Quebec parents, teachers and school boards are reporting their own COVID-19 cases due to lack of government data
Frustrated with the lack of data around COVID-19 cases in Quebec schools right now, one English board has decided to take matters into its own hands.
The Lester B. Pearson School Board, on Montreal's West Island, wrote a memo to parents last week saying it would be publishing information on its private portal on COVID-related school absences.
This could include positive at-home rapid tests, kids with COVID-19 symptoms, or families at home in isolation after an exposure or case.
These daily absence numbers are being posted on the board's private portal every day at 4 p.m. so that parents can log in and monitor the COVID-19 situation in their child's class.
The board decided to go this route after the province announced in late December that it would no longer be providing PCR tests to most of the population.
Quebec students do have better access to rapid tests, however, than many others in the province, since each student has been given at least one take-home kit of five tests (children are supposed to be getting another box this month, though not all schools have received them yet).
The results so far? The school board says absences so far show an infection rate of about five to seven per cent.
OTHER CROWD-SOURCING UNDERWAY
Citizen reporting has never been more popular -- COVID Écoles Quebec, the website run by Montreal father Olivier Drouin, has also been collecting crowd-sourced info on school-related infections since Dec. 26, taking rapid tests as the basis of information.
Now that official tests are out of reach for most, even the government is resorting to similar methods. It has asked French school service centres to report COVID-related absences and says it will publish the data soon.
Health Minister Christian Dubé said at the end of December, and again earlier this month, that there will be a government-run platform where people can voluntarily report test results -- though it hasn't happened yet.
The tactic is not only being extended to at-home nose swabs. Drouin is also collecting hundreds of classroom air quality reports from teachers, after asking for them to tell him what classroom CO2 monitors say.
On average, Drouin says, more than 40 per cent of those results are so far showing levels far above the acceptable air quality results by the government's own standards.
For those classrooms, opening windows an option -- but less so in winter, for the sake of kids and teachers. In Quebec, if classrooms drop below 20 degrees, teachers legally have the right to refuse to work.
'VERY FEW' TEACHER ABSENCES - BUT PARENTS DID HELP
The government maintained Monday, nearly a week after children returned to in-person class, that the COVID-19 situation is well under control despite the lack of official data.
The province had prepared people to expect widespread absences and even that parents might need to help supervise classes.
nothing approaching a systemwide breakdown has happened so far, said Minister of Education Jean-Francois Roberge on the sidelines of a press conference.
However, in a few cases, parents did come and lend a hand in class, as called for in those contingency plans, Roberge said.
They were present as group supervisors while the teacher gave her or his lessons from home virtually.
"Very, very few" or "no" school schedules have been interrupted due to teachers being absent due to COVID-19, said Roberge.
He explained that he's been getting a daily "snapshot" report on the situation at both public and private schools.
"I am told that so far there is very, very little -- really marginal or no break -- in service. It is therefore still a great success after a week of returning to class," he said.
According to the information he had on hand, which he said still needs to be verified, no class or school was closed as of last week because of the virus.
However, Roberge could not specify how much absenteeism there has been among students. This data should be available "very, very soon," he promised.
--With files from The Canadian Press
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