The Tennessee Department of Education released plans last week to report additional COVID-19 information at school and district levels, including numbers of new positive COVID-19 cases in districts and schools.
“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 [it] will [also] inform how COVID-19 is affecting student attendance, chronic absenteeism and overall student attainment."
As the final two districts in the state begin the new school year this week, a new dashboard will launch on the department’s website that 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.
The sharing of student information is stringently protected under the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act and protecting personally identifiable information of Tennessee children is important, TDEA officials said. To ensure protections of individual privacy, schools with fewer than 50 students will not be reported in the dashboard. For schools reporting less than five positive student or employee COVID-19 cases, the school will be listed without a specific number of cases for the category.
At the district level, the dashboard will provide district-reported information on the number of new positive COVID-19 cases among students, the number of new positive COVID-19 cases among staff and the primary operating model for schools within the district, including the number of schools conducting in-person learning, the number of schools conducting remote learning and the number of schools utilizing a hybrid approach for instruction.
In addition, the dashboard will display whether the district adopted a critical infrastructure designation for certain workers, as well as a link to the district’s continuous learning plan, which outlines how the district plans to administer remote learning.
At the school level, the dashboard will provide district-reported information on the number of new positive COVID-19 cases among students, number of new positive COVID-19 cases among staff and whether adjustments from the district’s primary operating model were made within the school. Students and staff listed as positive do not necessarily indicate they contracted COVID-19 at the school building.
Users will have two ways to access information, including:
• a map view – an interactive map of Tennessee will enable users to hover over their county or region and select their school to reveal more information.
• a menu view – a dropdown menu will allow users to select a particular district of interest to reveal more information.
To protect individual privacy, schools with fewer than 50 students are not reported in the data. Further, for schools reporting a number that is fewer than five positive student or employee COVID-19 cases, the school will be listed without a specific number of cases for the category.
Of the state’s 147 school districts, 145 are open for the school year with the remaining two beginning their school year Sept. 8. The department will work closely with districts to support their reporting and encourage them to update information on a weekly basis. Districts will receive instructions for reporting the information to the department, as well as technical assistance when needed.
For access to additional resources related to reopening schools, visit tn.gov/education/health-and-safety/update-on-coronavirus/reopening-guidance.html.