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  • Trevor Greenway

Schools barely beating COVID battle

WQSB calls on retirees, parents to fill in for absent teachers

When Terry Kharyati arrives at school on any given day, he has no idea what he’s walking into.

The Western Quebec School Board (WQSB) human resources director could be missing one teacher – or 14 due to COVID isolation measures – and it’s up to him and principals across the region to keep classes staffed, students safe and schools open.

They’re just barely winning the fight.

“That’s the big issue right now; staff absenteeism is increasing based on COVID isolation rules,” said Kharyati, from his temporary office at Chelsea Elementary School. He pointed out that absentee numbers have been increasing weekly over the past two weeks.

According to the province’s Ministry of Education, more than 2,000 teachers have been absent from Quebec schools since in-person learning resumed on Jan. 17. Part of the problem, says Kharyati, is that because COVID isolation rules are so strict, the board is seeing last-minute absences from teachers who may not even be sick. He said he’s never seen the situation so bad in his 28 years in the school system.

“The absences are not just teachers. It’s support staff, professionals and administration, and a lot of t