“Many students and their families face additional challenges, working remotely, and solving these challenges cannot be done without school support staff.” As a result of CUPE, the Manitoba government has recognized the hard work of school support staff since 2013 and has set aside this important week to recognize the value of school support staff to our education system. CUPE is launching a radio ad to inform parents, families, educators and students. CUPE also recognizes that some school departments have implemented some of these recommendations, and we welcome these departments for their leadership roles. School staff from most departments were asked to report during the closures. On March 16, CUPE expressed our concerns about the invitation of school bus drivers to conduct medical assessments of students in a department. CUPE is also committed to keeping school bus drivers away from the family. The provincial government announced the suspension of all publicly funded schools in Manitoba for three weeks, starting March 23 and through April 6. This is being taken to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Manitoba. The DSB says it is working with the Manitoba Board Association, which negotiates on behalf of the department, which in turn is working with the province on how to proceed. “It`s important that all students have access to the supports they need to learn at home during this time,” says Amanda Hamm of Inclusion Westman.

“We know that educational assistants must play a role in providing this necessary support, especially in terms of helping students with additional needs. We ask schools to provide this substantial support to all students so that they can continue their learning at home. Premier Jason Kenney recently made significant cuts to Alberta`s education system as a result of dropping out of school and relocated money from the education system to be used elsewhere, which educators have widely described as “reckless.” CUPE believes that all school aid staff deserve full protection in the event of a school suspension or closure. On Tuesday, March 31, the Minister of Education informed school services that schools would be suspended indefinitely and that school services should decide how to ensure that students and families receive the support they need. “CUPE Manitoba has members in school support jobs in Manitoba departments. We have a lot of concerns and questions about reopening the school,” said Abe Araya, President of CUPE Manitoba.