Canada

Ottawa schools close temporarily due to teacher shortages as COVID-19 cases rise

More teachers are in self-isolation at a time when some boards in COVID-19 hot spots have experienced a shortage of occasional teachers.

Article content

Pleasant Park Public School was closed for a day this week because of COVID-19, but the problem was not just that four students had contracted the virus.

Sixteen staff who had been in close contact with the students were sent home to self-isolate, leaving administrators unable to find replacements quickly enough to keep the school open on Monday.

Staff shortages also caused Manor Park PS to shift students on Wednesday to working online at home for the rest of this week. At Hopewell Avenue PS, four classes are closed through March 29 as the school tries to find occasional teachers to fill in.

It’s another ripple effect caused by rising numbers of students and staff with COVID-19 as Ontario battles the pandemic’s third wave.

More teachers are in self-isolation at a time when some boards in COVID-19 hot spots have experienced a shortage of occasional teachers.

Of 43 schools Ontario reported as closed on Wednesday, 32 were not open because of “operational issues,” the Ministry of Education said.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Education Minister Stephen Lecce says changes have been made to help solve the problem. The number of days that retired teachers are allowed to fill in has been increased, and second-year students from faculties of education can receive temporary teaching certificates to work in schools. As of Monday, 540 temporary certificates had been issued, with another 2,300 applications pending, the ministry said.

However, the problem is not a simple one. Education unions have said some occasional teachers are reluctant to work during the pandemic.

And the number of students and staff with COVID-19 has been steadily rising provincially and in Ottawa, where students returned to in-person classes on Feb. 1.

As of Wednesday, there were about 146 active cases at the four Ottawa school boards. (The French public board had not yet updated its daily tally by early evening.) That was more than double the number from a month earlier. Two schools were closed and another six were partly closed.

Related News  Whalesbone group to open high-end steakhouse at former Fox & Feather location on Elgin
This shows the number of daily active COVID-19 cases by day at the four Ottawa-based school boards. Source: school board websites.
This shows the number of daily active COVID-19 cases by day at the four Ottawa-based school boards. Source: school board websites.
This shows the number of active cases of COVID-19 by school board. Source: school board websites. OCDSB: English public board. OCSB: English Catholic board. CECCE: French Catholic board. CEPEO: French public board.
This shows the number of active cases of COVID-19 by school board. Source: school board websites. OCDSB: English public board. OCSB: English Catholic board. CECCE: French Catholic board. CEPEO: French public board.

Some of the increase can be attributed to tougher symptom screening rules that have sent more children for testing.

But the rate of COVID-19 in Ottawa is also rising, and that is reflected among children, youth and in schools, Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health Vera Etches said during a media conference Wednesday.

How bad would things have to get before schools are closed again?

Dr. Irfan Dhalla, vice-president of Unity Health in Toronto, posted Wednesday that, with the rising numbers of COVID-19 patients in ICU, unless more severe public health measures are imposed soon, the province is “likely headed for another stay-at-home order and another round of school closures.”

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Lecce has emphasized that keeping schools open is a priority for the academic and mental health of students.

This week in the legislature, Lecce said he had consulted with the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, David Williams, as well as Etches and medical officers of health in Peel and Toronto. All of them remain confident that infection protocols in schools are working, helping keep students and staff safe from COVID-19, he said.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

“Schools have been safe places for learning, contrary to the alarmist rhetoric of the members opposite,” Lecce said. “The fact is that 99 per cent of schools are open today, while we deal with the variants of concern. Ninety-nine per cent of staff and students do not have an active case … We will continue to follow the facts and the science, keeping schools open in the province.”

Lecce’s statistics come with caveats.

While most students and staff don’t have COVID-19, neither do most Ontarians. Epidemiologists and the government’s colour-coded guide to pandemic restrictions use other indicators to assess the risk posed by the virus: the number of lab-confirmed cases by population; the percentage of tests that are positive; and the reproduction rate, a measure of how quickly the virus spreads.

Related News  Mark Carney to head ESG investing at Brookfield Asset Management

In addition, the actual prevalence of the virus in the community or among students and staff at schools is unknown, but is significantly higher than the number of lab-confirmed cases. Not everyone with COVID-19 gets tested. About one-third of children with the virus don’t display symptoms.

As of Wednesday, 0.89 per cent of the province’s 4,828 schools were closed, according to the provincial update update.

However, that did not include schools in the Thunder Bay and Sudbury regions, where students switched to learning at home in mid-March because of soaring community transmission. (Some of those schools remain open for in-person learning for a limited number of special-education students who can’t learn online.)

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

The government’s critics, including NDP MPP Marit Stiles, the critic for education, point out that 20 per cent of Ontario schools have at least one active case of COVID-19.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

The Ontario government has not specified any benchmarks that would trigger school closures. Both Lecce and Premier Doug Ford have said they will listen to advice from the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

The province temporarily shifted all students to remote schooling at home in January because of a spike in COVID-19 cases over the Christmas holidays.

Local medical officers of health can also close schools.

Franco-Cité school on Smyth Road, one of the Ottawa-area schools partially closed because of COVID-19 this week.
Franco-Cité school on Smyth Road, one of the Ottawa-area schools partially closed because of COVID-19 this week. Photo by Errol McGihon /Postmedia

Lecce says additional measures put in place when students returned to in-person learning will help further protect schools as the variants spread.

They include a tougher daily symptom quiz to keep more children with minor symptoms away from school, an extension of mandatory masks to include students in kindergarten to Grade 3 and a program of COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic students and staff.

The testing program has rolled out slowly, with the last weekly report showing just under 20 per cent of the weekly target of 50,000 tests had been conducted.

Related News  Westboro Bus Crash: Judge to consider closing arguments in trial of Aissatou Diallo

The rollout of vaccines won’t come quickly enough to provide immediate protection for educators, who are on the Ontario schedule for first shots in June. (Although people over 60, those who have health conditions putting them at risk, and people in hot-spot communities are eligible for vaccines in April and May, which would include some educators.)

COVID-19 in Ottawa schools

Cases: As of Wednesday, there were about 146 active cases of COVID-19 at Ottawa’s four school boards. (The French public board had not yet updated its daily tally by Wednesday evening.)  The numbers have risen steadily risen since students returned to in-person learning on Feb. 1, but are still below the peak in mid-October, when the number of active cases hovered around 200.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Closures: Two schools at Ottawa boards are closed due to COVID-19 — Jonathan Pitre elementary, which has 13 cases associated with an outbreak in which variants of concern are suspected, and Notre-Dame Academy in Kemptville, which, according to the French Catholic school board, has 13 active cases and two resolved cases. In addition, six schools are partially closed, according to school board websites — Horizon-Jeunesse, Arc-en-Ciel, Franco-Cîté, Pierre Savard, Henry Larsen and Vincent Massey.

Jonathan-Pitre Catholic Elementary School has been closed because a COVID-19 outbreak.
Jonathan-Pitre Catholic Elementary School has been closed because a COVID-19 outbreak. Photo by Errol McGihon /Postmedia

Outbreaks: Ottawa Public Health lists nine schools currently in outbreak in the city, which indicates that officials believe transmission happened at school:

Jonathan Pitre elementary: 13 cases

Séraphin-Marion elementary: 6 cases

Vincent Massey elementary: 5 cases

Franco-Cîté secondary: 4 cases

Pierre-Savard secondary: 3 cases

Gisèle-Lalonde elementary: 3 cases

Arc-en-Ciel elementary: 2 cases

Horizon-Jeunesse elementary: 2 cases

Henry Larsen elementary: 2 cases

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.


For more updates check below links and stay updated with News AKMI.
Education News || Politics News || Journal News || Daily Local News || Lifetime Fitness || Sports News || Automotive News

Source

Tags
Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button

usa news wall today prime news newso time news post wall

Close