Ottawa parents want more information on school absence rates
As students enter their second week back to in-person learning, parents say they want more information on the absentee rate in schools released by the province.
“Schools still feel daunting, regardless of what the data shows. I predict we will see a high rate of absenteeism for a host of reasons,” says mom Michelle Coates Mather.
Coates Mather has two school-aged children, and she says she will look at the data released by the province. But it doesn’t give her a complete picture of how much COVID-19 is in schools.
She says she is expecting to see high percentages of absenteeism in her kids’ schools for a while.
“I don’t know if (the absentee data) gives me assurance, all it does is demonstrate, as much as we want to be out of this thing, we aren’t just yet. But I am hopeful that the data that they focus on is severity of illness because that as a parent, is what matters to me most.”
She says her kids are happy to be back to in-person learning after an extended Christmas break had students across the province shift to virtual learning due to rising COVID-19 cases.
She says she will be keeping her kids home if they are showing any mild symptoms.
“We have been monitoring for symptoms since the onset, we have lost track of how many days of school our kids have missed because they had mild symptoms, or had to get tested and so on, that has been our reality.”
Coates Mather say it is up to parents to continue to do the self-assessment every day.
“It isn’t just about my kids, but for other people. I think the symptom check is very important, because (the variant) is so transmissible.”
Grandmother Ginette Soucy she says it was a difficult decision to send her granddaughter back to in person learning because there is no contact tracing of COVID-19 cases.
“It was a very hard decision, because, we have no idea how many cases are in schools, and they are not tracing anything,” says Soucy.
Soucy says because the provincial data doesn’t break down which absences are COVID-19 related, it is not helpful. “Cases need to be reported,” she says. “(The data) will not ease our scares because if you have a dentist appointment, you are counted as absent…It is a waste of time.”
Isabella Peleggi decided to keep her daughter home for a few weeks. She says not knowing how many COVID-19 cases are in schools is worrisome. She says, “We can’t send our kids into the classroom where there may be covid but we don’t know about it- it isn’t safe.”
Peleggi will re-assess later this week about sending her daughter back.
“My husband and I decided, let’s keep her home, for a week or two, and see what the situation is like and decide week by week what we are going to do.”
Parents will be notified when absentee rate reaches the 30% threshold. Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore says.
“We will work together with our local public health agencies and our school boards to monitor that absentee rate and the rates suddenly rises 30 percent above their baseline we will have communication which may include closure, it may include further augmentation of the safety protocols within the schools to further keep them as open as they can be,” he said on Monday.
“That is our goal – keep our students learning and to catch up on their mental, physical, social and educational needs.”
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