Prairie South School Division lays off 25 staff; CUPE worried about impact on students

CUPE Local 5512 is saddened and disappointed by Prairie South School District’s decision to lay off 25 school assistants working at nine schools in Moose Jaw.

“Our members care passionately about the work they do and the children they watch over. The loss of these jobs is so devastating because of how much heart our members put into their jobs,” said Trish Mula, president of CUPE Local 5512. “This decision is about Prairie South’s financial situation, but it is the students who are going to end up paying the price.”

School assistants are a position unique to Moose Jaw, but they play a vital role in providing recess and lunch time supervision and student support. In addition, they provide support for teaching staff, office work, and the library by providing a wide range of tasks, including: sorting and circulating library books; maintaining bulletin boards; organizing educational aids; and assisting in the school, generally with photocopying, laminating, organizing, delivering materials within the school, and minor cleaning.

“Without school assistants, front line workers like education assistants and teaching staff will have less time for direct student care,” Mula added.  “Who is going to pick up the slack come September? Without school assistants, who will provide lunch time supervision? Who will sort lunches and photocopy assignments? Who will restock the books in the library?”

“Many school assistants are now worried about what the future holds for them. They are worried about how they are going to make ends meet and how they are going to say goodbye to a job they love,” said Mula. “Many of the impacted members do not have the education qualifications to bump into other classifications – even though they have been filling in as substitute education assistants and library associates for years.”

CUPE Local 5512 acknowledges that many school districts, including Prairie South School Division, are facing hard financial times. Prairie Spirit School Division has laid off 60 educational assistants, and the Regina Public School Division is now charging some parents for lunchtime supervision.

“Money is tight in the education sector, and we anticipate that the June provincial budget will make things even tighter,” said Mula. “We encourage members of the public who are concerned about education to contact their MLA.”

CUPE Local 5512 represents over 500 permanent and casual support staff who work for the Prairie South School Division.