School absenteeism anticipated locally

·2 min read

While COVID-19 has closed schools again, a high rate of absenteeism could soon become a reality.

According to Lambton Kent District School Board Director John Howitt, the school board is bracing for the potential of a high rate of absenteeism among staff and students due to COVID-19.

He said occasional teachers and temporary staff usually fill in to cover absenteeism. However, he noted there might not be enough substitute teachers this time around. He said he is doing everything he can to plan for the possibility that may happen when in-person learning is set to resume on January 17, 2022.

“There is a risk that we may be short-staffed and may have to make some alterations within schools that could include short-term closures based on staff shortages,” said Howitt.

He noted this is uncharted territory for his school board, and he anticipates changes coming based on absenteeism rates seen in other schools boards across Ontario. Howitt said several school boards are struggling to find supply teachers to cover absenteeism. Some have had to resort to placing uncertified teachers and administration in classes to fill in for sick teachers.

In preparation when schools reopen, many schools across the province are expected to add HEPA filters and receive a shipment of N-95 masks.

Howitt said N-95 masks will be delivered on January 7 and will be available for staff when school reopens on January 17, 2022.

“We will be getting those out to our staff as quickly as we can as an added option for our staff as part of their (personal protective equipment),” said Howitt.

He said the public board already has a HEPA filter within every instructional space within its system.

“It was an area we’ve been ahead of here, locally,” Howitt said.

Meanwhile, the St. Clair Catholic District School Board Education Director Scott Johnson said 22 more HEPA filters are coming to add to the filters already in the system.

He added that every full-day kindergarten class has a high-efficiency mechanical air filter and a HEPA filter.

He added he hopes teachers and students take advantage of the temporary pause to in-class learning and go out and get a booster to protect themselves.

Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News

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