Ottawa families excited about return to classroom, but some wary of county’s new COVID-19 reporting plan

Grade 1 student Ella Babcock doesn’t hesitate when asked why she’s so excited to be going back to class next week.

“Because I can see my friends and person and I can really go out and see people from different classes,” she said.

The Ontario government has announced that childcare, primary and secondary school staff and students will receive two rapid tests when the school returns to face-to-face learning on Monday when they are symptomatic.

“The most important thing is that the kids are back in class with their teachers and their classmates, so we’re happy about the extra rapid tests,” said mom Jennifer Babcock. “Having extra tests is better than nothing. It gives parents a little extra relief when kids go back to personal learning.”

However, some are not comfortable with the county’s plans to go back to school.

“We want schools to be open, but we also need them to be safe,” said Cynthia Steeves, acting president of CUPE 2357, which represents thousands of educators. “We don’t understand why they downgraded the notifications and COVID reporting and all the impressions and things like that. It’s a dangerous precedent they’re setting.”

Uncertainty about changing reporting guidelines has led some Ottawa residents to take matters into their own hands. Christie Cowan, a nurse and parent, started an unofficial school self-reporting Facebook group where no names are posted, just dates and locations.

“Would I wish the city and the government still did this? Yes, absolutely,” she said. “Knowing that your child is negative or has been exposed can help the family make a risk assessment.”

The government said faster tests will be delivered once the government has supplies, and a further 1.2 million tests will be distributed during the week of January 24.

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