20% absence rates in Hamilton schools more frequent than in Mississauga or Brampton


Published February 18, 2022 at 9:37 pm

Hamilton is just a couple coughing children away from having as many schools with a 20 per cent absence rate as Mississauga and Brampton — combined.

The two nearby cities have nearly twice as many schools that report overall staff and student absences to the Ontario government each day under the province’s new COVID-19 monitoring system, which recently replaced case reporting. On Thursday, the last reporting day before the Family Day weekend, nine Hamilton schools out of the 150 reporting said had 1-in-5 absence rate, or at least 20 per cent. There was a 10th school that reported 19.8 per cent.

Mississauga and Brampton had 10 schools above 20 per cent, out of 298 that report to the province. Three of those schools, though, are alternative-style schools that have programming tailored to students who need supports that a conventional classroom might not offer, or need a flexible school schedule because they also hold down a job.

The province’s monitoring system does not show whether staff or students are away due to COVID-19, which critics have said was the Ontario PC Party government’s intent. Over the past few weeks, school in the Hamilton public board (HWDSB) have reported higher absence rates than their Hamilton Catholic board (HWCDSB) counterparts, and east-end and lower-city schools also seem to be disproportionately represented.

This time around, Prince of Wales Elementary School, which is across the street from Tim Hortons Field in the east-end Stipley neighbourhood, said 25.2 of its school popoulation was away on Feb. 8.

Hillcrest Elementary School (23.7%) was next, followed by nearby Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School (22.9). The schools are only 2 km apart, and many families would have at least one child apiece attending each.

The fourth-highest absence rate is at Adelaide Hoodless (21.1), which is also in the east end. The highest absence rate in the Catholic board, and ninth-highest in the city, is 20.1 per cent at St. Eugene, which is also in the east end.

Here is the complete top 10:

School Board Absent
Prince of Wales E PS HWDSB 25.2
Hillcrest E PS HWDSB 23.7
Sir Winston Churchill SS HWDSB 22.9
Adelaide Hoodless PS HWDSB 21.1
Bennetto E S HWDSB 20.9
Dr. J. Edgar Davey E PS HWDSB 20.7
Richard Beasley Jr PS HWDSB 20.6
Cootes Paradise PS HWDSB 20.1
St. Eugene Catholic E S HWCDSB 20.1
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic E S HWCDSB 19.8

Hamilton was hit harder by the Omicron variant of COVID-19 than most areas of Southern Ontario. While the worst of the worst appears to be behind the city, both hospital networks have said the cumulative effects will last for some time. The city had 81 new cases on Friday.

Among children aged five to 11, 51 per cent have received their first dose of vaccine, and 27% have had a second dose. The first-dose coverage is a few percentage points behind Ontario’s uptake of 54.4%, which is lower than every other province in Canada except for Alberta. The second-dose coverage among younger Hamilton children is more or less in line with the provincewide rate of 27.7.

City of Hamilton COVID-19 operations manager Michelle Baird recently affirmed that Hamilton Public Health hopes to visit every school in the city by March Break in order to offer vaccines. There are 14 school days left before the week-long break.

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