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Spike in school absenteeism spreads to teachers

Whatever is causing high levels of absenteeism among students in the Halifax area is also striking their teachers.

Whatever is causing high levels of absenteeism among students in the Halifax area is also striking their teachers.

The Halifax Regional School Board told Metro yesterday 452 teachers were absent from the classroom on Monday – representing about 13 per cent of its teaching staff. In the past, the daily average has hovered somewhere between five and seven per cent, said school board spokesman Doug Hadley..

“We are only tracking absences, not the reason for the absence,” Hadley added. “I’m assuming many of these teachers are ill, but there would be some who are off for various other reasons.”

The number of confirmed cases of H1N1 in Nova Scotia continues to climb, but there is still no indication that swine flu is the main cause of higher-than-normal levels of absenteeism in schools.

Substitute teachers are being called in to ensure that classes continue, but according to some educators, walking into a classroom and being greeted by a stranger can still be disruptive for many students.

“It can be quite significant, especially for students in an elementary environment,” explained John McPherson, acting-principal at Joseph Howe Elementary School in Halifax. “Children are quite attached to their classroom teachers because they teach almost every subject. When you have a substitute in, it can throw things off a little bit.”

Five out of 14 classroom teachers at Joseph Howe Elementary were absent yesterday. McPherson said detailed lesson plans had been provided for the substitutes.

“Things are actually going quite well today,” he said. “We have very competent substitutes, and a substitute is never expected to walk into a building and just wing it.”

Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer, reiterated yesterday that any teacher or student exhibiting flu-like symptoms should stay home, adding he was pleased that many seemed to be heeding that advice.

 
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