SD61 hears grievance from GVTA over cutbacks on area rug vacuuming for elementary schools. (Photo - Google maps)

Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association files grievance over carpet cleaning cutbacks

‘They sit on the carpet, you read to them, you do math … it’s a teaching area. It’s vital.’

Custodians in SD61 were told earlier this month to cut back on vacuuming area rugs in elementary school classrooms. In many schools the area rugs were being vacuumed every day, but the new order from the Director of Facilities stated that carpets in Kindergarten (K) and Grade 1 classes should be vacuumed only twice a week and Grade 2 – 5 carpets should not be vacuumed at all.

Custodians reported the change to teachers, who then expressed health and safety concerns to Jason Gammon, the president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association (GVTA).

“As a primary teacher, you use the carpet a lot. That is an area where you teach,” says Gammon. “It’s like the kids’ desks. They sit on the carpet, you read to them, you do math. It’s not just a carpet, it’s a teaching area. It’s vital.”

Oak Bay News has received correspondence from parents who are concerned that the cut back in cleaning could exacerbate the spread of lice, and health conditions such as asthma.

Carolyn Howe, as the GVTA Health & Safety Officer, filed a grievance under article D26 of the Greater Victoria School District’s collective agreement which relates to Health and Safety.

The grievance will be heard by SD61 Human Resources at a meeting tomorrow morning.

The meeting is an opportunity for the GVTA to present their grievance and explain their position.

“We hope at that meeting, they would agree to this and fix it. That is not always the case though, so then it would proceed through the grievance process,” says Gammon. “Our hope always is to resolve things at the step 2 meetings (such as the one scheduled for tomorrow morning).”

Mark Walsh, secretary-treasurer of SD61, says a review of the rug cleaning schedule is underway.

“This year we have looked at creating standard cleaning runs at all of our schools,” says Walsh. “As a district, we got rid of rugs in schools about 15 to 20 years ago so the cleaning of them wasn’t in our standard cleaning run. Then teachers started bringing them in with an expectation that they would get cleaned. So part of our review was looking at enforcing the practice that used to exist (no carpet cleaning). We thought we would actually expand service, so cover Grade 1, cover some specialty classrooms, in addition to K.”

Feedback was quick to follow.

“Since we’ve done that we have discovered that there was far more expectation of carpet cleaning in some of our spaces and so we are actually reviewing right now,” says Walsh. “That concept of less-than-daily cleaning for K classes is a big concern for folks so we are reviewing that right now.”

The review will include: finding out exactly how many rugs are in use; how often they have been getting cleaned in each school; and what the requirements are for the educational program based on the curriculum for each grade level.

“The review should be short-order,” says Walsh. “We should have the numbers in the next couple weeks. We would review those numbers and look at the curriculum requirements at the same time. We would come to a conclusion within a few weeks, and if there are any changes needed, they could be implemented very quickly.”

Watch here for updates to this story.

keri.coles@oakbaynews.com

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