The Kentucky Department of Public Health has built a new data reporting system to track the spread of the coronavirus at K-12 schools.
The system arrives as school administrators make decisions about whether to hold classes virtually, in-person or using a hybrid model ahead of September 28. Governor Andy Beshear recommended schools wait until then to have any in-person classes, though some districts have already started.
Under the new system, parents and guardians are required to notify schools about students who have tested positive for COVID-19. Schools are then required to report those numbers, and how many people are in quarantine, on a public dashboard.
Beshear says the dashboard, updated each weekday, will help parents, teachers and administrators make real-time decisions.
“We want to make sure that the transparency is there to help people make the right decisions overall about what they do with their school system,” Beshear said. “This is an attempt to give the right type of guidance, but also the right type of transparency, because we can’t get this wrong once with our school systems, there’s just too much on the line.”
The new requirements include all of the state’s more than 2,000 public and private schools. Kentucky colleges and universities have agreed to setup their own reporting systems.
Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said the dashboard will allow people to filter by county, district and school to find up-to-date information about COVID-19 cases.
The system is color-coded with red, yellow and green to help local leadership make decisions when positivity rates are below 6% (if rates exceed 6%, the state may intervene in district decisions). Each color indicates specific mitigation strategies to help ward off further spread of the virus.
Counties with more than 25 cases per 100,000 people will be designated as red, meaning there is substantial community transmission and schools should switch to remote learning.
Stack likened the system to the board game Chutes and Ladders. If a school reaches the red level, it cannot reopen in-person learning until cases are at or below 10 per 100,000.
“When you hit red, you hit the big chute and you go back to yellow before you start up again,” Stack said.
Kentucky Board of Education Chair Dr. Lu Young urged schools and districts to engage with the new system to re-open schools safely.
“This data about cases and schools is crucial to support our families and to support reopening across the Commonwealth this fall,” Young said.
A superintendent from Frankfort Independent Schools praised the administration for the dashboard during the press conference, but on Twitter, Lawrence County Superintendent Robbie Fletcher said the onus to collect COVID-19 data should be on local health departments.
We really need this information directly from the local health department. We have so many students that are raised by grandparents, etc. It will be very difficult to keep accurate dashboard data UNLESS info comes DIRECTLY to us. @GovAndyBeshear @StevenStackMD #AllinLC https://t.co/pXAtAzLfjy
— Dr. Fletcher (@All_in_LC) September 14, 2020
Schools have until September 28 to begin complying with the new rules.