School absentees rising but manageable

Students are back to school this week after the extended holiday break they were given due to the emerging COVID-19 Omicron variant and worries were abound of large numbers of staff and students away sick.

Fort McMurray Public School Divisions Acting Superintendent Annalee Nutter commented that the first few days were fine, and they had enough staff coverage within their systems teachers on call to cover the absentees.

Nutter explained that on Wednesday they began to be short on coverage for those teachers away.

“It’s been up and down throughout the week,” she noted. “We started the week with about 5% of our ATA (Alberta Teachers Association) staff out. As of Thursday, it was 7%.”

Acting Superintendent Nutter clarified that those are only district average numbers, stating that some smaller schools having three or four teachers out could mean 30% of their staff absent and some other have had zero absent.

“We’re not in a bad place, but we are anticipating that those numbers will go up with students back in the classroom.”

No name for the school was given but she did comment that while speaking to one school it was brought up to her that 109 students had not shown up.

She didn’t have the total number of students absent available but commented some are away because they’re not comfortable coming back amidst Omicron.

“If parents feel they need to keep their children home that’s fine, whatever they feel is best for them,” Nutter explained.

The provincial supplies of masks and tests have been reported arriving at schools on Wednesday according to Nutter and Division office have received supplies for their bus drivers.

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