Each morning that my daughter and my son, who is in Grade 7, do physically go to school, they complete an online Covid-19 screening, verifying that they don’t have any coronavirus symptoms before arriving. If they do have symptoms, they are expected to stay home and, in most cases, get tested. Whenever a student tests positive, the public health unit swoops into the school to both contain the virus and investigate its spread, through testing and contact tracing, according to Dr. Dubey.
So far, she said, her office’s data shows that most children are infected at home, not at school.
“Schools are actually still a safer place for children to be,” Dr. Dubey said, noting that the positivity rate among Toronto’s teenagers is 7.5 percent — higher than the rate seen in schools.
She added: “If kids are not in school, they are going to be in the community more — at play dates, or the like, where Covid spreads. That’s part of the balance. At least in a school setting, they are socializing and getting an education, and it’s ‘controlled.’”
Many parents are not convinced. In Toronto, the percentage of children opting for online learning jumped to 33 percent in late October from 26 percent at the beginning of the school year, according to figures from the Toronto District School Board. In the suburbs of Mississauga and Brampton, the shift was even more pronounced, with nearly half of public elementary school students now attending classes virtually, according to the Canadian Press wire service.
“Many, many, many families don’t have confidence in the plan put in place by this government,” said Kelly Iggers, a mother and teacher at an elementary school in Toronto who amassed more than 270,000 signatures on a petition demanding that the government reduce class sizes, which did not happen. “At this point, only a very small proportion of children are getting tested. We just don’t know how many cases are out there.”