Occasionally, schools may notice an increase in absenteeism due to illness.
Schools are required to report to the Health Unit when absenteeism due to illness reaches 30% of the student population. However, if a significant number of students are ill in one class this should still be reported. For example, if a primary classroom has 6-7 children off with similar symptoms within a day or two, this would be significant and should be reported.
Reporting absenteeism to public health serves three purposes:
- Public health can provide recommendations to prevent further spread of infection to the staff and students
- If illness is related to a special event or field trip, allows for outbreak investigation to prevent another incident from occurring again
- Provides public health surveillance on infectious disease activity within our community
When reporting increased absenteeism in your school please provide:
- Grades/classes affected
- How many staff and children are off ill
- Total student enrollment
- If symptoms include diarrhea/vomiting, was there a school event/field trip in the 3 days prior in those affected classrooms?
If your school is experiencing increased absenteeism related to illness, follow these general recommendations. Start as soon as you notice the illness.
- Ensure sick children/staff stay home (see Exclusion Criteria on Common Childhood Illnesses resource)
- Encourage good handwashing, especially before meal times
- Ensure washrooms are supplied with liquid hand soap and paper towels and cleaned throughout the day
- Increase the cleaning and disinfecting within the school, paying particular attention to the affected classrooms, washrooms, water fountains, common meeting areas, and other high touch surfaces
- Refer to the enhanced cleaning guidelines as outlined by your school board to ensure the correct disinfectant is being used, ideally a high level disinfectant
- Clean and disinfect the large play centers in the primary classrooms
- Close sensory stations if the illness is happening in a kindergarten classroom
- Remove plush toys/items and play clothes from the classrooms, launder if possible
- Clean and disinfect toys that were in the classroom at the start of the outbreak
To report increased absentee rates in your school or to consult with a public health nurse, email or phone the School Health Team:
519-426-6170 ext 3285