School attendance in the Burns Lake and Granisle area, has gone back up again after days of very low attendance by the end of last year and earlier this year.
“The increase in COVID cases in our region since late fall did result in many families choosing to stay close to home and pause their activities, including attending in-person schooling. After the winter break, the lower trend continued, but attendance has improved over the past few weeks in the Burns Lake and Granisle area,” said Mike Skinner, the assistant superintendent for School District 91 (SD 91).
Skinner however couldn’t provide a breakdown of attendance by schools.
“We continue to have a smattering of schools that are still struggling with attendance primarily due to unique circumstances for that community-specific to COVID. Due to the size of our schools, it would be inappropriate for us to identify attendance patterns by school,” he said, adding that the school district was very happy with attendance at all its schools from September to mid-November last year.
According to Skinner, the uptick in the Northern Health cases beginning in mid-November was primarily the reason behind the drop in attendance. Several families took an early winter break however, many of these families returned to schools in early January.
“Since the start of this pandemic, we have observed a direct correlation between parent anxiety and school attendance. As the cases in the north have increased, their impact has increased anxiety at times in various communities which in turn has adversely impacted school attendance,” he said.
By December 2020, there were nine COVID-19 exposure incidents within SD 91, the latest being the Decker Lake Elementary School’s exposure incident from Dec. 3, 2020 to Dec. 4, 2020. According to Northern Health, Decker Lake Elementary had another exposure earlier this year in January, in the period between Jan. 22 to Jan. 26.
After such an exposure incident, Northern Health issues a notification letter to the school/district, for distribution to the school community members. However, an exposure incident is not the same as a COVID outbreak and while parents, children and staff are encouraged to monitor themselves for any symptoms, only those who might have come in close contact with the possible COVID-positive persons would be directly contacted by the health authority.
With the attendance back up, the schools in the area are also busy putting together events. From winter carnivals to kindness week celebrations. The schools in the area have several things planned in the coming days.
”We are encouraged by the increase (in attendance) and hope our region continues to see a decline in COVID cases as we move into spring,” said Skinner.