BC School Districts Reluctant to Share Attendance Rates on Day One Back

In Surrey, absenteeism varied by school and the district average was about four percent higher than early December 2021

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Several major school districts in Metro Vancouver would not release attendance figures for the first day of in-person class on Monday after a week of delay for most children due to increasing COVID-19 cases.

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Last week, provincial Education Secretary Jennifer Whiteside said schools would compare current attendance rates with previous years to determine whether public health officials should further investigate the impact of COVID on classrooms.

Post media asked the largest school districts about their turnout on Monday.

In Surrey, absenteeism varied by school, with the district average about four percent higher than in early December, Surrey schools spokesman Ritinder Matthew said.

She said that “staff absenteeism was slightly higher, but nothing out of the ordinary. We are closely monitoring the situation at each school on a daily basis so that our district can plan accordingly.”

The Vancouver School Board said all schools were staffed to welcome students back to face-to-face learning, but it had no student attendance figures.

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The Burnaby School Board also declined to release attendance figures.

Attendance figures from the first day of school, and even for later this week, may not say much, said a former high school principal.

“It’s likely to be a modest turnout,” said Darren Danyluk, president of the BC Principals’ and Vice-Principals’ Association. “It wouldn’t be a song I would rely on as a foundation to build on. Later this week, and even early next week, I think we’ll get going again.”

Danyluk checked in with a colleague who noted that “turnout was lower than he expected, and he thinks it’s due to people’s caution.”

There is a gap between parents who are confident of sending their kids back to school and others who say they just want to wait a week to see how things are going, Danyluk said.

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Stephanie Higginson, president of the BC School Trustees Association, said there have been reports of higher than average absenteeism rates at some Domestic schools, while most other areas are seeing relatively normal numbers.

Even after the first few weeks, there would be no set rate or percentage of absenteeism that would cause a school closure, Danyluk explained.

“There’s a need for (some) that’s very concrete,” Danyluk said, but added that while the official guideline is a 10 percent drop in attendance threshold, “in practice I can tell you that school leaders, along with their district leaders, they will get a sense of what is typical or atypical as some come in after the morning visit.

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“We debated what that would look like, that ‘activity signal’ (which requires action). Would it be an entire (school) population? And that short answer is, yes, it could be the entire population. But they also asked us to be more detailed than that and to look at the numbers. For example, do we have a particular bump in absenteeism with our Grade 9’s? If there’s a spike there, maybe that’s an activity signal for that grade.”

The Department of Education said that in addition to school attendance potentially being 10 percent lower than previous years, there could be other scenarios that could prompt a school to reach out to health officials even if fewer than 75 percent of students are in a class. .

For smaller schools with fewer than 100 pupils, where large swings in absenteeism can be due to a small number of pupils absent, schools should contact public health if they determine that an unusual number of pupils are absent due to illness of more than 100 pupils. than two to three days.

jlee-young@postmedia.com

— with file from Canadian Press

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