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Moose Jaw schools saving $125K by cutting custodial staff’s hours during pandemic

Coronavirus: Sask. government releases its Safe Schools Plan for fall return

Six schools in Moose Jaw will start the school year during the coronavirus pandemic with less cleaning than the year prior.

Starting Aug. 15, the Prairie South School Division (PSSD) is cutting the hours of its custodial staff by 20 hours a day, according to CUPE, which represents the workers.

“It’s concerning because right now we’re in the middle of a pandemic as schools are reopening,” said Judy Henley, president of CUPE Saskatchewan.

“As the government said on Tuesday there’s going to be enhanced cleaning. Who’s doing the enhanced cleaning?”

Read more: ‘We’re not really being protected’: Sask. families worried over back-to-school pandemic plan

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Peacock Collegiate, the largest school in Moose Jaw with 700 high school students, will see a reduction of cleaning by five hours, Henley said.

Other schools affected include Riverview, Central Collegiate High School, Prince Arthur Community School, Westmount Elementary School, William Grayson School and the Ninth Avenue school board office and maintenance building

The reduction in hours will effect just some of the 30 janitorial and maintenance staff in Moose Jaw. According to CUPE, seven positions are transitioning from full-time to part-time.

Tony Baldwin, Director of Education for PSSD says the reduction in labour amounts to $125,000 in savings.

Teachers ‘very concerned’ for school return amid COVID-19: STF
Teachers ‘very concerned’ for school return amid COVID-19: STF

However, he was quick to add it was not done as a cost-saving measure.

“The goal was to have the appropriate number of staff to do the work that we needed to have done,” Baldwin said.

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No other staff groups among the PSSD went through cuts.

“The only place where we had more staff to do the work than we needed to do was in the custodial area,” Baldwin said.

“(This is) not a COVID thing, and I’ve been disappointed with a small group of people that are trying to do some fear mongering connecting it to COVID. It is just a factor of how many people we need to get the work done in our schools.”

Read more: Coronavirus: Saskatoon school boards recommend students, staff wear masks this fall

CUPE’s president says teachers will not be doing any cleaning when classrooms reopen in September.

“The teachers have advised they will not be doing other bargaining unit work,” Henley said. “They will not be doing the cleaning.”

Baldwin remains confident that the PSSD has enough staff to keep the schools clean and safe.

“We certainly have adequate caretakers necessary to keep our kids and our staff safe in the coming weeks and months,” Baldwin said.

“If we ever had a situation where we weren’t able to focus on safety, cleaning and hygiene, we’d absolutely hire more staff.”

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