Saturday, May 21, 2022

Letter sent home regarding absence in school, questions raised for parents

Toronto parents are beginning to receive a letter from public health officials when their child’s school or daycare absenteeism rate reaches 30 percent — but it’s unclear what that benchmark means.

Toronto Public Health’s letter is sent when absenteeism is “at least 30 percent higher than normal.” However, parents may be left with questions, including whether their child has COVID-19 in their classroom and whether they should keep their children home.

When asked about this, TPH told the Star that it supports schools “in implementing the multiple layers of protection[that]are necessary to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and to keep schools as safe as possible.” “

TPH said via email, “The letter is meant to remind parents of these important measures, including daily checkups, and to keep children at home if their child is sick or anyone in the household is sick.” There are symptoms.” “It is also very important for all residents to vaccinate themselves and their children, as this is the best protection against the serious consequences associated with COVID-19.”

The province used to require confirmed COVID cases in schools and daycares to be publicly reported, but Ontario stopped the practice, along with some other provinces. In part, this is because eligibility for PCR testing has narrowed and it has become challenging to access rapid testing, especially with the highly transmissible Omicron variant spreading in the community.

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Now, the Ministry of Education has directed that schools notify public health units when student and staff absenteeism reaches about 30 percent of its baseline, which includes all reasons for absence, not just COVID. Then a joint letter from the school and the local public health unit is shared with the community.

According to TPH, “if the absence is not believed to be related to COVID-19, the letter need not be sent.”

In a preface that Catholic schools principals use when sending TPH letters, they note that parents should be aware that hitting a 30 percent absentee rate “doesn’t necessarily mean a known active COVID in a particular school community.” reflect the cases.

At a Catholic school, which recently hit the 30 percent benchmark, school administrators and staff reached out to all students absent – just one was away due to COVID, while the others were closed for various reasons.

According to the preamble, “recorded absence may include illness not related to COVID or medical appointment.” “The Ministry of Education requires school boards to report on all staff and student absenteeism, including temporarily remote learning students, and publicly report the total percentage of staff and student absenteeism.”

The Toronto District School Board also plans to include a preface when sending TPH letters to their principals “to explain the reasons behind the letter and how it does not necessarily reflect the current known exposure to COVID-19 in the school.” Matters should reflect that,” board spokesman Ryan Bird said. “The (absence) could be for other reasons.”

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He added that when it comes to absenteeism, the TDSB is “looking at how we can provide more clarity.”

Toronto’s public and Catholic boards are going beyond what is required of them by the government as people in the affected sections are made aware when a test-confirmed positive COVID case is reported. The Toronto Catholic District School Board also continues to update its COVID-19 dashboard.

“Full transparency is important because every parent has the right to know what’s going on in their child’s classroom and inside the school,” says Toronto mother Mary Tattersall, whose daughter attends the TDSB school. She wants to see every case count, contact tracing, outbreak managed and greater access to PCR and rapid tests.

“Setting an arbitrary limit of 30 percent only empowers Omicron,” she said. “We have no knowledge of what’s really happening in the classroom.”

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Nation World News Desk
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