Jan 12, 2022

By Christine Ross

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Ontario parents will only be notified about a potential COVID-19 outbreak in a school when 30% of students and staff are absent.

This new measure wasannounced by Education Minister Stephen Lecce who also says schools will only close when there are significant staff absences that cannot be filled.

“Staff and students will receive two tests each as initial supply with over 3.9 million rapid tests shipped to schools as we speak ready for ready for January 17th,” said Lecce.

School based vaccine clinics will begin with emphasis on ages 5-11. Only 47% of them have first dose.

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer says Omicron is more transmissible but less virulent than Delta, which is why the province is changing its education strategy.

Dr. Keiran Moore says the new school approach is about “empowering” parents and students by giving every student rapid tests when they return to class on Monday.

“Empowerment means parents have the test in their home, can perform it in their home, and can make the diagnosis in their home with greater convenience, less going to assessment centres and they should be aware that schools aren’t necessarily multipliers of infection, they reflect the community.”

Opposition Leader Andrew Horwath took issue with the theme of ’empowering parents’ at Wednesday’s education announcement.

“Not letting parents know when there are outbreaks in schools, when their kids are coming down with COVID-19 or teachers or staff, not having any of that outbreak information is now empowering for parents, is makes no sense to me.”

But she was pleased to see the province plans to offer vaccines to children in schools, with parental supervision.

Principals will monitor absenteeism and notify local public health units only when it reaches 30 percent in a school but it won’t necessarily trigger a school closure.

The education minister also highlighted extra school safety measures that include 10 million N-95 masks, 4 million 3-ply masks and an additional 3-thousand HEPA filters.

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