More than 330 Ontario schools report absence rates of 30 per cent or higher
More than 300 Ontario schools reported staff and student absences of more than 30 per cent by the end of last week, after students returned for in-person learning following the latest pandemic-related shutdown.
But the data includes all absences, not just those that might be related to COVID-19, making it tough to gauge the impact of the Omicron variant on Ontario's school system now that the province is no longer publicly reporting cases in schools.
Some schools reported high absences due to the weather or technical errors. Data was also missing for about 1,400 of the province's 4,844 schools.
Data published Monday show 337 schools had hit the 30 per cent mark as of Friday and 111 schools reported absences higher than 50 per cent of all staff and students.
Absence information was made available for 3,451 of the province's schools.
The province has said schools will have to report absences of more than 30 per cent to local public health units. It's up to public health and the school board to discuss what should happen next, including if or when families will be notified.
There isn't a set threshold at which point the province will close an individual school or shutter all schools across the province.
"If the (absence) rate suddenly rises 30 per cent above their baseline, we'll have communication, which may include closure, may include further augmentation of their safety protocols within the schools to further keep them as open as they can be," Dr. Kieran Moore, the province's top doctor, said at a photo op at a Markham, Ont., vaccine clinic on Monday.
"We'll be working at a local level to try our best to keep our schools as open as possible."
Speaking alongside Moore, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said "public health will take action" in the event of COVID-19 concerns at a particular school.
He also pointed to rapid tests the government has promised to families so they can test their children if they have symptoms, as well as to the absence data, saying the province thinks it "will help improve access to knowledge so that they can make the best decisions for their children."
A spokesman for the Toronto District School Board -- where 68 schools reported Friday absence levels of 30 per cent or higher -- said no letters were going home as of Monday, and no schools were currently closed.
Karen Littlewood, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, said teachers are concerned about lack of clear data on cases, and what will happen after 30 per cent of a school is away.
"There isn't a clear answer as to what happens at that point," she said by phone.
"Without any sort of consistent messaging or reporting of data or sharing of data, it makes it really difficult for anyone to make any decisions going forward."
She also noted that some teachers feel caught in a grey area when it comes to reporting COVID-19 cases in their classes, as that was not the responsibility of individual staff members before the province shifted its contact tracing and testing policy in December.
On Monday, it was unclear exactly what factors were behind the absence data, especially after a week of snowy winter weather that prompted many boards to cancel bus routes, close schools or move classes online.
As of Friday, 21 schools had reported absences higher than 80 per cent. Schools with the 10 highest absence percentages included one in Toronto, three in North Bay, two in Parry Sound and one each in Kenora, Sturgeon Falls and South River.
However, five of those reported high levels of absences because of the weather, according to a spokeswoman for the Near North District School Board.
Deb Bartlett said in a statement that all buses were cancelled on Friday due to the cold, driving up the absence numbers because "the vast majority" of students ride the bus to school. She noted that buses were cancelled again due to the weather on Monday, but schools weren't closed on either of those two days.
The province reported that 16 schools or 0.3 per cent were closed as of Friday.
Meanwhile, one school in the Niagara Catholic District School Board had initially reported 100 per cent of its population absent on Friday, but a spokeswoman for the board later clarified that it was included in error because the school had been closed for a professional development day. Jennifer Pellegrini said board schools were open on Monday.
The absence data also includes some students who are self-isolating but learning online at home, the province said Monday. However, they will be considered "present" for their lessons if they log on to online classes.
Premier Doug Ford's government closed schools for two weeks earlier this month amid rapid spread of the Omicron variant, which has placed a strain on the province's healthcare system and labour force.
Ford said at the time that the province couldn't guarantee schools could be kept open given the high level of Omicron spread that would likely leave many people unable to work due to infections or exposures.
Unions have warned families to prepare for disruptions related to the virus, and provincial officials have said schools may have to move classes online for days at a time to accommodate staffing challenges.
The Opposition New Democrats called the new data "vague and useless" and called on the government to bring back fulsome COVID-19 testing access for schools.
"Parents across Ontario looking at this information will be left with more questions than answers," education critic Marit Stiles said in a written statement.
"The goal must be to keep every school open until June. To do that, the Ford government needs to reinstate testing, tracing, and actual COVID-19 case reporting, so that parents are alerted whenever there's an infection in their child's classroom."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2022.
Toronto Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Patrick Brown is alleging political corruption played a role in his disqualification from the Conservative Party of Canada's leadership race, a move that came following allegations that his campaign violated election financing rules.
Despite being disqualified by the Conservative Party of Canada from becoming its next leader, ousted candidate Patrick Brown's name will still appear on the ballot.
Video has emerged showing a worker dangling in the air above a Toronto construction site after accidently getting entangled in a tagline attached to a crane.
Air Canada and Toronto's Pearson airport again claimed the top spots for flight delays on Tuesday, marking at least four days in a row where the country's biggest airline has placed No. 1 of any large carrier worldwide.
Air Canada said on Wednesday it will not allow animals in the baggage hold until Sept. 12 due to 'longer than usual' delays at airports, as carriers and airports wrestle with complaints over lost luggage and long lines.
As gas prices slightly trend down this week after some of the highest national averages seen in recent months, some Canadians may be thinking twice before planning their usual summer road trip plans. CTVNews.ca looks at how drivers can save at the pumps while travelling.
Prices have been easing slightly recently, but affording a mortgage is still a very difficult task for many Canadians. How much of a mortgage can you afford? Contributor Christopher Liew breaks it down in an exclusive column for CTVNews.ca.
Canada's immigration department is restarting all Express Entry draws for immigration applications Wednesday, after pausing the program 18 months ago during the pandemic.
A federal judge Wednesday sentenced Jerry Harris, a former star of the Netflix documentary series 'Cheer,' to 12 years in prison for coercing teenage boys to send him obscene photos and videos of themselves and soliciting sex from minors at cheerleading competitions.
WATCH LIVE @ 9 A.M.
WATCH LIVE @ 9 A.M. | With another COVID climb, Quebec health minister calls news conference for Thursday morning
With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations on the rise in Quebec, public health officials have called a news conference for Thursday morning.
'Not a time when Quebec can afford to lose young doctors,' province's opposition leader says of ER exodus
The leader of Quebec's Liberal Party paused her vacation briefly on Wednesday to react to the news that two young emergency room doctors have quit their jobs in their hometown of Montreal to work in Toronto.
A prominent Montreal drag queen who recently faced pressure from critics over library readings to young children says her storytime events scheduled for the fall were abruptly called off for unknown reasons.
Once again due to staff shortages, the emergency departments at both Listowel and Wingham hospitals will be closed overal several upcoming dates.
Provincial police have identified the victim of a deadly motorcycle collision that occurred earlier this week.
The victim of a fatal head on collision earlier this week in Blandford-Blenheim has been identified as a 41-year-old man from Plattsville.
Break-ins targeting restaurants, salons, dress shops and cannabis stores have been reported in Kitchener, Waterloo and Woolwich.
'There’s no great answer': Low-income tenants weigh options in Cambridge as renovations push them out
Tenants of the Tiger Lofts, an affordable apartment building in Cambridge, say they’re being “renovicted” and won’t be allowed to stay after extensive renovations.
Police are looking for a man who allegedly grabbed and sexually assaulted a woman in a Kitchener park.
Weengushk International Film Festival returns to in-person events this coming weekend. The festival will highlight stories and voices of Indigenous women.
Many post-secondary institutions are vulnerable to cyber attacks, according to CyberCatch, a firm tasked with getting small- to medium-sized organizations up to date with Canada's new standard for cybersecurity.
Bavarian Meat Products in North Bay has been closed since fall of 2021. While the business has closed, flies are thriving and the odour of rotten meat gets worse.
An Ottawa senior citizen says he lost his life savings after investing with a real estate development firm that has been charged with fraud.
Ottawa police are on the scene of a shooting that injured one person in the city's west end.
The penultimate day of the public hearings into Ottawa’s light rail transit system saw some sharp words from the train manufacturer.
Emergency crews were on scene after a pedestrian was struck by a train late Wednesday afternoon in east Chatham.
Shawn Lippert received a scary call Monday morning. “I got a guy on the other end and said, ‘Hi this is Enwin. We're giving you a courtesy call.’” Lippert was told his Scareshouse Windsor business account was in arrears and service was about to be cut off.
'Is your urgency an emergency?': Windsor-Essex hospital officials appeal to public to reduce hospital and EMS wait times
With the hospital system in Windsor-Essex continuing to operate under tremendous pressure, healthcare leaders are asking residents to reserve calling 911 for emergency situations only, and to seek alternate care for non-medical emergencies.
Farmers in southern Ontario say they are fed up with a selfie fad that has caused thousands of dollars in damages.
School buses may be parked for the summer, but come fall, they will be equipped with a new lighting system to catch drivers' attention.
Strawberry pickers at Barrie Hill Farms saw more than fresh berries when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited.
A person has been taken to hospital with serious injuries following a shooting in Halifax Wednesday night.
The ex-boyfriend of Cassidy Bernard has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for manslaughter and a consecutive three years for child abandonment in connection with the young mother's death.
Families of victims of the Nova Scotia mass shooting are considering whether to continue participating in the public inquiry into the tragedy because key witnesses are being shielded from cross-examination.
Ward 2 councillor Jennifer Wyness asked council to consider referring veteran colleague Gian-Carlo Carra's disclosure investigation findings to both the minister and police for further review.
Calgary drivers might be asking why the price of gasoline is more expensive in their energy rich province where oil is refined and extracted than in Ontario, but one retail expert claims to have the answer.
City officials have announced two more downtown buildings that will see vacant office space repurposed into residential housing.
A political breakup at Winnipeg City Hall is creating intrigue in a council race.
A community organization is proposing a network of cameras in an effort to bolster safety throughout the area.
Residents in a southern Manitoba town are asking questions as to why they are facing a summer with no emergency room.
The large logs that have lined the water’s edge at many Vancouver beaches have been a favourite lounging spot for sun worshipers for over 50 years.
Health professionals are hoping the rollout of the pending COVID-19 vaccine for children under five will have better uptake than the one approved for children aged five to 11.
Homicide investigators have shared the identity of the man killed in a brazen afternoon shooting in a hotel parking lot in Surrey Monday afternoon.
Emergency crews were called to a Mill Woods school on Wednesday after a security guard reportedly experienced irritation on their hands after finding a white powder.
Wade Stene, who admitted to kidnapping and sexually assaulting an eight-year-old Edmonton girl, was sentenced to 15.5 years behind bars Wednesday afternoon.
The City of Edmonton is moving ahead on a new bylaw aimed at reducing the number of single-use items, like plastic cutlery and bags, that end up in city landfills and on city streets.