Home Ventilation system Ontario school boards scramble to finalize classroom learning plans on January 17

Ontario school boards scramble to finalize classroom learning plans on January 17

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Toronto school boards, including Canada’s largest school board, are working to finalize plans for Monday’s return to in-person learning and say they are still working to determine exactly how they will notify parents of the positive cases of COVID-19 in the classroom.

On Wednesday, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce provided some additional details on what parents can expect next week when children return to class for the first time since winter break. .

He confirmed that schools will not be required to directly notify parents of COVID-19 cases in the classroom, but will alert parents when approximately 30% of a school’s students and staff are absent on a day. given. The province also said that starting Jan. 24, parents will be able to access data on their child’s truancy rate at school.

“We want to make sure we’re as transparent as possible, so we’re looking outside of the 30% notification, how do we let families know what’s going on in classrooms and schools. So we are in the process of finalizing our own plans,” Ryan Bird, spokesperson for the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), told CP24 Thursday morning.

“PCR testing is essentially being phased out at school level as a replacement for rapid antigen testing. What is the availability of these on a frequent basis? So we want to make sure we can provide this accurate information when we hear of confirmed cases. But then what do we do when we hear about symptomatic cases. How can we make sure we are open but not telling everyone about a runny nose in a classroom. It’s a bit more complex than it looks. »

The province has promised to give every student in Ontario schools two rapid antigen tests when they return to in-person learning and more tests will be provided as needed when the province secures an additional supply. PCR testing is not available to all students and will be limited to those with significant symptoms in class. The remaining supply of around 200,000 PCR self-collection kits from schools will not be replenished when they run out, the province’s chief medical officer confirmed on Wednesday.

Bird said the council was also bracing for high absenteeism rates due to staff showing symptoms or being in close contact with positive cases.

“In terms of overall staffing shortages, we’re currently looking at strategies to figure out exactly how we’re getting there,” he said.

“It is difficult to determine, when you have almost 600 sites, the impact of these shortages on the system at the school level. It may be necessary for operational reasons to close a class, to close a school. We really don’t know yet until we get into it quite frankly.

Department of Education operational management said schools can institute virtual learning days or consolidate class cohorts in situations where large numbers of staff are absent, but they will first need to access pools of retired education staff and trainee teachers to fill the gaps.

Brendan Browne, director of education for the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB), also said TCDSB schools plan to go “beyond” what the province requires in terms of reporting positive cases to parents. .

“We recognize that parents really want to know so what we are looking at is when there is a confirmed case that is reported to the principal that we will let that cohort know so the class knows as a courtesy to try to make sure that parents are aware,” he told CP24.

He said he was confident that teachers have an adequate supply of N95 masks and that every school will have HEPA filters or improved ventilation systems in every occupied classroom.

Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board administrators sent an open letter to Lecce this week outlining their “grave concern, disappointment and frustration” with changes to provincial protocols, particularly the decision to stop reporting COVID-19 and dismissal of students and staff when a positive case has been identified.

“This is a concern that all administrators hear daily from our parents/guardians who are angry, frustrated and

more worried than ever about sending their children to school,” the letter read.

They criticized the province for its lack of transparency and consultation with school boards, for failing to provide equitable access to testing kits and N95 masks for students, and for neglecting to provide adequate funding for the improved ventilation and air quality.

The province is providing millions of N95 masks to education and child care staff, but not to students. The ministry announced it will send four million “high-quality three-ply masks” to students in in-person learning across Ontario. In addition to the 70,000 units of HEPA filters previously sent to schools, the province said it is redeploying an additional 3,000 self-contained units to schools before Monday’s return.

“Returning to the previous case and contact management system, including transparent reporting of known positive cases of COVID-19 in schools and sharing this information in accordance with applicable privacy laws with parents / guardians in accordance with the previously established protocol, would go a long way in regaining the trust of our community,” reads the letter from the administrators.

“We implore the province, as a first step, to provide access to medical grade masks or N95 masks for all students and education staff as noted above, to provide an adequate number of testing for every student and education staff member to be tested at home for COVID-19, as well as to piece together the reporting and management system that was in place and to consult with stakeholders on these and other important matters affecting the health and safety of our students and staff as directed moving forward.