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More central Alberta students are sick and staying home

Some schools reporting higher absenteeism
Some schools in central Alberta are reporting higher absenteeism due to illness. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio)

More central Alberta students have been missing class because they’re sick.

“Some of our schools within the division are experiencing higher-than-normal absenteeism due to various illnesses: cold-like symptoms, stomach flu symptoms, and sinus infection symptoms,” said Jodi Smith, associate superintendent of inclusive learning with Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools, in a statement.

Shawn Russell, associate superintendent of corporate services with Chinook’s Edge School Division, said a few of its schools have reported an absentee rate above 10 per cent due to illness which must be reported to Alberta Health Services.

“In a couple of instances, we have sent some letters home informing our school communities that we are in excess of 10 per cent due to illness and remind people to wash their hands, stay home if they’re sick, and we enhance our cleaning protocols,” Russell said.


COVID-19 outbreaks reported in central Alberta

He said each year is different when it comes to seasonal illnesses, but November is typically when more students are impacted. Higher absenteeism this fall could also be due to more families keeping sick students at home compared to pre-pandemic years.

“We didn’t have the heightened awareness we do now,” Russell said.

He said there is no way to determine why a student is sick. Parents can share the details, but it’s not something Chinook’s Edge asks.

Wolf Creek Public Schools was also experiencing a higher than-usual absenteeism rate in some schools for varying reasons including illness.

“We continue to follow the recommendations outlined by Alberta Health Services to prevent the spread of respiratory and gastrointestinal illness. This includes recommending that students and staff stay home when sick and reporting to Alberta Health Services whenever absenteeism exceeds 10 per cent,” said Wolf Creek superintendent Tim De Ruyck in a statement.


Flu vaccination now available in Red Deer

Red Deer Public Schools says its absenteeism rate for verified illnesses was 7.5 per cent during the first week of November.

“We will continue to monitor our absenteeism rate, and follow the direction and guidance of Alberta Health and Alberta Education. As we recognize it is cold and flu season, we encourage general health measures for all students and staff to reduce the risk of transmission of all illnesses,” said the Red Deer division in a statement.

This week absences due to illness at Edmonton Public Schools jumped to 13 per cent, and Calgary Board of Education reported 8.8 per cent of students were absent between Nov. 1 to 4. Both jurisdictions report student absenteeism rates due to illness on their websites.

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