Absentees up in Central Okanagan schools as kids pulled for Christmas quarantine | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Absentees up in Central Okanagan schools as kids pulled for Christmas quarantine

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
December 16, 2020 - 6:30 PM

Absenteeism has reached new heights in Central Okanagan classrooms, due to the combination of impending holidays and the continued rise of COVID-19 cases.

Central Okanagan Public Schools superintendent Kevin Kaardal said today, Dec. 16, that absences are sitting at around 15 per cent this week, compared to the typical pre-Christmas vacation numbers of seven to 10 per cent.

“We’ve heard that parents are making that decision to take their children out of school so they won’t have to isolate over the holidays,” he said, adding the usual reason for heightened absentee numbers is simply longer Christmas vacations.

While fewer students are at their desks this week, Kaardal did want to point out that classrooms have turned out to be a safe place, even in the Central Okanagan where there have been 30 public schools that have had an exposure. A number that far exceeds any other school district within the Interior Health region.

“My experience with each of these exposures is the health authority react with an abundance of caution,” he said.

“The exposures we have are a reflection of exposures in the community. I know provincially they did research on cases in schools and 99.5 per cent had a case coming from the community.”

Regardless, he had nothing but praise for the men and women who are going into the classroom every day.

“This has been a year like no other,” he said.

“Our teachers and support staff have been courageous and tremendous in helping follow the rules and they’re offering a world-class education in challenging circumstances.”

His hope is that in the next two weeks case numbers will start to fall and the curve will be flattened.

While there has been no advice about a pre-Christmas quarantine, the question about whether it was the right course of action was presented to the province’s top doctor this week. She had mixed reviews.

“People want to do the best thing to try and keep each other safe … but we have seen in other places where people to try to do this that it is not foolproof,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said.

The issue may be that not everyone who quarantines takes the same precautions.

“If you are doing this to be with elderly parents or grandparents and someone who is alone, make sure to keep distances, wear masks together and take precautions to keep them safe, particularly right now,” she said.

This week the first doses of vaccination for COVID-19 were delivered in B.C. and by next week there will be some for each health authority. In an earlier press conference, however, Dr. Henry cautioned that it wouldn't be until summer that people could pack away their masks.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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