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New numbers obtained by CTV News Edmonton from the Edmonton Public School Board show that unexcused absences are up in their schools in the first few months of this school year compared to last year.

The numbers are unrelated to COVID-19 quarantines.

“We're seeing a lot more it might be COVID anxiety, it might be due to pressures on the family, it might be for a variety of reasons beyond our control and quite honestly beyond the student's control,” said Ron Thompson, principal of Svend Hansen School, which has 1,020 Kindergarten to Grade 9 students.

The board said it’s bringing in extra supports to help address the situation. Four additional social workers were hired in the last month, with plans to hire an additional five.

“We may find out the solution is as simple as we need to support them with access to technology which we are certainly able to do,” said Ann Parker of EPSB instruction supports. “It may also be something more complex, they may need some social supports from other external communities and agencies.”

The president of the Alberta Teachers Association believes the shift to online learning could also be playing a role.

“We also have students who run the whole spectrum where it's not something conducive to the way they want to learn, it's not something like they like to do but they are doing it maybe for a variety of reasons, health reasons being one of them,” said Jason Schilling.

Through the pandemic, this principal has noticed whether it's in person or online learning, creating a connection with students is vital to keeping them engaged.

“They share personal experiences, they still try to connect with their kids and have conversations and get to know the kids on an individual and personal level,” Thompson said.

January's year-over-year improvement is a positive sign. Officials say that students and families are feeling more comfortable and more connected to their method of learning.  

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Nicole Weisberg.