Todd Manuel

Todd Manuel is the new superintendent of School District 67, Okanagan Skaha.

There has been an increase in student absences during the first days back to school, the superintendent of the Okanagan Skaha School District told The Herald.

Todd Manuel said attendance has been “relatively strong” at most of the district’s elementary schools, but student absences have been significantly higher among middle and high school-aged students.

Manuel said he and administrators review the numbers daily and will report to Interior Health, but an exact number of how many students are staying home because of COVID is unknown because it’s up to parents to let the schools know why their child is away.

“Based on the review of attendance patterns, if we see significant increases in absences at any one school site, we will communicate with Interior Health, inform our school community, and determine through Interior Health if any further action is required,” Manuel said in an email, Thursday.

In terms of staff, the district has been able to support all schools and classrooms requiring support with Teacher’s Teaching on Call.

“We are very thankful for the support our TTOCs continue to provide, as well as the support our CUPE casuals are providing to those schools who have staff away. We are working hard to respond to individual school needs daily, and while we have been able to support staff absences so far, it will continue to be challenging if absences increase in the coming days,” Manuel said.

Instruction resumed Monday, one week later than originally scheudled.

A letter sent to parents dated Jan. 7 explains the process if a functional school closure is required.

A functional closure would occur in an instance where, due to illness and absences, there is a lack of staff available to provide the required level of teaching, supervision, support, and/or custodial to ensure the health and safety of students and staff.

If a functional closure of a school occurs, the district will provide guidance to families on how long the closure will take place, and remote work will be made available for students for the duration of time that the school remains under functional closure.

“We remain optimistic that we will not need to move a school to a functional closure; however, we are ready to support this transition if we find ourselves in a place where we cannot safely keep a specific school open,” Manuel said.