Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Teachers and students absent from school are a challenge, Ontario officials say

Provincial officials acknowledged that calling teachers and students sick as Ontario’s schools reopen on Monday would be a bigger challenge than any spike in COVID-19 cases.

Matthew Anderson, chief executive of Ontario Health, said: “The data shows that getting back to school doesn’t increase cases for our kids and what we need to keep an eye on is really about our teachers and our children. Absence is there to get back to school.” , said on Tuesday.

It’s based on provincial data and past experience with school outbreaks in the 22 months after the pandemic – and that’s what Ontario’s chief medical officer, Dr. Kieran Moore, pediatrician, and the science table of the province’s doctors and epidemiologists believe. ​—that it is safe to return to classroom learning.

“There will be challenges of absenteeism in schools because of the risk from community spread,” Anderson said, adding that the Omicron version is highly contagious.

Moore and Education Minister Stephen Lessey will hold a news conference in Queens Park on Wednesday afternoon to outline details of the resumption of in-person learning for 2 million children.

Listen to Chris Rushovi discuss reopening plans

Health Minister Christine Elliott confirmed that schools will offer lab-based PCR testing to students and staff showing symptoms – as demanded by unions and parent groups – and more rapid tests are on the way.

“PCR tests will be available in schools when they return for students or staff who are symptomatic in schools that they need to drop off to go home,” Elliott said.

“But PCR tests will be available for them within schools if they are symptomatic. We are also working with the federal government to conduct rapid testing. We received over 35 lakh rapid tests (Monday). Many of those students will be going to schools to be able to crack those exams. ,

Pediatrician and founder of Kidcrew Medical, a multidisciplinary children’s health clinic in Toronto, Dr. The problem, says Dina Kulik, is that rapid tests have high rates of false negatives, especially when children are symptomatic.

“I still think there’s a lot of reliance on a negative test that you don’t have COVID, which I think is unwise given how many COVID cases we have,” Kulik said.

She questioned what the province advises if a child shows symptoms of COVID at home, such as fever, runny nose, cough and vomiting, but then tests negative on a rapid test.

“If they test positive, we believe they are positive, they should stay at home. this is easy. If they test negative, then what?” she added.

“I think the absence would be a reflection of the kids being sick.”

As first reported by the Star, Ontario students will return to school on Monday, two weeks after Premier Doug Ford said online learning led to a rise in Omicron cases.

Students here have spent more time learning remotely than in any other jurisdiction in North America – about 27 weeks and counting since the pandemic began in March 2020. Virtual learning will be available for those students who want it.

The province has sent 9.1 million N95 masks to the board for all staff, and about four million three-ply masks for students in the past week. It continues to distribute 3,000 additional HEPA air filters on top of the existing 70,000 in schools.

Additionally, there are 10 priority vaccine clinics for education workers that are open seven days a week.

Critics have said the school’s decision to no longer report matters would mean parents would not have a complete picture of what is going on.

“There will be some people who will stay at home who haven’t tested, but have symptoms,” Elliott said.

“And so it will be difficult for schools to report the exact number of students with Omicron on a daily basis. But … we have inspected all the schools to make sure they have all the safety standards we need.”

The Toronto District School Board has said it is looking into ways of reporting cases, and in Durham, trustees have vowed to do the same.

NDP leader Andrea Horvath said the province was unwilling to reopen schools and “much more could have been done to make schools safer … the children are the ones who are paying the price.”

Ontario Public School Boards Association president Kathy Abraham said she was pleased with the shipment of N95s and additional HEPA air filters, but said teacher absences would be challenging.

“This is a growing concern,” she said, adding that teachers who are showing symptoms or who must isolate after being exposed – or care for their own sick children – will not be able to work.

“But it’s really hard to say what it’s going to look like, where it’s going to be and how we’re going to react until there … but the boards are talking about it right now and contingency plans. are talking.”

The province has given student-teachers the green light to fill in the second year of university and retired teachers can now take on 95 days of supply work instead of 50.

Not everyone was happy with how the news started.

Ontario’s Elementary Teachers Association, which represents 83,000 teachers, complained to its members “learned from journalists on social media, that the Ford government is moving forward with the return of in-person learning on January 17th.”

ETFO President Karen Brown said, “After seeing the Ford government’s repeated failure to slow the spread of COVID-19, we are not surprised by last night’s class-to-class announcement, if we can call it that.” Huh.”

Liberal leader Steven Del Duca warned that the Progressive Conservative government has done “almost nothing to make classrooms safe” in the past weeks.

“As a father of two daughters attending publicly funded schools, I personally support learning and look forward to reopening schools,” Del Duca said.

“But that doesn’t mean the work on making them safe is over.”

With files from Kenyon Wallace

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