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Student absences trending upward at Calgary schools ahead of holiday break

Around five per cent of the Calgary Board of Education's student population is absent due to illness — and the school board says the percentage has been creeping up through recent weeks. (David Bajer/CBC - image credit)
Around five per cent of the Calgary Board of Education's student population is absent due to illness — and the school board says the percentage has been creeping up through recent weeks. (David Bajer/CBC - image credit)

Two weeks before most Calgary students break for the holidays, the Calgary Board of Education says student absenteeism due to illness is trending upward.

According to the most recent data, as of Dec. 6, CBE's overall absence rate is sitting at around five per cent.

It's a number the school board says has been creeping up through the weeks — but a spokesperson says the situation isn't as worrying as it was around this time last year.

"In November 2022, we did have a spike in illness rates where we were seeing 12 per cent of students absent due to illness. So far this year, absence rates are significantly less," said CBE spokesperson Joanne Anderson.

If illness causes an individual school's absence rate to exceed 10 per cent of its population, the school must report to Alberta Health Services (AHS) for investigation.

Earlier this week, 13 CBE schools met that threshold.

Meanwhile, the Calgary Catholic School District says seven of its 118 schools are experiencing an absence rate of 10 per cent or higher.

"As we celebrate the Advent and Christmas seasons, CCSD continues to encourage students and staff to stay home when they are not feeling well to limit the spread of illness," said CCSD spokesperson Joanna French.

CBE says no additional public health measures are being required for schools at this time, and principals could adjust or postpone gatherings or extracurricular activities if they're seeing high rates of illness in their school.

According to a statement from AHS, an increase in respiratory illnesses is expected at this time of year.

AHS urges people to limit the spread of illnesses through the following precautions:

  • Wash hands frequently using soap and warm water.

  • Do not share items that come in contact with the mouth, including water bottles, drinks or eating utensils.

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow, not your hand. If you use a tissue, discard immediately, and wash your hands thoroughly.

  • If you or your child are sneezing, have a cough, sore throat, runny nose and/or fever, it is recommended you stay home until you are well.