New Brunswick school custodians falling behind in COVID-19 cleaning need help, union says

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Custodians are trying to keep New Brunswick schools clean to prevent the spread of COVID-19

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However, they are unable to meet the demand and the province needs to reinstate COVID-19 cleaners, according to its union president.

“We need those COVID cleaners now more than ever because we know we’re working with a stronger version,” said Iris Lloyd, president of CUPE Local 1253.

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Last year, Lloyd said the province had sent around 300 COVID-19 aides to help custodians clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in schools to try and limit the spread of COVID-19. Hired a cleaner. But she said those cleaners were not rehired for this school year and that some schools were not being cleaned properly, as cases in schools are higher than ever.

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“Our patrons are trying their best with additional COVID cleanups, but without those COVID cleaners, we’re falling short,” Lloyd said.

Lloyd said last year, after an outbreak at a school, additional staff were brought in to do the deep cleaning, but that’s not always the case this year.

“Some schools – that extra cleaning is not being done. No instructions have been given by the districts,” Lloyd said.

Harry Doyle, president of the Anglophone East School District Education Council, said this was unacceptable given the large number of cases being reported in schools this year.

“I think they should be brought back. Every extra helping hand in the system is essential,” Doyle said.

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Lloyd said school bus drivers are no longer given enough time to properly disinfect their buses between dawn and noon

“That’s another thing that’s been taken away,” she said.

On Tuesday, Premier Higgs said schools were being provided with special COVID-19 disinfectant and the personnel needed to keep schools clean.

Higgs said, “I would suggest that it would come from the Department of Education if they need more individuals than before because of course there is no other point of view in doing what is required in the school.”

The province’s Department of Education and Early Childhood Development said the additional measures were included in the Healthy and Safe Schools Guidelines, which were developed in conjunction with Public Health. The departments said the guidelines focus more on the products used to clean and disinfect rather than on cleaning programmes.

“As a result, the need for additional resources to meet the needs of students, such as hiring additional mentors, has been reduced,” said Flavio Ninov, a spokesman for the department.

He said on a case-by-case basis the custodian could be allotted additional time for cleaning.

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