More kids home sick from CBE schools this fall

The province's largest school board says student absences due to illness reached four per cent in October. (David Donnelly/CBC - image credit)
The province's largest school board says student absences due to illness reached four per cent in October. (David Donnelly/CBC - image credit)

In the first school year entirely without COVID-19 health restrictions or masks, some Calgary schools are seeing student and teacher absences due to illness creep past levels seen at this time last year.

The Calgary Board of Education says that in the first month of school, illness-related absenteeism was virtually unchanged compared with last year — remaining steady at 3.26 per cent.

But in October, that number rose to just over four per cent of all students, compared with only 2.91 per cent in 2021.

The CBE says less than half of teacher absences are related to illness, and it's been much easier to find substitutes this year.

"The Calgary Board of Education continues to fill most teaching absences. We have recorded a 94.4 per cent fill rate for teaching positions since the start of the school year," said spokeswoman Joanne Anderson in an email.

"In contrast, we recorded fill rates as low as 70 per cent as recently as January of 2022. We are very grateful to the substitute teachers who are stepping up to help keep up the continuity of learning in our schools."

Right now, if an individual school's absence rate because of illness goes above 10 per cent of its population, school boards will advise Alberta Health Services, which can then monitor outbreaks. So far this year, three schools reached that threshold, the CBE says.

And, while the Calgary Catholic board says its rate of absences through September and October remained on par with last year, it currently has about 20 schools (17 per cent) experiencing an absenteeism rate greater than 10 per cent.

"CCSD does not track self-reported COVID-19 cases in students or staff, like any cold/flu season," said spokeswoman Joanna French.

"We continue to encourage students and staff to stay home when they are not feeling well."