Around one quarter of students are absent from classes across the school district as various viruses make their way through the population, according to School District No. 8 attendance statistics.
However, although the circumstances have changed as the suite of viruses and colds takes hold, one year ago the same rate of absences — 24 per cent — was in effect for November across the school district.
The absentee rate — which climbed from 10 per cent in September and 15 per cent last month — is a concern, said SD8 superintendent of schools, Trish Smillie, but there isn’t much that can be done.
“We are hearing reports of illness,” she said. “We work closely with Interior Health if absences appear high at a school, so they can review this information.”
In the interim, SD8 administration is reminding students and staff to continue to practice hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and to stay at home when sick.
By the numbers
According to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, among children tested at B.C. Children’s and Women’s Hospital, influenza A is both the most commonly detected virus and has the highest percent positivity (around 25 per cent).
“(W)hich is higher compared to what is typically observed historically for this time of year,” said a Nov. 16 report from the BCCDC.
As well, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and SARS-CoV-2 have a similar percent positivity, around 10 per cent.
“Although RSV is on an upward trajectory, the numbers of samples tested for RSV are smaller compared to this time last year,” the report noted. “While SARS-CoV-2 is the most commonly detected virus in the province, influenza A is now the second most detected virus in B.C.”
Since the end of October, there has been a sharp increase in the share of visits for influenza symptoms among children aged five to 19.
“The share of visits for COVID-19-related symptoms have started to show an early sign of decline across regions and age groups,” the report read.
However, the report cautioned that “presenting symptoms may overlap for various respiratory conditions, and there is potential for misclassification.”
Source: Nov. 16 Respiratory Epidemiology Summary, BCCDC
The rise in absentee rates in 2022 coincide with the trajectory of absentee rates at the same time last year, SD8 figures reveal.
Last year there was an absentee rate of 12 per cent in September, compared to 10 per cent this year, while October one year ago was 16 per cent, with a 15 per cent rate this October.
“You can see we are comparable to rates of absence last year,” said Smillie. “The school district has not been ordered to close any facilities by Interior Health due to illness and we have not had functional school closures.”
The school district takes its direction on restrictions from the B.C. provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry.
“While hospitals are seeing higher-than-normal volumes of patients with respiratory illnesses, including children, they are not yet experiencing volumes that necessitate activating provincial surge plans that include postponing non-urgent scheduled surgeries and moving patients to other care settings to free up hospital beds,” she said in a statement Nov. 16.
School District No. 8 follows the Ministry of Education and Child Care’s guidelines for precautions related to communicable disease.
There are no extra precautions outside of the Provincial Communicable Disease Guidelines for K–12 School Settings that have been in place since the fall.