Toronto school board tries new virus-related sick leave plan

TDSB continues to try to figure out ways to prevent a major outbreak of the norovirus outbreak among its children, while trying to avoid having it overflow into the schools. The Toronto District School…

Toronto school board tries new virus-related sick leave plan

TDSB continues to try to figure out ways to prevent a major outbreak of the norovirus outbreak among its children, while trying to avoid having it overflow into the schools.

The Toronto District School Board is planning to delay one-day sick leave for 480 unvaccinated staff in an effort to prevent more elementary schools from closed this year due to norovirus. The board sent out a memo about the delay to staff this week, at the request of health officials. To minimize further outbreaks, staff will receive a $500 miss on their Nov. 16 sick leave to be paid out in October 2019.

“We will not have as much space in the schools to house students who are sick,” explained TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird.

A further delay in the 2014-2015 school year would not affect this year, he said. In that year, the TDSB provided nearly 80 per cent of school-based health clinics across the board for parent-provided sick leave.

The board will have to provide this back-up funding in case funding for clinics is cut by the government.

The TDSB and Toronto Public Health in London have been dealing with a serious norovirus outbreak at schools, hotels and daycares since July, affecting an estimated 800 people in the surrounding area, according to reports. Toronto Public Health has said that it only has “limited resources” to deal with the recent outbreak. The TDSB has offered general, non-clinical or retail sick leave for staff for over three decades, but recently put in place a new protocol to deal with the looming norovirus epidemic. Until January 2019, staff will only be given sick leave to go back to school if they have up to two days of sick leave. They will not be permitted one-day sick leave for minor cases of illness in November 2018.

Ned Scharfenberger, the director of communicable disease control and emergency preparedness for TDSB, said that the board will incur a $500-million economic impact from the norovirus outbreak. A school board report put together by the City of Toronto has identified that 5,500 staff have reported being ill with norovirus between July 2017 and August 2018. These staff then had to stay home for between one and three days.

In July, the Toronto Public Health was working to stem the spread of norovirus at an event hosted by the TDSB. Approximately 900 people were at the event at the Winspear Centre, where attendees had two options: take the warm drink supplied by the TDSB, or keep drinking the cold tea from the Kateri French Bakery. The TDSB subsequently blamed “a health risk for attendees”, for the poor outcome. It stated that “with 42 staff at this event contracted norovirus, including three staff contaminated at the counter counter, we estimate that 1,000-2,000 students were also infected through the spread of norovirus among those that were at the event.”

According to Scharfenberger, the tight financial situation has had a negative impact on preventing a second-degree disaster within the TDSB, a real tragedy with far-reaching consequences.

“We’re working extremely hard at minimizing other school closures,” Scharfenberger said.

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