The latest wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an increase of staff absenteeism at Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools. (File photo by The Canadian Press)

The latest wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an increase of staff absenteeism at Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools. (File photo by The Canadian Press)

‘It’s a little unnerving’: Staff absenteeism impacting Red Deer Catholic Schools

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools has been facing challenges with staff absenteeism caused by COVID-19 since in-person learning returned Monday.

“I’ve been speaking daily this week with our (substitute teacher) co-ordinator. She’s indicated that normally this would be a quiet week right after the break,” said Ryan Ledene, associate superintendent of human resources on Friday.

“I would describe it right now as very busy. That’s a concern given the week (is normally quiet) and also that we’ve pretty much cancelled anything … as far as meetings in the division go to try to reduce the demand on subs. It’s a little unnerving.”

Earlier this week, representatives from both Red Deer Public Schools and Chinook’s Edge School Division told The Advocate the divisions were experiencing increased teacher absences as well.

READ MORE: Teacher illness could drive some central Alberta school classes online by later this week

Ledene said the division is hoping to get through this wave of the pandemic and see a decrease in active cases.

“Otherwise I do believe that in the next couple of weeks we’re going to have a lot of trouble to operationally run a school division, given the issues we’re going to have with staff absenteeism,” he said.

The whole COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult to manage, but this latest Omicron wave has introduced new challenges, Ledene said.

“In the past, if we ran out of staff because of absences or teachers being in isolation, we could move certain classes, grades or schools to online learning,” he said.

“Those people were often a close contact and quarantining, but they weren’t sick. They were at home because they were a close contact, but they didn’t necessarily have COVID. Now the distinction is, the staff that’s away is away, not because they’re a close contact, but because they actually have COVID.

“To just shift to an online format is not going to solve the problem. That makes me nervous because we don’t necessarily have a viable alternative to solve the problem.”

RELATED: Province reduces COVID-19 outbreak reporting, reports 6,010 new COVID-19 cases

Some schools within the division have received shipments of COVID-19 rapid tests. Those will help to determine if individuals actually have COVID, said Ledene.

“If you can’t go tested and you have no access to rapid tests because no pharmacies have them, then there really was no way to determine if you have COVID,” he said.

“Even if you became asymptomatic, you’re still following the guidelines put out by the government that indicate if you have core symptoms of COVID, you assume you’re positive and you isolate for a minimum of five days and 10 if you’re unvaccinated.”



sean.mcintosh@reddeeradvocate.com

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