TLDSB director of education Wes Hahn said three classrooms across TLDSB schools have temporarily reverted back to online learning over the past week due to outbreaks of COVID-19.

“We want students to remain in school, but we’re looking at sudden spikes or abnormalities in high illnesses within a classroom. That’s a particular concern for us, because it could mean further spread of the virus within the whole building,” Hahn said.

Impacted students and staff will be required to isolate at home for a minimum of five days before returning to in-person learning, Hahn said. He would not divulge the location of the impacted classrooms.

With public health no longer conducting PCR testing and contact tracing at schools, Hahn said a new absence reporting tool has been made available to the public, to help the board track the number of absences board-wide.

Hahn addressed talk of a 30 per cent “absenteeism threshold” that has been used by public health previously for outbreak tracking and to suggest temporary site closures.

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“Once a school hits that mark, we are in direct contact with public health, but there’s more to it that just the absenteeism part … if we reach 30 per cent, that doesn’t mean we’re moving the school online or closing the school. A lot of those absences might be explained absences, where students are remaining home [at a parent’s discretion], taking a vacation, or doing something family oriented,” Hahn said. “We have to be careful that we don’t look at that 30 per cent mark and act too quickly.”

Hahn said he was actually encouraged by the COVID-19 numbers being reported by schools, saying there hasn’t been as many outbreaks since the return to in-person learning as he had anticipated.

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