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

  • August 19, 2020
  • News

Message from the President
Michelle Wolfe
Re: Covid-19

Update August 19, 2020

The Winnipeg School Division released its plan for the reopening of schools in September 2020.  Click here to view the document.

The WTA will be meeting with the Division prior to the start of the school year to discuss the plan and its implications for members.

 

Update July 30, 2020

The Manitoba Government has released the Province’s plans for returning to school in September.

Click here to review the document.  Any further details will be posted as they are available.

The MTS response to the reopening plan released today can be found here.

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Update June 22, 2020

The Manitoba government announced today that teachers would be returning to schools for three non-instructional days beginning September 2, 2020.

Please review the MTS statement released on the matter here.

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Update May 29, 2020

Stress levels continue to be high and members are struggling to get clear direction and answers from the WSD on a range of issues. The WTA has reached out to the division for information and clarification through a number of emails over the last week.

On May 28, 2020, the WSD sent out an email to all WTA members regarding the start of school on June 1, 2020.  This document generated a series of questions which were forwarded to the Division for a response on May 28, 2020.

To P. Clarke, Chief Superintendent and CEO
I am seeking further clarification in addition to my questions from May 26, 2020.  The email that was sent to staff today (May 28, 2020) brings additional questions to mind.
–  “A work schedule has been developed for all school staff as they return from home-based work.”
The above says it has been developed. What does this mean specifically for members working in buildings? What type of schedule? How does this reflect the 50/50 process outlined further in the body of this message?
–  “WSD is welcoming staff back into the buildings on a 50/50 basis until June 12.” This means staff who are able to complete meaningful work from home will continue to do so 50 percent of the time and will attend in person at their school or office the other 50% of the time. ”
Are staff working only mornings, afternoons, every other day and/or every other week from home? Who decides what this will look like? What should a member do if they are feeling pressured to be in the building more than 50% of the time?
–  “Any staff who require special accommodation during the Phase II should speak to their principal /supervisor and contact Human Resources to discuss options.”
Does this mean the principal can approve this request without HR? Is the member informing the principal they are speaking with HR? What will HR require from teachers? Is there a document that clearly defines what evidence is needed to consider an accommodation?

It has also come to our attention that there is a new absence code related to sickness during COVID-19.  Will absences using this code require a sick note?  Will these absences come from the accumulated sick time?

Each new announcement that does not come with clear expectations, creates more stress, anxiety, and tensions.
Michelle Wolfe, President Winnipeg Teachers’ Association.

At just after 4:00 on May 28, 2020, the following was received from the WSD in response to questions previously asked.

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May 28, 2020

Since the Government’s announcement regarding the DRAFT Phase 2 Reopening plan (which was formalized in the Premier’s press conference May 27, 2020) the WTA Office has received a flood of questions and concerns from members.  The stress and anxiety that has resulted in the ever-changing plans and expectations is at an all time high.

The WTA office has been attempting to clarify a number of items with the Winnipeg School Division.  WTA President Michelle Wolfe emailed Chief Superintendent Pauline Clarke Tuesday May 26, 2020, a list of questions that reflect the concerns raised by members.

The questions asked by the WTA are as follows:

  • Is the Winnipeg School Division asking staff to report to work Monday June 1, 2020?  If so, will the division have in place the accommodation requirements that might be necessary and how this information be communicated to staff?
  • Up till now, the only communication regarding June 1 that all staff have received directly is the communication from Radean Carter on your behalf on Friday May 22, 2020.  This left teachers with many unanswered questions and varying interpretations of the plan from school to school.  We request that clear messaging be distributed to all WTA members system-wide.
  • What direction is given to teachers who do not have childcare for their own children?  Will accommodations in terms of family status be considered and what is the process for teachers?
  • Will there be the ability for teachers to work from home when they have no students coming to the school building?
  • If working in the building with students, are teachers also responsible for distance teaching students who are not in the school?
  • What Personal Protective Equipment will be provided to teachers?
    –  Will teachers be expected/allowed to wear masks and gloves?
    –  Will students be expected/allowed to wear masks and gloves?
  • What processes will take place for cleaning and sanitizing?
    –  How will frequently touched surfaces (handrails, doorknobs, etc.) be sanitized?
    –  How will classroom materials (books, paper, writing/drawing tools, manipulatives, etc.) be sanatized?
    –  What are the expectations on teachers for these processes?
    –  The WSD currently uses non-alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Will alcohol-based products be provided?  It is our understanding that these types of products are more effective against Covid-19.
  • If a teacher had been exposed to someone who is sick and must quarantine for 14 days.  How are those days dealt with?
    –  If sick time is used, is there any expectation on the teacher to complete work from home?
    –  If working from home, do the existing reporting processes stay in place?
    –  How are teachers to code these days in the Absence Management System?
    –  How will teachers be made aware of these expectations?
  • If a teacher is sick, will the division require a sick note?
  • What is the process for when a student is sick?
    –  Who is responsible for carrying out the processes?
    –  Who is responsible for the sanitization following the departure of the sick student?
    –  What are the expectations of teachers when managing social distancing in the school?  What directions and supports are being provided?  How are teachers to deal with students who cannot/will not comply with social distancing expectations?
  • Has the WSD provided direction on end of year assessments and report card requirements to teachers?  Are these expectations different in light of suspended classes, and distance learning?

At this time, the WTA office has not received responses to any of these questions.

While not the only matter of concern, the majority of contacts to the WTA office in the last three days have been related to the challenges members are facing securing childcare for their own very young or school-aged children and the need for medical accommodations.

Regarding the issue of childcare, the WTA advises the following:

Option 1.  Find alternate childcare arrangements (childcare centre, friends, family).

Option 2.  Email your HRO and request a work from home accommodation based on family status.  If your request is denied, please consider contacting an MTS Teacher Welfare Staff Officer.  Darren Hardy dhardy@mbteach.org or Réjean LaRoche, rlaroche@mbteach.org

Human Resources Officer Contact Information:

Lizette Grivicic lgrivicic@wsd1.org

Joelle Aylward jaylward@wsd1.org

Keri-Lee Zaharia kzaharia@wsd1.org

Now more than ever, it is important that you look after yourself.  Remember that when the airplane is in trouble, you put on your own oxygen mask before you try and help others.  If your physical and/or non-physical health is suffering, please talk to your healthcare providers, access EAP, Keystone Counselling, or other mental health services available to you.

As more information becomes available, we will provide updates on this page and through our Council Representatives.

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May 1, 2020

As Manitoba prepares for some reopening, classes remain suspended and teaching and learning is happening from home.

We have received confirmation from Chief Superintendent Pauline Clarke that teachers may return to the schools if needed (i.e. to pick up resources, make copies, etc.), but that is done at the discretion of the teachers. The other requirements for teachers while working from home remain unchanged.

A number of members have reached out the WTA office asking how Personal Leave Days and Compensatory days will be handed during the suspension of classes.  We have now confirmed with the WTA Human Resource Department that the terms of the Collective Agreement shall apply.  No direction has been given by HR to cancel remaining leaves requests.

Members may carry over one (1) unused Personal Leave Day.  Members may use their days for the remainder of  this year.  Absences entered into the system should indicate “no sub required”.

Compensatory days that are not used before the end of the school year will be lost.

If you have any difficulty in applying for or accessing these days, please call the WTA Office at 204-831-7104 or email pres@wta.mb.ca.

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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.