Messages from the President Re: Covid-19, updated March 20, 2020

Message from the President
Michelle Wolfe
Re: Covid-19

March 20, 2020

According to a posting on the Winnipeg School Division website dated March 19, 2020, in response to COVID-19, teachers now have the option to work-from-home during the suspension of classes starting March 23, 2020.

While classes are suspended, teaching staff will continue regular duties and professional responsibilities regardless of work location, where those duties are critical to maintain key services of the division.

The division gives teaching staff the option of working from home or continuing to go to work in their school or building. Each staff person is to identify with their Principal or Supervisor their individual  and be available online or by phone during normal working hours.

For teachers, this means they are at the other end of the phone or computer assisting students who are continuing to learn at home.

To read more about requirements for non-teaching staff, visit the WSD website.

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March 18, 2020

On March 17, 2020 the Winnipeg Teachers’ Association met with the Human Resources Department of the Winnipeg School Division to seek clarification on a number of questions that have arisen regarding the Covid-19 pandemic.  The following information is current up to 12:00 p.m. March 18, 2020.  Updates will be made as needed.

PLEASE NOTE:  The responses to questions here are our understanding of the position of the WSD.

Please review this summary of our meeting.  The bullets below represent our understanding of the position of the Winnipeg School Division.

Will WTA members be permitted to work from home?

NOTE:  It is the position of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society that members be afforded the opportunity to work from home.

  • All staff are expected to report to work while classes are suspended.
  • Requests to work from home will be examined on a case-by-case basis with attention paid to the reason for the request and the ability to “do meaningful work”.
  • Members are to request to work from home first with their Principal. The Principal will communicate the request to their Director/Superintendent.  The Director/Superintendent will discuss the request with HR and HR will make the final decision.
  • Accommodations will be considered for health reasons such as member or family member with underlying health concern that may be a risk factor for Covid-19 or “legitimate family issues” such as lack of childcare.
  • Requests must be truthful and if they are discovered to be untruthful, members may be subject to discipline.
  • Each scenario will be looked at individually.
  • WSD Payroll department is currently working from home as they provide the essential service of ensuring that all employees are paid on-time and appropriately.
  • No, you may not bring your child to school if you cannot secure childcare.

Are cleaning/sanitizing materials being provided to schools?

  • Teachers who are not WHMIS trained should not be handling cleaning materials. Custodians are tasked with “enhanced cleaning procedures”.
  • Non-alcoholic hand-sanitizer is available from WSD.
  • Government has asked school division to identify materials that are needed or are out of supply. WSD has responded.
  • Kleenex is not being provided and no instruction should be being given to teachers to purchase that item.

Principals are being asked to report to Superintendents regarding strategies and materials that they are using to plan for student learning during suspension of classes. Is there common instruction being given?

  • This is a school by school decision. WSD is reviewing online products that are available and are exploring those options.  There are also the online products that the division already uses. (eg. SeeSaw, DreamBox, Tumblebooks, RazKids, Google Classroom, etc.)

Will schools be conducting whole staff PD while classes are suspended?

  • WSD has not suggested this to staff.

If I am sick during this time of pandemic, will I be asked for a medical certificate after three days as per the collective agreement?

  • Members will be contacted by HR if a medical certificate is required. They will not need to provide a medical certificate unless they are asked to do so.
  • This relaxed requirement is only in place until classes resume on April 13, 2020. This will be reviewed as needed.

Quarantine/self-isolating questions:

  • If members ignore travel advisories currently in place and travel internationally, they will not be paid for time away from work due to a required quarantine period.
  • If a member is advised by Public Health authorities to self-isolate, they will be paid for five (5) days as per policy GCBD (included in the collective agreement) remaining days will be coded as sick time. There will be no requirement for a sick note in this situation.
    NOTE: The WTA position is that this should not be sick time.  If you are in this situation and are deducted sick days or pay, please contact the WTA office.

Will school staffs be informed if Covid-19 is discovered in their workplace?

  • Public Health authorities are responsible for releasing health information not WSD.What direction is being given to schools when they are aware of families returning from areas where Covid-19 is more widespread?
  • Public Health authorities are advising that those individuals self-isolate. WSD cannot force them to do so.  If there is a concern, Principals can contact Public Health authorities to seek direction.
  • Students attending to school with symptoms such as fever or cough are to be sent home.

What (if any) are the implications to the spring staffing process?

  • Not yet considered, but if needed WSD may explore different timelines for postings, phone or virtual interviews, etc.

How will term teachers be impacted by the suspension of classes?

  • All current limited term contracts will be honoured.

Are teachers expect to perform functions such as cleaning and sanitizing of the school in preparation of students’ return?

  • No, teachers are to be engage in work that aligns with their core functions as teachers.