The year of crowd-sourcing: Quebec parents, teachers and school boards report their own data on COVID-19

Frustrated by the lack of data on COVID-19 cases in Quebec schools right now, an English-speaking council has decided to take matters into its own hands.

The Lester B. Pearson School Board in Montreal’s West Island wrote a note to parents last week saying it would post information on its private portal about COVID-related school absences.

This could include positive rapid home tests, children showing symptoms of COVID-19, or families at home in isolation after an exposure or case.

These daily absentee numbers are posted on the board’s private portal every day at 4 p.m. so parents can log in and track the COVID-19 situation in their child’s classroom.

The council decided to go this route after the province announced in late December that it would no longer provide PCR tests to most of the population.

Students in Quebec, however, have better access to rapid tests than many others in the province, as each student received at least a five-test take-out kit (children are supposed to receive another box this month, but not all schools have received them yet).

The results so far? Lester B Pearson’s board says his absences so far show an infection rate of around five to seven per cent.

OTHER CROWD-SOURCING IN PROGRESS

Citizen reports have never been more popular – COVID Écoles Québec, the website run by Montreal father Olivier Drouin, has also been collecting information on school-related infections since December 26, taking rapid tests as a basis of information.

Now that official testing is out of reach for most, even the government is resorting to similar methods. He has asked French school service centers to report COVID-related absences and says he will publish the data soon.

Health Minister Christian Dubé said in late December, and again earlier this month, that there will be a government-run platform where people can voluntarily report test results – although that has not happened yet.

The tactic is not only extended to home nasal swabs. Drouin also collects hundreds of classroom air quality reports from teachers, after asking them to tell him what classroom CO2 monitors are saying.

On average, Drouin says, more than 40% of those results so far show levels well above acceptable air quality results by the government’s own standards.

For these classrooms, opening the windows is an option, but less so in winter, for the benefit of children and teachers. In Quebec, if classrooms drop below 20 degrees, teachers have the legal right to refuse to work.

‘VERY LITTLE’ TEACHER ABSENCES – BUT PARENTS HELPED

The government maintained on Monday, nearly a week after children returned to classrooms in person, that the COVID-19 situation is well under control despite a lack of official data.

The province had prepared people to expect widespread absences and even that parents might need to help supervise classes.

nothing approaching a system-wide failure has occurred so far, Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge said on the sidelines of a news conference.

However, in a few cases, parents came to help out in the classroom, as required by those contingency plans, Roberge said.

They were present as group supervisors while the teacher virtually gave her lessons from home.

“Very, very few” or “no” school hours were disrupted due to teachers being absent due to COVID-19, Roberge said.

He explained that he receives a daily “snapshot” report on the situation in public and private schools.

“I’m told so far there’s been very, very little – really marginal or no disruption – in the service. So it’s still a big hit after a week back in class,” he said. -he declares.

According to the information he had, which he said has yet to be verified, no class or school has been closed since last week due to the virus.

However, Roberge could not specify the rate of absenteeism among students. This data should be available “very, very soon”, he promised.

–With files from The Canadian Press

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