Ontario begins releasing school absenteeism data Monday

File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / dolgachov

A week after students returned to in-person learning at elementary and high schools across the province, parents will now be able to get a sense of the absenteeism rate.

As of Monday, the provincial government will begin posting information about school closures and staff and student absences to its website. The data will be updated every day at 10:30 a.m., excluding weekends and public holidays.

This is a clear shift from the former practice of reporting individual COVID-19 cases at each publicly funded school in the province.

The Ontario government informed school boards at the end of last year that it would no longer collect case numbers for staff and students. School boards were told of the change in a memo sent from the Ministry of Education during the winter break.

It was later announced that parents would be notified when the overall absentee rate at their child’s school reached 30 per cent. The new system of reporting covers all absences and not just those related to the virus.

The change has drawn criticism from opposition parties and parents who accuse the province of trying to hide COVID-19 numbers in schools. However, the province has defended its decision stating that it is instead putting an increased focus on improved ventilation and masking.

Ahead of the return to in-person learning on January 17, nearly 10 million N95 masks for teachers and staff and over four million three-ply masks for students were shipped to schools. Approximately 3,000 HEPA filter units were also deployed.