After waffling back and forth for several weeks about whether or not it will provide school or district-level information about COVID-19 cases in public schools, the Tennessee Department of Education launched a dashboard last week releasing some of that information.
“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,” Commissioner Penny Schwinn said in a written statement. “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.”
The department released plans on Sept. 3 to report additional COVID-19 information at school and district levels, including the number of new positive COVID-19 cases in districts and schools.
However, while the department originally said the dashboard would go live on Sept. 8, technical difficulties delayed the launch until the following day.
The dashboard displays information reported by districts, including Sumner County, on a weekly basis.
“The sharing of student information is stringently protected under the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and protecting personally identifiable information of our youngest Tennesseans is critically important,” the department said in a news release.
To ensure privacy, schools with fewer than 50 students won’t 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 shows the number of new positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff. It also shows the primary operating model for schools within the district as well as whether or not the district has adopted a critical infrastructure designation for certain workers. Sumner County Schools has not adopted such a designation.
On Tuesday there were 407 new student cases and 197 new staff cases in Tennessee. Those numbers were down from 476 new student cases and 234 new staff cases the week prior. In Sumner County, there were 18 new COVID-19 cases among students reported and 6 new cases among staff members on Tuesday. There were 13 student cases and 10 new staff cases reported the week before that.
Sumner County Schools doesn’t currently have an individual school with more than five cases, according to Schools Spokesman Jeremy Johnson.
Sumner County students returned to school on Aug. 3 following a hybrid schedule – attending class two days a week and learning from home the other three days. Students in pre-K through the fifth grade and CDC students returned to in-person classes full time on Aug. 17 and middle and high school students returned to in-person classes on a full-time basis on Sept. 8. Sumner students also have the option of enrolling in an all-online virtual academy.
The Tennessee Department of Education dashboard can be found at https://districtinformation.tnedu.gov.