As students got off the bus in front of the elementary school in Vanderhoof on Sept. 10, there were teachers waiting for them, to guide the kids to their individual classes. Staff first met with students to organize them in groups, in the field outside the school, to make sure there was enough space to effectively follow COVID-19 guidelines. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)

As students got off the bus in front of the elementary school in Vanderhoof on Sept. 10, there were teachers waiting for them, to guide the kids to their individual classes. Staff first met with students to organize them in groups, in the field outside the school, to make sure there was enough space to effectively follow COVID-19 guidelines. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)

Vanderhoof schools see low attendance amidst Covid-19

With vaccines being administered across the region, SD91 officials are hoping to go back to regular routines by summer or fall.

Schools in Vanderhoof have seen a plunge in attendance since the uptick in Northern Health cases beginning before Christmas.

“Since late November, we have seen communities across the Northern Health region be impacted by COVID cases and exposures. As the cases in the north have increased, their impact has increased anxiety at times in various communities, which in turn has adversely impacted school attendance,” said Mike Skinner, assistant superintendent for School District 91.

“We continue to have a smattering of schools that are still struggling with attendance primarily due to unique circumstances for that community-specific to COVID,” he said.

READ MORE: SD91’s back-to-school plan is approved: Here’s what to expect

Many families took an early winter break, Skinner said, adding that the school district is thankful to families who returned to schools in early January.

All school districts in the province have been following preventive measures to deal with the pandemic. Locally, SD91 has modified timetables and schedules, which resulted in cancelling various activities, clubs and sports, he said.

Meanwhile, last year, graduation ceremonies were held virtually and Skinner finds the possibility of same in 2021.

“These types of events are milestones, and we cannot replace the normal traditions during COVID, but everyone is committed to working together under these unprecedented circumstances,” he said.

As of March 15, there have been 110 confirmed deaths related to COVID-19 in Northern Health. Skinner said school district officials are deeply saddened for the families that have lost loved ones to COVID.

“Our thoughts are with them during these difficult times,” he added.

With vaccines being administered across the region, Skinner said SD91 is hoping to have schools running on regular schedules soon.

“We follow all Public Health guidelines, and SD91 receive more guidance for our September planning later this spring from the Ministry of Education. The arrival of vaccines in BC gives everyone hope that we can return to some regular routines by the summer or fall,” he said.

Under new COVID-19 learning structures, staff and students have adapted quickly to technologies like Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

The school district is aiming at creating a speaker series which is focused on their strategic goal of Honouring Diversity. A variety of respected speakers will be invited to present to the communities covered by SD91.

READ MORE: SD91 develops course to explore student identity and diversity

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