COVID-19: Guelph public school board charting student and staff absence rates

With the return to in-person learning, Guelph’s public school board has begun a pilot project to collect and publish school absence rates among staff and students.

The Upper Grand District School Board said the data is meant to provide a sense of the impact of COVID-19 on schools now that positive cases will no longer be reported by public health.

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The province recently announced that local health units will no longer be reporting positive cases or conducting tracing for positive cases related to staff and students in schools.

“As a result, schools will no longer be providing notification when there is a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19,” the board said on its website.

The daily absence tracking pilot graph was launched this week, with students returning to the classroom. It is available on the board’s website.

The graph has a column that shows the total number of students enrolled in in-person learning at each school along with staff, including teachers, educational assistants, administration and support staff who are assigned to that site.

The other column shows absences compared to the average. This includes all students who are absent and have not reported a non-COVID reason for their absence. It also includes staff who are off for COVID related reasons.

The board said the average absence rate was calculated for each school based on attendance data from September 2021 to December 2021.

“This figure is used as a baseline to compare daily absences, so as to not overstate potential COVID-related absences,” the board said.

“For example, School A had an average daily absence rate of 10 per cent from September to December 2021. On Jan. 17, the school has an absence rate of 15 per cent. That number would be reported under this column would be a percentage point increase of five.”

The charts also indicate when a school is 30 per cent above the average absenteeism. The board said it would notify Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health when a school meets this threshold.

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As of Wednesday, nine schools have been flagged as being above 30 per cent.

It’s unclear how long the pilot program will last, but the board said it may evolve as required.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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