School attendance down in part because of parents fearful of sending kids to school during pandemic

Many School District of Mystery Lake (SDML) schools were not far from the standard goal for attendance at the end of September but Wapanohk Community School lagged far behind, school board trustees heard at their Oct. 13 meeting.

Among elementary schools, Westwood and Deerwood were both above the general minimum acceptable standard of 90 per cent in September, while Burntwood and Juniper were both around 85 per cent. Wapanohk, however, which usually has lower attendance, was only at 67.8 per cent for the month.

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Attendance at R.D. Parker Collegiate was just under 87 per cent.

School district co-superintendent Lorie Henderson said some of the attendance figures were due to parents being fearful of sending their children to school because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but she said that not very many people were opting to home school their children instead.

“To date we’ve received 11 confirmed students of the home schooling,” she said. 

Forty-six students who are enrolled at SDML schools did not attend even once during September.

“Parents are worried about sending their kids to school so what we have done … we’ve begun a transition back to school program for those students,” Henderson said. “The idea is that they are going to work their way back into school."

RDPC principal Bonnie Rempel said in an Oct. 13 message to parents that many steps are being taken to ensure student safety at the high school, including students and staff wearing masks in the hallways at all times and two metres of distance being maintained in classrooms when possible and masks being worn in classrooms when it is not. Any staff member or student displaying two or more COVID-19 symptoms is being sent home and asked not to attend until they are well.

“While I can understand the apprehension and worry about sending your child to school, I can confidently say that we are working diligently to support the safety protocols that have been put into place,” Rempel wrote. “However, if you are uncomfortable sending your child to school, homework packages will not be provided and the student will be responsible for catching up when they return. They will be missing critical in-person teaching, necessary to obtain credits.”

People keeping their children home for medical reasons must have documentation to support the decision and will then be allowed to enrol them in independent study options that can be completed at home

“Another option is to have your child removed as a student from RDPC and enrol them in the Homeschooling program for the duration of the semester or the duration of the current school year,” Rempel wrote.                

Overall enrolment in SDML schools was 3,086 at the end of September, about 80 students less than at the end of September 2019, Henderson said.

As of Oct. 20, Opasquia Elementary School and Scott Bateman School in The Pas were the only Northern Manitoba schools to have reported positive COVID-19 tests among staff or students. The person or people who tested positive Oct. 19 may have been infectious while at the schools Oct. 16.

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