scuttlebutt, cornwall, ontario

CUPE: cost of safe return to schools could be over half a billion

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By Nick Seebruch
CUPE: cost of safe return to schools could be over half a billion

ONTARIO – A study completed by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) estimates that making classrooms safe for students to return this fall will come with a heavy price tag.

“CUPE has used the lowest projected costs to arrive at an estimate of $589,330,762 – the amount needed to fully fund safe school reopenings in Ontario, or $1.49 per student per day. Funding a safe to return to school for students would require a 2.1% increase in the 2020-21 projected Grants for Student Needs (GSN) spending,” reads a statement from CUPE.

CUPE’s cost estimates were calculated based on

  • 4800 schools in the province
  • 1,431,697 elementary students
  • 604,772 secondary students
  • 194 days in the school year


  • an average of 25 classrooms per school
  • an average of 6 washrooms per school
  • an average of 1 library + 1 school office + 1 gym + 1 special use classrooms per school


Summary of costs

  1. Touch free hand sanitizer dispensers in each used room in school: range from $1,392,000 to $4,036,800
  2. Refill of hand sanitizer: ranging from $66,816,000 to $82,128,000
  3. Cost to install hand-sanitizer dispensers: $1,920,000
  4. Plexiglass for school office and libraries: $2,112,000
  5. One additional custodian per school: $271,603,200
  6. Additional EA support: $135,801,600
  7. Opening up currently closed school spaces: $109,685,962

(Costs do not include costs associated with childcare centres located in schools or before- and after-school programs.)

In June, the Ontario Government announced a $736 million investment in the GSN program, but only $4 million of that will be for increased sanitation in schools.

The Ontario Parents Action Network projects that the Ford government will be spending $0.07 per day per pupil on school re-openings.

In their release to the media, CUPE expanded on where they got their projected numbers.

CUPE has based these costs on the needs identified by its members for

  • additional custodial support for enhanced cleaning (high touch surfaces, washrooms, playground equipment, etc.)
  • additional supports for students with special education needs, including additional EA support to assist with “cohorting” and restricting contact between different classes.
  • funding for hand sanitizer dispensers for every classroom and every school entrance, additional hand washing stations, and staffing to install and refill as necessary
  • funding for adequate PPE for staff (and students as required)
  • professional and paraprofessional support to support additional classrooms
  • mental health and wellbeing supports for students and staff
  • plexiglass for school offices, libraries, and other staffed areas
  • opening school spaces not currently used for instruction to accommodate smaller class sizes (including additional support and cleaning)
  • childcare and before- and after-school programming
  • additional requirements for student transportation
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