The Langley School District board offices. (Langley Advance Times files)

The Langley School District board offices. (Langley Advance Times files)

School absences up across Langley this fall

Flu, RSV, and COVID all circulating, as substitute teachers in short supply

The rate of student absences from Langley schools was up this November compared to last year, according to district tracking.

At the elementary and middle school level, student absences were up 3.7 per cent compared to the previous year.

At all levels, from elementary through to secondary, 15.8 per cent of students recorded an absence on average between Oct. 31 and Nov. 18. During the same time last year, the rate was 12.5 per cent.

According to district spokesperson Joanne Abshire, the rate varied school to school, with some lower than average.

The highest percentage was 37.6 per cent, more than a third of all students absent from one school at some point in the first three weeks of November. The district did not identify the school.

Abshire noted that the way secondary school students are counted as absent can’t be compared year-to-year, because the way absences are tracked in high schools has changed.

Last year, some schools tracked by class, some by day, and some by both.

The new system is consistent across all high schools as of this year.

The reason for absences is not tracked, Abshire noted, and students may be staying home because they are sick, because they have an appointment outside of school, because their families are on vacation, or for other reasons.

Teachers are also seeing an increase in absences this year, and their reasons for being absent are tracked.

Last year, in the first three weeks of November, 10 per cent of staff were absent due to illness, while this year, it’s up to 12 per cent.

“The increase in staff absences is a challenge for district and school operations,” Abshire said. When a teacher calls in sick, the district relies on teachers on call (TOCs) to step in, but substitute teachers are both in high demand and short supply across B.C.

The province, and much of the world, are seeing an increase in respiratory disease this fall, with COVID-19 variants still circulating, a resurgence in influenza cases, and a spike in RSV, a virus that typically strikes children.

The increase in respiratory illness is putting more strain on B.C. hospitals.

Abshire said the district is continuing to urge families to follow communicable disease guidelines, including staying home when sick.

Health officials have strongly recommended that people get both a flu shot and a COVID-19 booster this year, but across B.C., the rates of fourth shots for COVID-19 protection were around 30 per cent, according to the latest data released by the BCCDC. Langley lagged that rate slightly.

READ ALSO: BC Children’s Hospital triages patients from ER due to respiratory illness spike

READ ALSO: Public health agency of Canada says flu epidemic has begun as rates rise

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