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Sick teachers staying home

Tim Edwards
Northern News Services
Published Friday, December 18, 2009

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - Teachers at one school district have been absent from work more than usual this year, prompting the superintendent for Yk Education District No. 1 to ask for more territorial government money to offset the cost of bringing in substitutes.

Metro Huculak said though he doesn't know if it has been H1N1, increased flu activity was definitely a factor in the 20 per cent jump in substitute teacher costs this October compared to last October, in the YK1 district.

"I've asked all of the superintendents to gather data, compare it to previous years to see if the new flu has had any effect," said Huculak, superintendent of YK1, who is also the chairperson of the Northwest Territories Superintendents' Association.

He has contacted the Department of Education, Culture, and Employment, which said it will look at the data once it's collected, and then decide if extra money would be provided to the NWT's school districts to offset the increased costs.

The district's total yearly budget for substitute teachers is $400,000. Huculak said substitute teachers are paid about $205 a day.

"We've dipped into (the budget), but if there's no (seasonal) flu outbreaks, we might be OK," said Huculak.

He said at the Yk1 board meeting that other superintendents he has spoken to from around the NWT have noticed a higher staff absenteeism as well.

On the other hand, Yellowknife Catholic Schools superintendent Claudia Parker said her district has not noticed an increase in absences.

"We have not had any big difference in regards to our staff absenteeism. There were a few staff who definitely had the flu, but other than that it has been pretty well on par to what it was last year," said Parker.

Since the start of the H1N1 flu pandemic, the NWT Department of Health and Social Services has been recommending that anyone who experiences flu-like symptoms stay home for seven days or until they have been symptom-free for 24 hours, whichever period is longer.

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