More than 1,000 teachers were absent Wednesday morning as Edmonton’s school boards grapple with the first week back to school during the fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Edmonton Public Schools reported 525 teacher absences, up 31 from the previous day, spokeswoman Megan Normandeau said in a statement. However, she noted the numbers reflect all staff absences, not just those due to COVID-19 or general illness.
Twenty-seven of those absences were unfilled.
“This month, our division has hired an additional 29 temporary contract teachers to help fill emergent teacher jobs that are unfilled from the standard supply-teacher pool,” Normandeau said.
“These 29 teachers have been deployed today to cover many of the 27 unfilled positions.”
There were also 297 absences among educational assistants, an increase of 35. Of those, 160 absences went unfilled.
“It is important to note that these numbers fluctuate throughout the day — absences unfilled this morning may have been filled for the afternoon,” Normandeau said.
“Any staff absences that are unfilled by supply staff would be managed internally at the school level.”
With Alberta Health no longer notifying school divisions of confirmed COVID -19 cases, the division is tracking self-reported COVID -19 cases among students.
As of Tuesday, 1.78 per cent of students out of the total student population of 105,106 were absent due to COVID -19, while 3.56 per cent were absent due to other illness.
Families at Edmonton Public Schools were given the option to choose online or in-person learning for the second half of the 2021-2022 school year, with last Tuesday as the deadline to choose.
Normandeau said 92.2 per cent of the total student population chose in-person learning and 6.8 per cent chose online learning.
This is compared to 95 per cent of students currently undergoing in-person learning and five per cent in online learning.
“Of the 6.8 per cent of online learning, 30 per cent are in senior high, 21 per cent are in junior high and 49 per cent are in elementary,” Normandeau said.
Meanwhile, Edmonton Catholic Schools reported 514 staff members absent Wednesday morning, and of those, 259 are teachers.
Absences increased by 24, and 16 respectively.
The Catholic division is also tracking self-reported COVID-19 cases among students and staff online. The numbers do not include absences for other reasons.
As of Tuesday, there were 42 COVID-19 cases among students and staff.