While not all are because children are contracting the virus, a number of absences are tied to COVID-19.
“We had very grave concerns after we came back from March Break,” says Nigel Barriffe with Elementary Teachers of Toronto.
A couple of weeks out, Barriffe says many educators and students have fallen ill. It comes as the province recently made masking optional in schools.
“I’m speaking to many of my colleagues who are catching COVID,” he said.
“With (them) not in the school building, you now have the remaining staff trying to move mountains.”
He adds those that have withstood the virus so far have had to teach more students, while having less time to prepare.
Just how many are experiencing this situation remains unknown, as the province’s data does not include the number of absences tied to the virus.
What it does show is a number of Toronto schools reporting absence rates of more than 30 per cent. In one case, the Native Learning Centre East in Scarborough is reporting close to 60 per cent.
“The most important thing to keep in mind about absence reporting is that it’s just that: absences,” said Toronto District School Board spokesperson Ryan Bird.
“It doesn’t necessarily represent COVID numbers, so while it is one indicator, it’s not something that tells the full picture.”
While COVID is a suspect, some GTA teachers like Michael Krpan say there could be another large contributor.
“I’ve seen more absences as a result of anxiety and I’ve seen more issues with anxiety and mental health than there has been with the actual illness,” he said.
“Let people do what they think they need to do to be safe, as long as it keeps themselves personally safe, and not impose the fear or perceived safety among others.”
Although not mandatory by the province, the TDSB says it will begin reporting COVID cases to an entire school community, rather than following directives that say it’s only necessary to notify parents and staff of a particular class.
Currently, Ontario schools must notify their local public health unit when absences exceed 30 per cent.
Some educators are calling for a roundtable with the province to address how to keep schools safe now that safety measures like mask mandates are gone.
Ontario expands 4th COVID dose eligibility to 60+ and First Nations starting April 7
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