At a special meeting of the Board of Trustees of Rocky View Schools (RVS) yesterday (August 20), the trustees voted unanimously to take $2 million from the school division's Operations and Maintenance reserve fund to hire additional cleaning staff.
RVS is preparing for the re-entry of staff and students in September under Scenario One of Alberta Education's School Re-Entry Plan that calls for a "near normal" entry into schools with the implementation of additional health measures. Alberta Education has said that school boards are to increase the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting of high touch areas and equipment both inside and outside the classroom.
RVS's own re-entry plan states that schools will be cleaned daily with additional measures put in place throughout the school day and that care taking staff will maintain schools with RVS's pandemic cleaning protocol with Kindergarten classrooms cleaned between morning and afternoon groups.
Associate Superintendent Larry Paul says that additional cleaning in every school in RVS just wouldn't be possible with existing staff. For that reason, RVS went before the board to authorize the hiring of some temporary staff to address those increased sanitation needs.
"Listening to other school divisions, CBE (Calgary Board of Education) has decided to hire, I've heard a number of between 240 and 250 additional cleaning staff. Calgary Catholic is looking to meet their needs through additional contractors. What we're looking at is probably a combination of that."
Paul says another factor in the need for more staff is the higher level of expectation of not coming to work if you are ill. Paul says, in the past, many people would come to work if they had only a scratchy throat or the sniffles. In the new world of COVID-19, and with the screening that will be in place, RVS staff will no longer be able to do that. That means that more sick days will likely be taken, making additional staff an even greater need. "This is the front-line group," Paul says. "They are interacting with staff and students constantly and do have exposure to other illnesses as well."
Of the $2 million request, nearly $1.7 million will go toward hiring approximately 50 additional cleaners while just under $300,000 will be used to hire eight, what the division calls "floaters," that can cover for the maintenance side of care taking should a Head Building Operator not be available at any time.
After listening to Paul's outline of the plan, trustees voted unanimously to authorize up to $2 million from the $2.6 million of Operation and Maintenance reserve funds. Paul called it an 'enabling motion.' "Not that we would necessarily go and take the $2 million, but we need a source that we can access to ensure that we know that we're going to be balanced and not put the school division into a deficit in the year."