Absenteeism due to COVID-19 | “One student comes back, another leaves”

Very few classes or schools are currently closed due to COVID-19, but data from Quebec that only 2% of students are absent because they are isolated at home raises some eyebrows. In some classes, on certain days, we approach 60% absenteeism.

Posted at 5:00 a.m.

Marie-Eve Morasse

Marie-Eve Morasse
The Press

At the Syndicat de l’enseignement de la region de Vaudreuil (SERV), teachers reported last week that the proportion of students absent from their class was close to 60%, the threshold set by the Ministry of Education to close a class.

“There were a lot of sick students, but parents are only informed if the class closes,” recalls Véronique Lefebvre, president of this union. She qualifies the situation as “of omerta”.

How was the rate of 60% of isolated students set to close a class? In interview at Everybody talks about itSunday, the director of public health, Luc Boileau, explained that it was in the context of the Omicron variant that it “took this form”.

“We don’t end up with a lot of classes that are closed, it’s marginal,” he said.

This is so because “everything has been calculated so that classes no longer close”, writes a preschool teacher on social networks, who says she saw 11 of her students, out of 18, absent themselves last week.

According to the Ministry of Education, as of January 21, 2% of students and 1% of teachers were absent due to COVID-19.

In reaction to the text of a secondary school teacher published in The Press at the end of the week, which accused the Minister of Education, Jean-François Roberge, of putting forward figures on absenteeism which make him “lose credibility”, several teachers reported percentages of absent students much higher brought up in their groups.

The duration of isolation for families in which a member has tested positive for COVID-19 is a minimum of five days. “One student comes back, another leaves,” illustrates a teacher.

The government’s estimate is “slightly conservative”, they say to the Quebec Federation of School Directors.

At the Montreal school service centre, this rate was indeed a little higher. As of January 25, there were 4% of elementary school students in isolation. Among high school students, it was 1.2%.

This is also what we observe at the Federation of Private Education Establishments, where we are talking about an absenteeism rate among students of around 2 or 3%, which can go up to 4% in primary school. .

“It’s pretty much the equivalent of what you find when there’s a big flu, or gastro. For this time of year, it’s not very different from what we usually see, ”says its spokesperson Geneviève Beauvais. She observes that absences are more marked in certain schools and in certain classes, for example in kindergarten, where the mask is not worn.

Data that is waiting

The Ministry of Education could not provide more precise data to The Press, Monday. “Information will be made available on a bi-weekly basis. The government is looking at the possibilities as to how to make them accessible,” we were told.

Several school service centers did not respond to our request to obtain the absenteeism rate of their students and staff.

At the English-Montreal school board, they say that they do not give these figures, but that “in order to allay the concerns of certain parents”, they have chosen to publish the number of cases identified per class on a daily basis on a web page to which only parents have access.

Learn more

  • 96,
    Number of classes that were in distance learning as of January 25. Two schools were closed.

    Source: Ministry of Education

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