More Island students missing school in 2020

·2 min read

Island schools are noticing a small increase in absentee rates for students from kindergarten to Grade 11, with Grade 12 students the only exception.

Absences are coded by the reason a student is missing class. They are coded as an unknown reason, an illness, for flu-like symptoms — and a new code was added this year for absences connected to COVID-19-like symptoms, says Erin Johnston, the assistant director at the Public Schools Branch.

The school branch pulled data from the week of Oct. 21-25, 2019 and compared averages with the week of Oct. 19-23 this year. It includes English and French schools.

Average absenteeism went from 978.6 absences to 1,339.6 absences for that time period — meaning more kids missed school.

Parents are more aware when students are sick. — Erin Johnston, Public Schools Branch

"We do see a slight increase in absenteeism. There is no doubt about that. With one exception: it does look like Grade 12 actually it is not increasing, it is decreasing," she said.

Schools are still diligent in taking attendance like any other year, Johnston said.

COVID cautions

Johnson said she thinks more students missing school can be attributed to parents being cautious about COVID-19.

"Students are staying home more I think. Parents are more aware when students are sick. You know, in the past I'd say students attend school when perhaps they shouldn't have at different times when they were sick or not feeling well," she said.

Submitted by Erin Johnston
Submitted by Erin Johnston

Most grade levels are seeing a one to two percent increase in absenteeism, Johnston said.

However, Grade 10 had an absentee rate of 5.86 per cent in the 2019 week, jumping to 10.28 per cent in 2020.

Johnston isn't surprised by that increase.

"I predict perhaps it relates to, you know, being the first grade in the high school and being a bit of a jump of where they were at previously," she said.

Conversely, for the week in 2019, the Grade 12 absentee rate was 21.76 per cent, but in 2020 had dropped to 14.16 per cent.

If absenteeism gets out of hand, the Public Schools Branch will contact specific schools and determine what the root causes may be, Johnston said.

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