Waterloo Region school boards to start doing asymptomatic COVID-19 testing starting Monday, UGDSB still waiting for details
KITCHENER -- The race is on to get enhanced COVID-19 testing ready for schools.
Meetings are scheduled for Thursday afternoon to get an asymptomatic testing plan in place.
The minister of education wants expanded testing in schools starting next week, but a memo that went out Tuesday made that plan mandatory.
That's left Waterloo Region's school boards and public health unit just five days to figure out the details.
The new rules mean that school boards will have to test five per cent of their schools and at least two per cent of students per week.
Waterloo Region District School Board will have to test six schools per week. Waterloo Catholic District School Board will have to test two.
The local school boards will be meeting with public health officials on Thursday afternoon to determine how to roll the plan out.
The process frustrates local teachers' unions.
"We've been calling for this for six months now," said Greg Weiler with Waterloo Region ETFO.
Rob Gascho with Waterloo Region OSSTF said the rollout is going to be "very slow."
"It's going to be very spread out. Quite frankly, I don't know how this is going to even be functioning by Monday."
As for Waterloo Region OECTA, Patrick Etmanski said that he thinks that in-school testing is "way behind."
Other public health units in the province have already rolled out some type of school testing.
Sudbury already has mobile clinics at three schools, while 250 students in Ottawa were tested before in-class learning. In Toronto, voluntary saliva tests are being offered in the Lawrence Heights area to keep ahead of the virus.
So far, Waterloo Region and Guelph have been offering pharmacy testing for staff.
There was a closed-door meeting on Thursday afternoon for public health to work on a plan with local school boards.
"I think it's fair to say it will be close to early next week," WCDSB Director of Education Loretta Notten said. "We have a little bit of a better picture, but I think things are still coming into focus, is a fair way to put it."
The province said it has the capacity to process 50,000 school COVID-19 tests a week. There are 2 million students in Ontario, meaning it could take close to a year to test them all.
Infection control epidemiologist Colin Furness says implementing a new plan for testing in schools will take too long in the battle against new and highly contagious COVID-19 variants.
A spokesperson for the WRDSB said they don't have any information to share at this time.
Both school boards said they'll share details with the public once families have been informed.
SCHOOLS TESTED PER WEEK
At five per cent each, here is the number of schools that the province expects local boards to test weekly:
- Waterloo Region District School Board: six
- Waterloo Catholic District School Board: two
- Upper Grand District School Board: four
- Wellington Catholic District School Board: one
- Grand Erie District School Board: three
- Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board: two
- Avon Maitland District School Board: two
- Huron-Perth Catholic District School Board: one
GUELPH AREA SCHOOLS WON'T START TESTING MONDAY
On Thursday night, Upper Grand District School Board officials told CTV Kitchener that, unlike Waterloo Region schools, their testing plan will not be ready to start on Monday.
A spokesperson for UGDSB says they are still waiting on details from the Ministry of Education about the resources that will be provided to conduct the testing.
The board adds that they're working with the Wellington Catholic board to see if there's an opportunity to coordinate their approach.