Knox County Schools have issued a Improved Daily COVID-19 Dashboard which shows the number and attendance rates of students and staff, as well as the rounded number of active cases, down to school level.
Amid intense pressure from parents and a school year that began with skyrocketing cases, the school board asked administrators to give parents and the community a more detailed look at the force with which the pandemic is hitting individual schools.
The reworked dashboard displays district-wide data – which as of Tuesday night included 363 active cases among students and staff – as well as more detailed information about each school.
The KCS is working with the Knox County Department of Health to provide these figures, according to a press release from the KCS. The health department is also handling contact tracing for schools, but officials admit the large number of cases makes it difficult for everyone to access.
Absences are for all reasons, not just isolation or quarantine from COVID-19, but give a better picture of the number of teachers absent on any given day, which can lead a school to switch to learning virtual.
Students who are learning at home temporarily due to isolation or quarantine can now be counted as present if they learn virtually.
How did we get here?
During the first two weeks of school in August, Knox County schools did not publish a scorecard or send emails when a positive case was confirmed at a student’s school. Then the neighborhood turned the tide and made it available.
By adding another layer of information, the the school board voted on September 1 to share school-level data in the dashboard.
Unlike last year, the school district does not have a mask requirement. The school board has repeatedly refused to require masks despite urging from local and federal health officials and the number of COVID-19 cases surpassing figures from the height of the pandemic before vaccines hit. are available.
Superintendent Bob Thomas told families on Aug. 27 that students and staff should socially walk 3 feet away when possible, but the greater number of students in schools this year makes it difficult to do so in de many school spaces.
The district has three full-time virtual schools and changed two brick-and-mortar schools – Austin-East and Central High Schools – for temporary virtual learning due to absences of students and staff.
What do the numbers mean?
While the new dashboard allows for a closer look at sickness and absence cases in the school system, there are still flaws in the reporting.
About 80% of all school-aged children in the county attend Knox County schools, but the district’s COVID-19 dashboard shows far from 80% of cases in children aged 5-18.
The school system leaves contact tracing up to the county health department, meaning parents learn from county health workers if their child was in close contact with a case – not the school nurse like Last year.
There are also factors that cause reporting delays, such as waiting for a test, waiting for the results, the time it takes for the results to be sent to the health service and to the health service carrying out tests. case investigations.
After all of this, there is still no guarantee that a student, guardian, or employee will tell public health officials that they are part of Knox County Schools.
These factors all play a role in how long it takes for the district to know if a student or employee is positive and add the case to the dashboard.