20% absence rates quadrupled in Hamilton schools last week


Published April 11, 2022 at 10:23 pm

From Monday to Friday of last week, the number of public schools in Hamilton that reported a 20 per cent absence rate quadrupled.

The jump came during the first week that masks were optional in all four school boards in the city, and while most COVID-19 monitoring indicators are trending upward. The province’s reporting method does not involve notifying how many absences within a particular school’s population are due to COVID-19, but it also may not reflect whether an infected person might have come to school. Screening for symptoms is voluntary.

Last Friday (April 8), per ontario.ca, 48 schools in Hamilton reported an absence rate of 20 per cent of higher. Mountview Junior Public School on the west Mountain had a city-worst 34.2 absence rate. Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s 27.3 rate topped schools in the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic board (HWCDSB).

Friday, April 8 Total Over 10% Over 15% Over 20% Highest
Hamilton public (HWDSB) 91 90 79 39 34.2
Hamiton Catholic (HWCDSB) 40 38 27 9 27.3
CS Viamonde (Fr. Public) 2 2 1 0 16.7
CSC MonAvenir (Fr. Catholic) 4 4 2 0 16.4
137 134 109 48 34.2

Four days earlier (April 4), 11 schools were in the 20s. And that was while five more schools (142, compared to 137 on Friday) uploaded data to the province.

Monday, April 4 Total Over 10% Over 15% Over 20% Highest
Hamilton public (HWDSB) 91 86 46 10 30.9
Hamiton Catholic (HWCDSB) 45 41 16 1 23.8
CS Viamonde (Fr. Public) 2 2 1 0 15.5
CSC MonAvenir (Fr. Catholic) 4 3 1 0 16.4
TOTAL 142 132 64 11 30.9

The number of schools that crossed the 15 per cent threshold increased from 64 last Monday to 109 on Friday. Percentage-wise, that is a jump from 45% to almost 80%.

Ten schools were in single digits for absence rates last Monday, not including adult education centres. Just three were still in single digits on Friday.

The Hamilton-Wentworth public board (HWDSB) has generally higher absence rates than schools in the Catholic board. On Monday night, HWDSB trustees voted to write to Hamilton Public Health Services and the Ontario Ministry of Education to request the return of mandatory masking.

Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic board went from having one school out of 45 above 20 per cent on April 4, to having nine out of 40 four days later.

Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore, who made his first media appearance in 25 days on Monday, said he does not believe schools need to re-institute masking during what he termed the sixth wave of COVID-19.

Studies from the U.S., where masks have been optional in schools for much longer than in Canada, have shown masking reduces in-school tranmission of COVID-19 by some 72 per cent.

Long COVID risks

A risk-assessment report from Public Health Ontario that was published last Friday also said it can be expected that the number of infected children who experience severe disease will likely increase. While each dose of vaccine against COVID-19 enhances protection from severer outcomes, the report refuted the idea the the BA.2 variant is milder. It states there is “no evidence to suggest BA.2 (variant) infections will not cause PACs (post-acute COVID-19 syndrome) in some individuals.”

Ontario children aged 5 to 11 also have the third-lowest full-vaccination rate (two doses) in Canada.

“With expected increased infections among children associated with increased transmissibility of BA.2, removal of public health measures, and limited vaccine eligibility and two-dose coverage in children less than 12 years, the number of children with severe disease is likely to increase. This may impact pediatric hospital and intensive care unit (ICU) capacity, and also lead to further disruption to in-person learning in Ontario,” the PHO report reads.

In the meantime, seven schools in Hamilton had more than one-quarter of their population absent last Friday.

April 8 Board Absence
Mountview Jr Public 34.2
Cathy Wever Public 31.4
Richard Beasley Jr Public 28.6
Hillcrest Public 28.2
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic 27.3
Queen Mary Public 27.2
St. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic 26.2
St. Lawrence Catholic 24.8
Strathcona Jr Public 24.8
Chedoke Md S Public 24.7
Mount Hope Public 24.7
Viola Desmond Public 24.7
Millgrove Public 24.6
St. John Henry Newman SS Catholic 24.2
Franklin Road Public 24.1
Prince of Wales Public 24.0
Westdale SS Public 24.0
Westwood Jr Public 23.9
Bennetto Public 23.8
St. Clare of Assisi Catholic 23.8
Cecil B Stirling Public 23.7
Cootes Paradise Public 23.6
Sir Winston Churchill SS Public 23.2
Viscount Montgomery Public 22.8
Ray Lewis (Elem) Public 22.6
Sherwood SS Public 22.6
St. Martin of Tours Catholic 22.3
Collegiate Avenue Public 22.4
Ryerson Md Public 22.4
Glendale SS Public 22.2
Templemead Public 22.0
Central Jr Public 21.8
Dr. J. Edgar Davey Public 21.8
Gatestone E PS Public 21.6
Bellmoore Public 21.5
Lawfield Public 21.3
St. Agnes Catholic 21.3
St. Eugene Catholic 21.2
Adelaide Hoodless Public 21.2
James MacDonald Public 21.2
Shannen Koostachin Public 21.1
Sir Wilfrid Laurier Public 20.8
St. Ann (Ancaster) Catholic 20.8
Buchanan Park Public 20.7
R A Riddell Public 20.7
Lisgar Jr Public 20.3
Huntington Park Jr Public 20.1
Winona Elementary Public 20.0
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