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Pandemic-fuelled stress hasn’t triggered mass exodus of teachers in city, data shows

The number of teachers who took a leave of absence during the initial months of the unsettling 2020-21 school year is up ever-so-slightly in three school districts in the Manitoba capital compared to last year’s figures. Through a series of freedom-of-information requests, the Free Press collected early fall statistics on teacher leaves, retirements and resignations from six Winnipeg-area divisions: Winnipeg, River East Transcona, Louis Riel, Pembina Trails, Seven Oaks and St. James-Assiniboia. Each division was asked to provide figures from the early 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years, respectively, between Sept. 1 and Nov. 2. The data obtained show more educators went on leave this year than last year in Winnipeg, River-East Transcona and Seven Oaks divisions, while tallies are down in Louis Riel and St. James-Assiniboia. Pembina Trails also recorded a decline in absences, although 2019 figures provided range from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30. The generic “leave” category includes absences for maternity, parental, long-term disability, short-term disability, paid and unpaid medical and other personal reasons. There is no specific stress category because no one wants to stigmatize leaves, said James Bedford, president of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society. Of the more than 3,000 teachers employed in the province’s largest division, there was an increase of 42 leaves this fall, with a total 146 educators taking time off. In River East Transcona, which employs upwards of 1,300 educators, 63 people went on leave in 2020. Last year, 55 took an absence of some kind. Meantime, Seven Oaks recorded 95 leaves in its teacher population of 950, up

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