NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Department of Education released plans Thursday to report additional COVID-19 information at school and district levels, including numbers of new positive COVID-19 cases in districts and schools.
“Most states are grappling with this. Very few have come to a resolution, but we think we have developed a tool that’ll be very important in understanding not only how many cases exist in a school, but how this affects attendance, chronic absenteeism and academic outcomes of our students,” said Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.
The state announced next week it will launch a new dashboard on the Department of Education’s website that will relay COVID-19 data reported by every district. It will display information reported by districts about COVID-19 in their communities, and whether or how positive cases within a school may impact the way teachers deliver instruction to students.
Users will have two ways to access information:
- A map view— An interactive map of the state of Tennessee will enable users to hover over their county or region and select their school to reveal more information.
- And a menu view—A drop-down menu will allow users to quickly select a particular district of interest to reveal more information.
“We’ve talked extensively to the U.S. Department of Education to develop this reporting mechanism, and we’ve also worked with districts in our state to develop this to provide this level of information to our students. It’s uncharted territory,” said Lee.
To ensure student privacy, schools with fewer than 50 students will not be reported in the dashboard according to state government. Schools that report fewer than five positive student or employee COVID-19 cases will be listed without a specific number of cases for the category.
“There’s been some significant hurdles for us to overcome in this process, but we believe we developed a reporting mechanism that’ll help inform parents and help them make choices,” said Lee.
Of the state’s 147 school districts, 145 are open for the school year with the remaining two beginning their school year on September 8. The department will be working closely with districts to support their reporting and encourage them to update information on a weekly basis. Districts will receive instructions for reporting this information to the department as well as technical assistance when needed.
“Parents and community members are working to make informed decisions, and we have determined the best path that balances informed decision making with our obligation to student privacy,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “We believe this resource will not only help parents but will inform how COVID-19 is affecting student attendance, chronic absenteeism and overall student attainment.”
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