Educational assistants concerned about students with special needs returning to schools | #specialneeds | #kids

Online learning will continue in southern Ontario until at least Jan. 25, but students with special needs returned to class on Monday.

A group of educational assistants (EAs) in Kitchener started the day in the parking lot, refusing to enter the school due to COVID-19 concerns.

Six EAs spent the first half of the school protesting what they called an unsafe work environment, refusing to enter the school even though their students were already inside.

All elementary students were originally supposed to go back to school on Monday, but the Ministry of Education decided to delay that as COVID-19 cases continue to spike in the province.

Parents of children with special education needs had the choice to send them back on Monday. John Sweeny Catholic Elementary School had nine children in class on Monday. A few EAs went inside to care for the children, but six others stayed outside.

Union representatives were accompanied by Catholic school board representatives and the Ministry of Labour to complete a health and safety inspection, checking for pandemic protocols like sanitizer, personal protective equipment and the ability to maintain proper physical distance.

“We found this site to be very safe,” said Laura Grint with CUPE Local 152. “We worked very closely with the board’s health and safety department and ensuring that all protocols are followed, that all boxes are ticked. We found it to be a very safe school.”

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