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Handful of Manitoba school divisions sharing daily absenteeism levels since end to contact tracing

Click to play video: 'Absenteeism in Manitoba schools' Absenteeism in Manitoba schools
With Manitoba schools being directed by the province to update absenteeism information instead of doing contact-tracing, LRSD is one school division providing parents with some helpful information – Jan 20, 2022

Not all Manitoba school divisions are publicly communicating absenteeism levels in their classrooms one week since the province announced they would be discontinuing individual contact tracing for COVID-19.

However, one Winnipeg division is doing things differently.

Louis Riel School Division superintendent Christian Michalik says after much compiling, they now have an online graph showing student absenteeism rates related to COVID-19 with plans to launch one for staff on Friday.

“We think it’s important to provide perspective to allow the community to see a baseline for the year and to better understand the trend going forward,” Michalik told Global News on Thursday.

Read more: Changes to reporting, COVID-19 response due to ‘dramatic’ change in virus, says Roussin

Louis Riel’s dashboard reported an overall 21-per cent student absence rate Thursday, with five per cent related to COVID-19, out of 15,645 students. The division’s data dates back to September 2021, but the website cautions the graphs are based on the number of cases voluntarily reported to its schools.

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Brandon School Division and Seine River School Division are also providing daily overall student absenteeism levels for individual schools.

The Winnipeg School Division told Global News its schools were monitoring attendance on a weekly basis.

“(Schools) will be advising their school communities if the attendance is normal, decreasing but still within acceptable levels (based on that school’s historical attendance rates) or if the attendance has decreased to a level of concern, at which time an alert will be made to the province, as per direction from Manitoba Education,” a WSD spokesperson said in an email.

WSD teacher and educational assistant absence levels were 13 and 12 per cent, respectively — normal for this time of year, they said.

Some other school divisions, however, have redirected parents to the province’s online dashboard for cases in schools.

Read more: Province announces changes to COVID-19 contact tracing as students set to return Monday

The province said last week that schools should regularly provide information on absenteeism through their usual channels. According to a provincial government slide deck shared with school divisions, that could include information from the province’s dashboard or unusual absenteeism.

Michalik says schools must fill out a new alert form to communicate COVID-19 concerns with public health, something the division’s had to do since the change to contact tracing.

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Global News reached out to 11 Manitoba school divisions for comment and heard back from three before publication time.

Global News also reached out to the province for comment.

— with files from Keesha Harewood

Click to play video: 'Province announces changes to COVID-19 contact tracing as students set to return Monday' Province announces changes to COVID-19 contact tracing as students set to return Monday
Province announces changes to COVID-19 contact tracing as students set to return Monday – Jan 13, 2022

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