Attendance in all Houston schools down between 40-50 per cent according to SD 54 superintendent. (Houston Today File photo)

Attendance in all Houston schools down between 40-50 per cent according to SD 54 superintendent. (Houston Today File photo)

Houston schools attendance goes down

School district chalks it up to the rising COVID-19 cases

Schools in Houston have seen a much lower attendance rate than usual, post the winter break.

“The attendance at all Houston schools has been down this week, I would say between 40-50 per cent attendance on any given day,” said School District 54 (SD 54) Superintendent Mike McDiarmid in an email to Houston Today.

In the early days of the pandemic, schools in B.C. went into a lockdown and had to move to remote learning. The province however decided to go ahead with the in-person instructions for all schools in September 2020. Several parents were however skeptical and expressed their disapproval over social media and through communication to their respective school districts. Still, students did eventually end up going in for in-person instructions.

Under the new back-to-school plan, schools under SD 54 grouped students into learning cohorts or groups as per the BC Centre for Disease Control guidelines. All the students at Houston secondary and students belonging to Grades 8-9 at Smithers secondary have had follow this cohort model. While all the students have been expected to attend the school every day to emphasize on in-class instruction, post winter-break, the schools in SD 54 have seen a dramatic drop in attendance.

“These numbers were not unexpected as we (like everyone else in the community) have heard of several positive COVID cases in Houston and this of course has caused some anxiety in our parent community,” said McDiarmid.

Following a reduction in weekly confirmed COVID-19 cases of 12 between Dec. 20 and 26 in the Smithers Local Health Area (LHA) which includes Houston, new infections were up again to 20 from Dec. 27 to Jan. 2. Since about a year ago, a total of 56,015 people have tested positive for the virus in B.C. There have also been several school exposure incidents in the Northern Health region.

In schools under SD 54 two schools in Smithers, the Walnut Park Elementary and Smithers Secondary School have had more than one incident of COVID-19 exposure. There haven’t been any reported COVID-19 exposure incidents in the Houston schools yet, however, parents have been wary about sending their kids back to in-person instruction.

“I believe some parents are erring on the side of caution and delaying the return of their student to school. I believe given some time, students will return on a regular basis,” said Diarmid, adding, “We of course continue to emphasize that schools remain safe and we follow all of the recommended safety protocols. If any parents have questions, we encourage them to reach out to their local school Principal for advice.”

Priyanka Ketkar
Multimedia journalist

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