Students still away from school

While supplies of the H1N1 influenza vaccine are trickling through the health-care system, the school district continues to see a higher-than-usual number of students absent from its schools.

School district superintendent Terry Sullivan said not all of the illnesses being reported resemble the flu, but most do. And that is spooking some parents of kids who aren't sick.

"Some parents have indicated because of the high absentee rate, they're not sending their children to school," he said.

"There's anxiety. Our role through this, and I know there's always a risk of anxiety, we always wanted through our pandemic plan to give the parents the news, the statistics. That will cause some parents to be anxious. But more people will be anxious if they don't know what's going on."

That's why the school district is releasing absentee numbers to the media daily, he said.

"The other thing is, we're monitoring things like Lloyd George and NorKam. They were the first schools to be hit, but they seem to be returning to normal absentee rates."

Sullivan said staff absentee rates at those schools have dropped, too.

"We're able to cope with staffing levels. Where we're pressed we're putting teachers or administrators into service. If these spikes continue, we're going to be challenged. But we have a plan in place."

It's also difficult for teachers to know what to do when a class has eight or 10 students missing. Introducing new curriculum at that point poses a problem, because of the number of students who will have to catch up later, Sullivan said.

Thursday saw 76 staff off sick, nine tending a sick family member and 35 support staff away ill. One year ago, 49 staff were off sick.

Almost one-quarter of students at Aberdeen elementary were out sick or were being kept home as a precaution, principal Anthony Rempel said.

Rempel's school absentee rate was at 23 per cent, although he was still coaching the girls' volleyball team. The boys' team had to cancel practice and a game earlier in the week.

"You've got to look at it this way, the kids who are sick are at home. The parents are being diligent and keeping the children at home and letting us know when they're sick. Some are keeping them there for safety reasons," he said.

"Some have told us their children have the flu. Some just say they're sick. And a few who are just keeping their children home until the coast is clear. There are also parents of children with other (health) conditions. I can understand why they would do that."

None of the children who have been off sick have developed serious illness, he added.

The illness started in the older kids and is now moving down into the primary classes, Rempel said.

Despite the number of sick kids, the school's staff levels are still adequate.

As of Thursday afternoon, the latest numbers were as follows:

Aberdeen elementary, 23 per cent absent

Arthur Hatton, 19 per cent

David Thompson, 13 per cent

Haldane elementary (Chase) 10 per cent

George Hilliard, 13 per cent

John Todd, 15 per cent

Juniper elementary, 14 per cent

Kay Bingham, 19 per cent

McGowan elementary, 11 per cent

Parkcrest elementary, 12 per cent

Ralph Bell, 23 per cent

R. L. Clemitson, 15 per cent

Savona elementary 20 per cent

Westmount elementary 11 per cent

Barriere secondary, 20 per cent

Chase secondary, 11 per cent

Sahali secondary, 10 per cent

Clearwater secondary, 20 per cent

SouthKam secondary, 12 per cent.

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