Low attendance continued in December but remote learning a hit with Grade 8s, school board told

Concerns over COVID-19 continued to affect school attendance in Thompson last month, School District of Mystery Lake (SDML) trustees heard at their first meeting of 2021.

None of the district’s seven schools met the provincial target of 90 per cent attendance in December, said superintendent of educational programming and services Lorie Henderson.

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Although she did not give out specific figures for each school, Henderson said that Wapanohk Community School continues to have very low attendance – only 46 per cent last month.

“The school administration and team are working very hard at trying to get students into the school, locating students,” Henderson said. “Homework packages are being delivered on a regular basis. Well over 300 packages have been delivered. The rate of return not as great but the school is doing what they can to get the packages to the schools.”

Parents of some kindergarten to Grade 6 students at SDML schools opted to have their children learn remotely during the first two weeks after the Christmas break, but Henderson says Thompson students are not using the provincial remote learning website that went live earlier this month.

“Schools have made the arrangements to work with those students,” said Henderson. “After two weeks those kids come back into the schools and teachers felt that it was easier for them to work with their own students.”

Remote learning has been proving popular among junior high students, Henderson said.

“Our Grade 8s are so engaged with the remote learning that if we go back to in classroom we’re really going to look at maybe having our kids still do the remote learning, too.”

From a financial standpoint, the school year is proceeding as planned. As of Jan. 6, the district had spent 32.5 per cent of its budget and the school year is 38 per cent complete, said secretary-treasurer Kelly Knott. That includes nearly $1.3 million on pandemic-related expenses like additional staff to keep classes small enough to allow adequate physical distancing and technology to enable high school students to learn remotely part-time.

“We have a budget of $2,666,000 to address our COVID expenses,” said Knott, and 48 per cent of it has been spent already. “Our forecast at this time until the end of June we’re tracking to be well within our $2.6 million.”

In December, the district received a $243,000 of provincial funding for COVID-related expenses.

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