Tenn. creates dashboard to show COVID rates in public schools

State Education Commissioner directs all schools to report COVID infections.
Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 12:06 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 9, 2021 at 6:40 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Parents can go to one centralized site for a School Opening Dashboard that includes COVID-19 data from public schools around Tennessee. State Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn announced Friday that public schools will receive direction early this week on their responsibilities for reporting.

“Guidance will be going out to districts regarding the information that they should again provide to the Department and certainly to families,” said Schwinn. “We are going to start asking districts to provide information as they did last year.” The centralized Dashboard is anticipated to start populating with new data as public schools are opening.

Director of Media Brian Blackley with the Tennessee Department of Education responded to WVLT with this explanation about the updated data reporting.

“A new version of the dashboard will be utilized this year with some adjustments from last year to align with new public reporting requirements from the U.S. Department of Education related to federal ESSER funding. One update is that district reporting will be done monthly rather than weekly. The learning models will be reported by district, school and student groups identified by the U.S. Department of Education including low-income families, each racial and ethnic group, gender, English language learners, children with disabilities, students experiencing homelessness, children and youth in foster care, migratory students, and other groups disproportionately impacted as identified by TDOE,” Blackley said. “Because there is no state of emergency as there was last year and there is no permanent State Board of Education rule related to Continuous Learning Plans (CLPs) currently in effect, the operating model for districts and schools this year will be in person. The dashboard is currently under development, and we will publicly announce when it is live.”

Schwinn participated in a media conference Friday with Tennessee’s Health Commissioner, Dr. Lisa Piercey, who said about rising pediatric COVID cases, “We’re watching it very closely because we are concerned at those pediatric numbers rising quickly.”

Piercey said the cases seem to be rising first in West Tennessee, because of their proximity to other states with recently high cases; she anticipates rising rates throughout the state.

Schwinn stressed educators are working diligently to have in-person learning at public schools.

“So, balancing that urgency that we have to ensure every child has access to a high-quality education, while ensuring that we have a safe, in-person school year this year,” Schwinn said. “That’s the primary focus of the Department. And we are very glad to be working so closely with the Department of Health to ensure that both of those goals can be met.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed per its data that Tennessee is once again at a high transmission level for COVID-19 at this start of the new school year. The state’s Department of Health also maintains a Dashboard with COVID-19 statistics.

“It’s going to be important first and foremost that we provide information to parents. Parents deserve to have that level of data about what’s happening in their schools and classrooms so they can make the best decision for their own children,” Schwinn said.

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