Custodians are trying to keep New Brunswick schools clean to prevent the spread of COVID-19
However, they’re unable to keep up with demand and need the province to reinstate COVID-19 cleaners, according to their union president.
“We need those COVID cleaners now more than ever because we know we are dealing with a stronger variant,” said Iris Lloyd, president of CUPE local 1253.
Last year, Lloyd said the province hired roughly 300 COVID cleaners to help custodians clean and disinfect high touch surfaces in schools to try and limit the spread of COVID-19. But she said those cleaners were not rehired for this school year and some schools are not being properly cleaned, as cases in schools are higher than they have ever been.
“Our custodians are trying as best as they can to keep up with the additional COVID cleaning but without those COVID cleaners, we are falling short,” said Lloyd.
Lloyd said that last year, following an outbreak in a school, extra staff was brought in to do a deep cleaning, but that is not always the case this year.
“Some schools — that extra cleaning is not being done. There has not been a directive given by the districts,” said Lloyd.
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The chair of the Anglophone East School District Education Council, Harry Doyle, said that’s unacceptable given the sheer number of cases being reported in schools this year.
“I think they should be brought back. Every extra hand in the system helping out is necessary,” said Doyle.
Lloyd said that school bus drivers are no longer given enough time to properly disinfect their buses between the morning and the afternoon runs
“That is another thing that has been taken away,” she said.
On Tuesday, Premier Higgs said that schools are being provided special COVID-19 disinfectants and the personnel needed to keep schools clean.
“I would suggest that that would come from the Department of Education if they need more individuals as before because there certainly hasn’t been any limitations placed from any other perspective in doing what is necessary in the school,” said Higgs.
The province’s Department of Education and Early Childhood Development said that additional measures are in place in the Healthy and Safe Schools Guidelines, which were developed in conjunction with Public Health. The departments said the guidelines put a greater focus on the products used to clean and disinfect, rather than on cleaning schedules.
“As a result, the need for additional resources to meet the needs of students, such as hiring additional custodians, has been reduced,” said Flavio Nienow, a spokesperson for the department.
He added that additional time may be allocated for custodians to clean on a case-by-case basis.
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