Ontario’s decision to bring back rapid COVID-19 tests in private schools leaves parents angry and confused

The provincial government will no longer provide free rapid COVID-19 antigen tests to private schools for asymptomatic surveillance of students, leaving parents who have been calling for the measure to be rolled out to all schools confused and angry.

A spokesman for the Education Ministry said the private schools on Saturday night went against public health guidance and abused the system by planning to administer the tests to children. Several Toronto private schools developed rapid testing programs prior to the fall academic term to regularly screen students and staff for COVID-19.

Rapid antigen tests, which are funded by taxpayers and distributed to selected organizations through the provincial antigen detection program, they are only intended to be used by employees, the spokesperson said.

Parents questioned why the government-funded measure would not be implemented for students as another layer of protection, amid a fourth wave driven by the highly infectious Delta variant.

Anne Knight, a mother of two children who attend schools within the French Viamonde junta, called the government’s decision to “take back” evidence from private educational institutions as shortsighted.

“It was nice that private school kids had access to rapid tests,” Knight said. “When it comes to really managing the cost and logistical effort of Treating children in public schools the same way … all of a sudden it’s too much work and too much cost. “

Knight’s children are in kindergarten and kindergarten; both too young to be vaccinated.

“Our children are worth it and we must do what is necessary to keep them safe, to detect asymptomatic transmission early.”

Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer for health, said Thursday there is “no added value” to implementing rapid, asymptomatic antigen tests in schools, given generally low community infection rates. The tests would result in more false positives than true positives; People who test positive must undergo a confirmatory PCR test, followed by a period of quarantine, he explained.

“There may be a slight benefit from asymptomatic rapid antigen testing in school settings,” especially in high-risk communities, Moore said. He cited Windsor, which was registering around 100 cases per 100,000 people, as an example of where the province might consider rapid testing.

But at this time, the “cost” and “burden” of testing does not have a significant benefit in limiting the spread of the disease, and “cost is not an effective means of limiting the spread,” he said.

“We will use that tool as long as the community rates are high, but that is much higher than we are now,” Moore said.

Toronto mother Kate Dupuis said she was “puzzled” by the government’s decision to no longer provide testing to private schools, adding that more needs to be done to ensure children are safe.

“What we were asking for was the opposite. Leave it to the kids who have it, but add the rest of the kids, ”Dupuis said. “Now they are removing protections even from children who were protected in the first place. It’s honestly very confusing. “

Several private schools, including Branksome Hall, have partnered with the University of Toronto. Creative Destruction Lab Rapid Detection Consortium to administer the tests.

Janice Stein, who sits on the lab’s steering committee, told CP24 that private schools could access the test kits because “their regulatory environment is simpler.”

“It suggests that the reason private schools were chosen over public schools for this kind of scoping and assessment program is because, bureaucratically, it can be a little easier to work with private schools,” Dupuis said. Her children are in kindergarten and first grade on the Toronto District School Board.

“Parents right now are really worried. We are willing to try several different options to keep our children safe … It really feels like the carpet has been pulled from us, ”he added.

Natalie Black, mother of two Toronto District School Board boys in grades 1 and 3, said the decision was “a step in the wrong direction.”

“The message is that the government is not interested in preventing transmission in children and the subsequent impacts of that: children who get sick, children who miss school, children who face long-term health problems,” Black said. “To have these tools and give them to companies and not use them for children, I just don’t understand that decision at this point in the pandemic.”

The government should have extended the tests to all students rather than reversing them for some, he said.

“Parents are desperate to keep their children safe,” Black said, adding that some groups of parents are organizing to collect and distribute rapid tests to the student population.


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