Schoolchildren in Mississauga and Brampton may not get their rapid tests right away

By Nathan Sager

Published on January 14, 2022 at 9:06 p.m.

Not all school children in Mississauga and Brampton will receive rapid antigen tests on their first day back to school, according to plans released by the two councils.

The wording of the test distribution differs slightly between the Peel District School Board (PDSB) and the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board (PDCDSB), according to information aggregated by PeelCOVIDWatch. Every pupil is supposed to have two rapid antigen tests (RATs) sent home, as promised by Education Minister Stephen Lecce and Chief Medical Officer Dr Kieran Moore.

Peel Public Council said it had “taken steps to ensure kits will be available for in-person staff and in-person students who may become symptomatic at school when we resume in-person learning Monday, January 17. The school board has enough supplies to administer two tests to all staff in person and to elementary students in person.

However, an update to the board says the test kit supplies “have arrived in bulk” and the “dekitting” process is taking time. The provincial supplier ships the kits in boxes of five. On Friday, several education officials shared staff positions re-sorting the tests. Perhaps, therefore, secondary school students will be offered tests to take away a little later.

Also, as of Friday, not all schools had received three-ply masks.

On the positive side for high school students, exams do not take place. Final grades will be based on a teacher’s assessment.

The Dufferin-Peel Catholic Board offers assurances that they will be able to provide two tests for each student. Primary students will get their first, with secondary students to be supplied later in the week.

“These tests should only be used in the event that the child has symptoms of COVID.”

The directive from the Ontario Ministry of Education (MOE), which decided this week that in-person learning will resume on Monday, calls for notifying affected members of a school community only when the whole school has a 30% absentee rate. Reporting of COVID-19 will no longer continue in schools. Some boards in Ontario have chosen to continue or inform parents when the absentee rate reaches a threshold well below 30%.

The Dufferin-Peel Catholic Board, however, plans to update absence rates daily on its website.

Peel Public Council says it will notify affected students and staff when it becomes aware of a PCR or RAT confirmed case of COVID-19. However, its plans do not appear to go beyond the MOE’s 30% public disclosure threshold.

It’s also unclear whether attendance rates, or absenteeism, will be based on who is in a school building. Some school boards may count as attendance students who log on to a virtual learning platform, since attendance is factored into Ontario’s education funding formula.

Remote learning remains a possibility

The DPCDSB also warns that a child’s classroom format could be changed on the fly based on operational needs. This could include combining classes for one day due to security or supervision issues. There is also the “option to switch to asynchronous learning for students who are in full-time distance learning”.

These are meant to be last resort options, the council said.

Comparison with Alberta?

Ahead of Ontario, Alberta resumed in-person learning this week with promises of better masks and rapid antigen testing along the way.

While there are differences in provincial populations and return-to-school planning, Alberta’s experience with resuming in-person learning could offer rough insight for Ontario and the region. of Peel.

Between Edmonton and Calgary, approximately 3,000 teachers and various education workers are being sidelined.

Edmonton’s two school divisions had about 1,580 staff absent Friday. About 64% of them were teachers, and not all absences were covered. More than 3% of the city’s public board students were absent due to COVID-19, and 3.5% were absent for other reasons, the Edmonton Journal reported.

As of Thursday, the Calgary Board of Education had 1,330 absent employees, including 815 teachers, and could not cover all absences. The city’s Catholic school district also said 129 staff members were furloughed.

Like Ontario, the Alberta government has also stopped reporting COVID-19 infections and absences.

However, the Prairie province has not reimposed some of the public health restrictions that Ontario enacted last week when it moved to a “modified Stage 2.” Indoor restaurants remain open, as do some closed businesses in Ontario until at least January 26.

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