School absentee rate settles down

Sick students told to stay home until better


An absentee rate as high as 20 per cent at Twain Sullivan Elementary the end of November and into early December tied to an increase of COVID-19 cases appears to have crested following the school principal telling parents and guardians to keep sick students at home.

“The [Dec.. 2] letter sent by the school [principal Jaksun Grice] was a reminder that parents should be doing health checks and if their child exhibits any of the key symptoms, they should stay home,” said School District 54 superintendent Mike McDiarmid.

“At the time the staff had observed some students being sent to school with illness or flu like symptoms. While I can’t get into too many specifics about staff members, I can say we had a some staff members away with what we understood to be COVID,” he said.

Grice’s letter referred to “numerous positive COVID-19 cases in he school amongst students and staff.”

His instructions to parents and guardians were to keep students at home for at least 48 years and only returning to school when symptom free.

The school district did send out reminders that people should stay at home if sick but special attention was paid to Houston where community COVID-19 rate seemed very high at the time, said McDiarmid.

Reminders have been sent out at multiple schools across the district but the Houston schools specifically sent letters as the community rates of covid seemed very high at the time.

“Generally our rate of illness for COVID-19 or otherwise mirrors what is going on in the wider community and it has been high in Houston,” said McDiarmid.

Higher rates of illness among staff members puts a strain on schools as there isn’t a long list of available substitutes, he noted.

“This usually involves pulling people away from their regular assignments to cover off the emergent situations,” McDiarmid said.

Dr. Raina Fumerton, Northern Health’s medical health officer for the northwest, said the Twain Sullivan experience mirrored what was happening in Houston and area the end of November and into December in relation to sickness and the pandemic.

“When it comes to absentee rates there can be a multitude of factors. Sometimes parents will just keep their children at home in response to hearing about illness,” she said.

“Generally what we find is that what is going on in the community is brought into the schools. Schools have good safety plans in place.”

In the meantime, Northern Health’s first vaccination clinic here for children age 5 to 11 was Dec. 16 and its second is today, Dec. 22.

The health authority estimates there are 395 children in that age bracket eligible for pandemic vaccination.

Fumerton said she hoped as many children as possible would be vaccinated.