Victoria teachers say custodial cutbacks will usher in dirtier classrooms
Victoria teachers are speaking out about cuts to custodial service they say will leave classrooms in a sorry state.
In a news release, the Greater Victoria Teachers' Association says the district cut custodial time in spring on top of similar cuts made back in the early 2000s.
"The rationale behind the decisions is irrelevant," the GVTA said. "It's clear that less time spent cleaning equals dirtier facilities."
The association said janitors have been directed by the district to stop vacuuming carpets in grades two through five effective immediately, while reducing cleaning of kindergarten and grade one carpets to twice a week.
"If you're a kindergarten teacher and you have little kids, five year olds, on your teaching carpet every day for half the day and it's only getting cleaned once or twice a week now, think about your house – it's going to get dirtier," said GVTA President Jason Gammon. "If you had 30 people walking through your house every day…is it cleaner if you did it every day, or once a week? It's a no-brainer."
But the district fired back Wednesday, denying that cleaning had been scaled back and saying it had, in fact, done the opposite.
"We've increased funding to cleaning time in our school districts by about $100,000 from last year to this year, given that we have new classrooms," said SD61 Secretary-Treasurer Mark Walsh.
Walsh said the district recently reviewed custodial runs for the first time in 15-20 years and made changes for consistency, such as giving daytime custodians more hours while scaling back on some night-time cleaning.
"It's not true that they're not being cleaned as often. They're being cleaned just as much as they were last year," he said.
In regards to the GVTA saying carpets are no longer being vacuumed in certain grades, Walsh said there have been incidents of teachers bringing in their own furniture such as carpets and rugs.
He said the district hasn't budgeted cleaning time for those items, and that could be why teachers are upset.
"If we have more extra carpets, that's a lot of extra cleaning time that we haven't necessarily funded at the beginning, so we are looking at that," he said.
Gammon was incredulous that the district said it has expanded cleaning service in schools.
"For the district to say they've increased cleaning time, that's fiction. I don't know how that's possible," he said. "When I started teaching, my desks for instance were cleaned every day. They're cleaned once a week now."
Gammon said without the district restoring custodial service levels to what they once were, schools that are jammed full of students will get dirtier and dirtier.
"You should expect that you pay taxes, your kids go to a public school, it should be clean. It should be a clean space for your kids to learn in," he said.
The teachers association says it is planning on filing an official grievance over the issue.