A Prevention Officer will then investigate and take steps to find a workable solution. WorkSafeBC’s Prevention Information Line to report unsafe working conditions is toll-free 1-888-621-7233 (1.888.621.SAFE) 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Note: Should the employee agree that the matter is not or no longer a safety concern the issue is concluded.
Q. Can the employer assign me different tasks while the investigation process go on?
A. Yes, the employer is entitled to re-assign duties temporarily in order to affect an investigation. Making a Right to Refuse Unsafe work allegation is not authorization to leave work, but rather to investigate procedures or conditions that require immediate attention.
Should you have any questions about the Right to Refuse Unsafe Work please contact the union office at 604-876-6287.