The opening of schools across Quebec over the past couple of weeks was met with much trepidation from parents, as well as teachers and staff. The controversy around it prompted a group of parents to file legal action against the government, in hopes of obtaining a distance learning option for those who do not want to have their children physically present at school during the Covid-19 pandemic. Quebec’s school plan has been highly criticized as inadequate by many parents, teachers, doctors and even scientists. However, the government continues to insist the plan they have in place is working well and any outbreaks of the coronavirus will be minimal and contained.
To date, the outbreaks that have been made public include two positive cases at Polyvalente de Charlesbourg and one case at Ecole Jean-de-Brebeuf in Quebec City – with 81 students from the two schools being told on August 28th to isolate for 14 days. There has also been an outbreak at a high school in Deux-Montagnes, resulting in 20 teachers having to go into quarantine. But according to Olivier Drouin, a Montreal father who created a crowd-sourced website called ‘Covid Ecoles Quebec’ (to track schools with cases of Covid-19), the data the government released to date is far from the actual number of schools reporting cases. The website, that has received more than 100,000 views to date, shows a list and a map of the schools with cases he has been able to confirm – based on his standards and own basic verification process.
‘Minister Jean-Francois Roberge’s back-to-school plan will introduce several COVID outbreaks in our schools in Quebec. The purpose of this site is to quantify the collateral damage caused by the Roberge Plan. You can submit positive COVID cases in your schools whether you are a parent, teacher, service center worker, or citizen’ he writes on the website. *SEE BELOW FOR LINK.
He is the Vice-President of a technology firm providing high-tech human resources software and wrote in an email to CTV News that ‘It’s not an exhaustive list, and if the government started releasing its own numbers he would stop collecting his – but after losing some trust in official numbers, he would want to check first that they were doing a good job’. The names of 33 schools with at least one COVID-19 case each have been published so far and he says he has received hundreds of submissions in the last week from parents and other sources.
Not all are published, he told CTV, as sometimes information is missing or in many cases, he gets duplicate reports for the same case. The numbers he shows are not the number of cases, but rather the number of schools that have reported cases. Once he can confirm (to his standards), one case linked to a school, the school then goes on the list – and he verifies the information with a copy of the letters that schools send to all parents when an outbreak happens or he will check the media as some of the schools listed on his website have links to news articles. The map on the website shows where the schools are located – but it is important to note that when first looking at it, the numbers attached to the ‘pinpoint’ for each school are chronological to when he entered each school – meaning a pinpoint that shows ’32’ for example, means it was the 32nd school he found, not the number of cases reported there.
He is frustrated with how the government has been handling pandemic – especially their transparency around data. “Because the government fails to make this data available and accessible, it lacks transparency… people don’t trust the numbers reported every day, as there have been so many data reporting issues,” he said. He is not against kids going back to school, but wants more safety measures to be taken, including shrinking class sizes, improving ventilation, mandating masks in classes and giving more people the option of remote learning. In the meantime, the Quebec government has not yet indicated whether it will even consider releasing data on Covid-19 cases at schools. To submit information or follow his website go to: www.covidecolesquebec.org