MONTREAL (CityNews) – Students across Quebec are back in school and some parents are taking to a parent-run COVID-19 website to find out how safe their children really are.
“I don’t look everywhere for information, I expect the government would inform us as parents saying, ‘okay this and this school has COVID-19 cases,’” says Montreal father Eric Lee.
One father says he received a letter stating a positive case at his children’s school way too late.
“After I send my kids to school then I receive email at 9 a.m. from the school saying ‘by the way, your school has a COVID-19 case confirmed,'” explained Lee.
Lee’s children attend École des Grands-Êtres in Montreal’s Saint Laurent borough. He says the school sent a text blast on Sunday night saying an important email was coming. The school board taking care of the school says parents were informed minutes later, but Lee says he was informed the next morning.
“Why is there a delay sending me this email? Because if I received the email last night I could’ve changed my mind I could’ve not send my kids to school.”
Lee says he came across the website COVID Écoles Québec — a site where cases of COVID-19 at about two dozen Quebec schools were being documented–through a parent network.
Lee said he had feared the education ministry wasn’t being upfront about the situation as Quebec students returned to school.
That’s why Olivier Drouin created the website–for parents to observe and submit COVID-19 cases at their children’s school and see where they fall on a map.
“Everybody wants this information in real-time and what does it give them? It gives them a risk assessment for their particular community for their particular school,” explained Drouin.
“I understand that parents would like to be notified in real-time as to the fact that there is a case in school. Most of the time when you have that person and get that person out of school you still have three to four days before the next person becomes infectious,” said Dr. Caroline Quach, pediatric infectious diseases and medical microbiologist at CHU Sainte-Justine.
Quach says cases at schools aren’t actually acquired in school and stresses screening before entering the school is important.
Several schools in Quebec have already seen outbreaks.
Most recently 81 students in Quebec City were placed in isolation after three cases of COVID-19 were confirmed at two high schools. North of Montreal, four teachers at a high school tested positive, adding to another 20 teachers that are precautionary isolation.
In early August, Quebec’s education minister Jean Francois Roberge emphasized transparency and that if there were cases in a school parents would know.
“There was never anything in the May period during the pandemic that was pointing out the success or not of the back to school plan, outside the Montreal region,” said Drouin. “There were general statements from the government for them it was a huge success, but there was no data around it and months later we learn there were 41 cases. But as it was happening there was no tracking of this and still to this day it’s still the same thing.”
Quebec’s health and social services ministry told CityNews in a statement: “At this time, the department of health and social services has not yet released official data on outbreaks in school settings. Please note that in the interests of transparency to the public, the ministry has always made sure to disclose information surrounding the pandemic and will make sure to do so with regard to schools.”
For many parents, this isn’t enough.
“Anybody in the government is able to do what I did and if they do, I will gladly shut the site down. It’s only filling a void or gap in the current return to work plan and the promises we got for transparent communication,” said Drouin.