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PSSD staff absent over 2,300 days last year due to COVID-19, report says

Staff absences were part of the 2020-21 human resources report that was presented during the recent Prairie South board of education meeting.
covid 19 graph Thomas Faull Getty
Prairie South School Division teachers spent 1,245 total days away from work due to the coronavirus, which averaged 2.8 days per educator.

MOOSE JAW — Employees with Prairie South School Division were absent 2,304 days in 2020-21 due to COVID-19, which equalled 2.1 average days per employee, new data says.

Teachers were absent 845.3 days for being a close contact, were absent 337 days for quarantine because of symptoms and were absent 62.7 days for special vaccination leave, according to the 2020-21 human resources report presented during the recent board meeting. Therefore, teachers spent 1,245 total days away from work due to the coronavirus, which averaged 2.8 days per educator.

Meanwhile, CUPE staff were absent 430.3 days for being a close contact, absent 424.8 days due to quarantine leave, and absent 28.8 days for vaccination leave. This totals 883.9 days away, or an average of 3.3 days per employee. 

Furthermore, bus drivers were absent 47.5 days due to close contact, were absent 59 days due to quarantine leave and were absent 0.5 days for special vaccination leave. This totals 107 days away due to COVID-19, or an average of 1.3 days per employee.

Also, out-of-scope staff were absent 48 days because of being a close contact, were absent 18 days for quarantine leave and were absent 2.1 days for vaccination leave. This totals 68.1 days absent, or an average of 1.1 days per employee.

The total number of absences for all teachers in 2020-21 — whether division-directed, due to collective agreements or legislated, illness, or medical and dental — was 8,036.06 days. 

The total number of absences for CUPE employees, out-of-scope staff and bus drivers — for the same reasons as teachers — was 5,048.56 days. 

Staff composition

There were 921.05 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees in Prairie South as of Sept. 30, 2020, while there was a total of 1,273 staff — including substitutes and casuals — working, said Amy Johnson, superintendent of human resources. The total number of staff ebbed and flowed during the year, so she thought there were closer to 1,450 total employees in the division. 

Salaries and benefits comprised the largest financial category within Prairie South’s budget at 75 per cent, Johnson said. In the 2020-21 year, there were $67.8 million in salaries and benefits. Salaries for teachers were 49 per cent of the budget or $44.4 million, while salaries for support staff were 10 per cent of the budget or $9.2 million. 

Staff in plant operations and maintenance comprised five per cent of salaries, followed by transportation at four per cent, external services (high school concessions) at three per cent, administration at two per cent and complimentary services (pre-kindergarten and nutrition programming) at one per cent.

Demographics

During the 2020-21 year, there were 129 employees between the ages of 18 to 29, data showed. Furthermore, there were 217 employees between 30 and 39; 283 staff between ages 40 and 49, 271 employees between 50 and 59; 96 staff between ages 60-69; and 11 employees between ages 70 and 79. 

Eighteen teachers and 25 support staff retired last year, while 21 educators and 26 support staff resigned, Johnson said. 

Meanwhile, 42 teachers took 89 courses to upgrade their qualifications, for total tuition reimbursement of $106,661.64. Meanwhile, 20 support staff pursued 45 courses to enhance their skills, for a total reimbursement cost of $27,112.

Divisional discipline

The division issued letters of clarification or verbal warnings to two teachers in 2020-21, while it issued similar clarifications/warnings to 19 support staff, the report showed. Furthermore, the division issued letters of discipline — a warning or reprimand — to four support staff, while it suspended two support staff and fired one support staff.

Zero disputes were submitted to the teachers’ federation, while one CUPE member filed a grievance that was either resolved or withdrawn. Also, one case was referred to arbitration, mediation or the labour board. That case — from 2019-20 — will be heard this year.

The next PSSD board of education meeting is Tuesday, Feb. 1.