Tuesday, January 18, 2022

School board in Ontario calls on government to report and track COVID-19 once again

School boards in Ontario are calling on the provincial government to reinstate COVID-19 reporting and tracking when schools reopen next week, with some saying they will release available data to families.

The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board of Trustees sent a letter to Education Minister Stephen Lessey on Wednesday expressing “grave concern, dismay and dismay” over recent changes to how COVID-19 will be managed in schools.

The board said it was particularly disappointed by the discontinuation of COVID-19 reporting as well as the dismissal of students and staff when a positive case was identified in a class or cohort.

The board called on the province to restructure the COVID-19 reporting system that was in place before the winter break. It also said that the province should provide better quality masks to students and “adequate numbers” of rapid test kits to all students and staff.

“The mental health and wellbeing of staff and students has been and continues to be a significant challenge as we continue to navigate the pandemic,” the letter said.

“Ensuring measures to support a safe return to in-person learning reduce apprehension and anxiety resulting from recent changes in practice.”

The Limestone District School Board said in a statement Wednesday evening that it would send a letter to the provincial government and Ontario’s chief medical officer of health requesting the tracking and reporting of COVID-19 in schools by public health units.

The board also called for continued funding for rapid antigen tests for all students and staff, and changes to individual and distance learning for “transparent and timely” communication to families and staff.

Asked on Wednesday why the government is no longer reporting COVID-19 data in schools, Ontario’s top doctor said the province revised its protocol to “pivot from Delta to Omicron.”

Dr. Kieran Moore said the province would continue to report some COVID-19 data, such as virus-related admissions to hospitals for children aged five to 11 and 12 to 17.

“We have always had to take a risk-based and balance-based approach to this pandemic, and I think we are hitting the right mark with Omicron and we will be transparent with all those metrics,” he said.

The province has deferred shipments of the final rollout of masks, updated ventilation systems and rapid testing to students and staff members as part of its return to in-person learning plan.

Moore said the two rapid antigen tests provided to students would “empower” parents by telling them whether their child has the virus and whether they should isolate at home.

Some school boards, in the absence of regular COVID-19 reporting from the province, have decided to take matters into their own hands when schools reopen next week.

In a letter to parents and guardians, the Durham District School Board (DDSB) said it is preparing to share COVID-19 data until it becomes available.

This includes reporting confirmed and predicted COVID-19 cases in schools, ensuring families and staff have a mechanism for self-reporting COVID-19 test results, and providing information on school and classroom closures. To do.

“Our goal is to be as transparent as possible with families through this public reporting,” the board said.

In a statement, the Toronto Catholic District School Board said it plans to go beyond provincial requirements, if one chooses to disclose a positive COVID-19 rapid antigen test or PCR test result, to “any affected By notifying the group”.

A spokesman for the Toronto District School Board said Tuesday that the board is still determining what might be possible in terms of reporting COVID-19 data.

Public health units will be required to notify families if 30 percent of the school – including staff and students – is absent, but will not confirm whether all absences are due to COVID-19.

Principals must report daily absences to the Ministry of Education, which will post online as part of the province’s COVID-19 data.

The DDSB said it would also publicly report absenteeism when it reaches 15 per cent, as opposed to the 30 per cent limit that would need to reach out to inform families, officials said.

Other public health units said they would follow the province’s guidance to report absenteeism and not report COVID-19 data.

For example, the Lambton Kent District School Board said that since it would not receive confirmed COVID-19 case data from local public health units, it would not confirm COVID-19 cases involving students or staff.

A spokesman for the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board said it was “following instructions from the Ministry of Education.”

Meanwhile, in a letter to families, the Bluewater District School Board asked students to complete a rapid antigen test – which was provided to them by the Ministry of Education ahead of winter break – before returning to school on January 17, if They have no trial balance.

Schools in Ontario, which have been teaching students online since early January, are to resume in-person learning on Monday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on January 13, 2021.

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