The superintendent of School District 23, Kevin Kaardal is pleasantly surprised about how well things have gone since students returned to school at the start of 2022.
Higher COVID-19 case counts, driven in part by the Omicron variant combined with the traditional flu season
is a cause for concern and Kaardal says the school board is watching those numbers very closely.
"We're concerned of course and monitoring the absences of both students and staff," but despite concern, Kaardal says it's been going, "surprisingly well."
Education, like many sectors across the country, have been challenged by absenteeism and lack of available testing for COVID-19, forcing schools to rely on self-reporting from staff and students.
"We are seeing absences of staff on the rise and that's a concern, but so far we've been able to manage to keep in-class instruction open and we have not experienced any functional closures," Kaardal said, adding so far they have managed to re-assign staff to support classes when they have run through their casual teachers on call.
The absenteeism threshold for concern is 20 per cent, according to Kaardal, but they have to alert Interior Health once that figure hits 25 per cent. At that point, the health authority will send a team to investigate and decide on next steps.
Kaardal said prior to COVID-19 it was not unusual for absenteeism to hit the 20 per cent mark for one or two days during cold and flu season, but COVID-19 brings different challenges.
"We are watching and we are concerned that we could end up having functional closures because we don't have enough staff to safely operate."