By Sue Tiffin
One week after staff and students returned to in-person learning at schools, schools across Haliburton County were reporting absence rates of 16 to 58 per cent.
Since the new year, the Ministry of Education is no longer reporting on positive cases of COVID-19 in the staff and student population. Instead, as of Jan. 24, combined percentages of staff and student absences are being reported at ontario.ca/page/covid-19-school-closures-and-absenteeism. The absences could include those that are not related to COVID-19, including medical appointments or due to religious holidays.
In the Jan. 24 update, which shares information from the previous Friday, Jan. 21, Archie Stouffer Elementary School in Minden was reporting a 20.9 per cent rate of absence. Cardiff Elementary School had reported a 57.9 per cent rate of absence, while Wilberforce Elementary School had a 54.4 per cent rate of absence. In Haliburton, Stuart Baker Elementary School was reporting 20.5 per cent of staff and students being absent, and J.Douglas Hodgson had a 16.9 per cent rate of absence. Staff and students returned to in-person learning on Jan. 18 for the first time since the December break, after a Jan. 17 snow day due to inclement weather.
“Schools are monitoring this data closely and when a school is close to the 30 per cent threshold of absences due to illness, the board will work closely with our public health units to determine the next steps together,” reads the Trillium Lakelands District School Board website. “Should the number of illnesses (either in students or staff, or both) be too high to maintain a healthy and safe school, a class or entire school will move to remote learning temporarily. If there is a situation where there are multiple staff absences due to illness, or the inability to fill those absences with occasional teachers, the school may need to close for a short period of time and asynchronous learning (without a live teacher) will be available but no remote learning will be offered. This information will be communicated with the school community.”
As of Jan. 21, 16 of the 4,844 schools in Ontario, or 0.33 per cent, were closed due to what the government site lists as operational impacts of COVID-19, not regional closures in a local public health unit area or weather and power outages.
“Each day, the school principal, superintendent, and director of education are in communication with one another with respect to absences, particularly the number of individuals who are absent due to illness,” reads the TLDSB website. “If there are high levels of illnesses within a class, the superintendent and principal may jointly make the decision to move a class to remote learning for a short period of time. If a teacher is ill, the class will continue to be held in person at the school and a supply teacher will teach the class until the teacher is able to return. If the teacher is well but isolating due to a close contact, the class will continue to be held in person at the school and the class will receive instruction from their teacher who will join the class remotely. The class will be supervised.”
Data is current as of 2 p.m. the previous business day and is updated by 10:30 a.m. excluding weekends and public holidays.
All COVID-19 information and updates are available at tldsb.ca/covid19.