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The Tennessee Department of Education last week launched a new database that will report COVID-19 information at school and district levels, including numbers of new positive COVID-19 cases in both districts and schools.

The launch of the database was delayed by one day after the state cited technical issues. The database, available on the TDOE website at districtinformation.tnedu.gov/covid-information/search, was supposed to launch Sept. 8 but instead went live on Sept. 9.

“The anticipated launch of the Tennessee Department of Education dashboard tracking COVID-19 cases in schools has been delayed due to technical difficulties with processing data across a number of school districts,” the department said in a statement on Sept. 8. “TDOE is working to rectify this technical issue with the intent to launch the COVID-19 case tracking dashboard before the end of the week. Full reporting across every district is expected by Sept. 22, and we thank districts for their partnership in providing helpful data for educators, leaders and families.”

The dashboard displays 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.

As of Sunday evening, the database reported 13 cases among students and 10 cases among staff in Sumner County Schools.

The dashboard states that “data is self-reported by school districts and public charter schools to (TDOE) on a weekly basis.”

The Leader attempted to contact Sumner County Schools for more information on the reporting process but had not received a response at press time.

At the district level, the dashboard provides information on the number of new positive COVID-19 cases among students, the number of new positive COVID-19 cases amongst 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 has adopted a critical infrastructure designation for certain workers, as well as a link to the district’s Continuous Learning Plan (CLP), which outlines how the district plans to administer remote learning.

Sumner County resumed in-person classes at all levels on Sept. 8 and had been using a hybrid model previous to that.

At the school level, the dashboard will provide district-reported information on the number of new positive COVID-19 cases amongst students, number of new positive COVID-19 cases amongst staff, and whether adjustments from the district’s primary operating model have been made within the school. Students and staff being listed as positive does not necessarily indicate they contracted COVID-19 at the school building.

“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 in a press statement announcing the database. “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 sharing of student information is stringently protected under the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). 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.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com. Contributing: Staff reports

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