By Charlie Senack, Barrhaven Independent
COVID-19 cases throughout Ontario continue to rise at alarming rates, yet few reporting tools exist to show how bad the situation is.
Masks are no longer required in schools, and since the mandates were dropped, cases are on the incline. Organized sports teams, clubs and assemblies have also started up again, with Ontario’s education ministry saying they wanted more routine for students. Cohorting of students has also ended, meaning they are coming into contact with more individuals.
Because PCR testing is no longer readily available, school boards in Ottawa have stopped reporting the number of positive COVID-19 infections in their buildings. However the province does release absentee numbers for most schools in the community.
Reasons for staff and students not being in class don’t necessarily mean a COVID-19 diagnosis, and could be related to other reasons such as vacation, appointments, religious holiday, or another illness.
Some classes have also needed to close due to a lack of supply teachers available to take over when the main teacher is off. In the last month, the Ottawa Carleton District School Board said as many as four to 11 classes have been forced to close daily.
In Barrhaven, most schools seem to have an absentee rate of where from 13 to 19 per cent. Jockvale Public School, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and St. Patrick Elementary School, have absente rates over 20 per cent, among the highest in the city.
In Riverside South, the average is about the same, with St. Jerome, Steve MacLean, and Bernard-Grandmaître reporting over 20 per cent of their students and staff as absent.
Here is a look at the absentee rates at in Barrhaven and Riverside South Schools as of April 11, 2022:
- St. Mother Teresa High School: 14.9 per cent
- Longfields Davidson Heights High School: Not reported
- John McCrae High School: 19.8 per cent
- St. Joseph High School: 18.6 per cent
- École secondaire catholique Pierre-Savard: Not reported
- Cedarview Middle School: Not reported
- Jockvale Elementary School: 20.1 per cent
- Barrhaven Public School: 14.9 per cent
- Mary Honeywell Elementary School: 19.9 per cent
- Berrigan Elementary School: Not reported
- St. Luke Elementary School: 19.7 per cent
- Monsignor Paul Baxter Elementary School: Not reported
- École élémentaire catholique Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau: 15.1 per cent
- Adrienne Clarkson Elementary School: 18.4 per cent
- St. Andrew Elementary School: Not reported
- Farley Mowat Public School: 13.7 per cent
- Chapman Mills Public School: 14.2 per cent
- St. Emily Elementary School: 13.4 per cent
- Jean-Robert-Gauthier Elementary School: Not reported
- St. Cecilia Elementary School: 13.3 per cent
- Half Moon Bay Public School 16.7 per cent
- St. Benedict Elementary School: Not reported
- École élémentaire catholique Sainte-Kateri: 15.3 per cent
- St. Patrick Elementary School: 27.4 per cent
- St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Elementary School: 24.4 per cent
- Michaelle Jean Public School: 13.5 per cent
- Ottawa Christian School: Not reported
- St. Francis Xavier High School: Not reported
- École élémentaire publique Michel-Dupuis: 12.4 per cent
- Jonathan-Pitre Elementary School: 18.8 per cent
- St. Jerome Elementary School: 23.6 per cent
- Steve MacLean Public School: 24.2 per cent
- École élémentaire catholique Bernard-Grandmaître: 21.6 per cent
- Vimy Ridge Public School: Not reported
Further Restrictions Needed?
With COVID-19 infections in Ottawa reaching levels never seen before, and wastewater samplings showing transmission of the virus off the charts, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson is calling for a return to mask mandates in certain settings.
Watson said he feels masks should be mandates against in grocery stores, pharmacies, schools, and on public transit — anywhere which is considered an essential service.
The Ottawa Carleton District School Board did put forward a motion to keep masks mandatory in their buildings, but it was shot down in a near tie vote.
Barrhaven/Knoxdale-Merivale trustee Donna Blackburn was among those who voted against the motion, because she felt a mask mandate by the school board couldn’t be enforced. She believed it was not a decision for trustees to decide.
A similar motion will be introduced during a board meeting on Tuesday. Blackburn tells the Barrhaven Independent she will again be voting against it.
During a press conference on April 11, the province’s top health expert, Dr. Kieran Moore, said while he “strongly recommends” mask use for indoor settings, mandates won’t be coming back.
Remaining settings where masks are required such as on public transit, health care settings, long-term care homes, and retirement homes, are supposed to see the mandates lifted at the end of the month. Dr. Moore says they are still reviewing the data to see if that will still happen or not.
Watson says even if the process decided to do away with remaining health and safety precautions, he’s asking city staff to see if they can implement their own mandatory mask policy for on OC Transpo buses and the LRT.
The Barrhaven Independent has reached out to Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s Chief Medical Officer of Health for comment multiple times, but was unavailable.
Etches previously told various other media outlets that she was in constant communication with the province over restrictions, and if any should make a comeback.
Ottawa’s Mayor also says he and Etches are looking at “different options” for restrictions if case counts continue to climb.