MONTREAL -- Montreal teachers are the ones being tested beginning next week, as researchers from an immunity task force seek to determine how many of them have had COVID-19.

It's part of a project in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia to help inform prevention strategies in neighbourhoods, schools and daycares across Canada.

Locally, the study will build on an existing project looking at the spread of the novel coronavirus in children in four Montreal neighbourhoods: Beaconsfield, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Montreal North, and the Plateau.

It will also delve into teachers' and daycare workers' mental health.

School and daycare staff from those four neighbourhoods are invited to join the study, named EnCORE. Recruitment begins Wednesday, March 10.

While the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is released daily, the true number of how many people in Canada have been infected can't be known without widespread surveillance testing.

"Although daycare and school staff may have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 in their work settings, we don't have much data on how many school staff have had asymptomatic infections, meaning they had no symptoms but potentially could transmit the virus," said Dr. Catherine Hankins, co-chair of the task force.

School personnel wishing to participate can visit to register. They will be asked to complete an online questionnaire on health, socio-demographics, COVID-19 prevention practices, and mental and emotional health.

Heidi Yetman, president of the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers representing about 8,000 teachers in the province's English sector, is in favour of the data collection.

"I really feel that teachers have been put in harm's way. I think teachers are the ones that are exposed among all workers more than any other worker. So for me, data is power. And if we can collect some data to show that teachers are actually in difficult situations, I think that will be good for them my hope, in the long run."

Yetman said a study into mental health in this sector is also critical.

"It's something that we should be really concerned about," she said.

- With files from The Canadian Press