It's no secret, we're in the midst of flu season. In speaking with his colleagues from across the province, Garden Valley School Division Superintendent, Dan Ward says it's definitely been a tough flu season, especially with R.S.V., and COVID still 'kicking' around.

Many school divisions in the Pembina and Red River Valley regions are facing absenteeism challenges as well due to the current flu season.

"Our 14 schools report to the division through our Assistant Superintendent daily attendance rates. And they also get in touch with us if it's putting a real significant strain on staffing as well, and so we are continually collecting data and connecting with schools." At GVSD, Ward says they recently noticed the rate of students being absent from school due to illness going up. 

Recently, Ward says there was a significant spike in the rate at one of their 14 schools that had strong attendance and not a lot of students away due to illness. Last week, the school reached as high as over 30 % of students away due to illness. 

"Now, of course, students are away for all sorts of reasons, and so the number in the school was actually much closer to 40 %. But those that were coded as kids that were away for medical reasons, they were sick, it was a third at that particular school. When on average, just looking at last week, looking at all of our 14 schools throughout the week, it was about 20 % that were away due to illness. So that's significantly higher than a typical week."

Ward says there are still a number of schools with quite a number of students away this week, but the numbers seem to be improving. 

Meanwhile, Ward says staff absences haven't quite reached the percentage across the 14 schools as student absences. But, they're definitely seeing higher than normal staff absences due to illness as well.

With the Christmas concert season nearly upon us, Ward notes GVSD is looking at having their regular Christmas concerts at their schools.

"I think the one thing we'd want to emphasize, is that if you're not feeling well, to stay home. If your kids are not feeling well, it's okay to miss a Christmas concert this year and hopefully be able to come to the next one next year. I think that's what we're emphasizing in terms of just making sure, especially going into Christmas. We want to be well and healthy, but definitely, Christmas concerts are being planned in our schools and information is being shared with families and parents throughout the division."