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COVID cases rise in Clark County schools, but big picture cloudy

The Clark County School District has reported 728 COVID-19 cases among students and staff so far this month — nearly 450 more than a week ago — but it continues to provide no information on its online dashboard on the numbers forced to stay away after possible exposures.

As of Friday evening, the district had reported 2,655 cases since July 1 on its online case dashboard. That represents less than 1 percent of its roughly 304,000 students and more than 42,000 employees.

The district hasn’t disclosed how many cases have been reported since school started Aug. 9. Nor has it made public any information on the number of staff and students who have been required to quarantine or otherwise excluded from attending classes.

Many parents have criticized the district for not being as transparent with its COVID-19 data as some other school districts. The Washoe County School District, for example, reports active and total cases by school in an easy-to-read chart and indicates whether “exclusions” have occurred.

In Clark County, the online mapping program that allows parents to check on the status of their kids’ schools has many bugs and is difficult to navigate. It does not list whether quarantines have impacted a school, nor do the notification emails that parents receive after a positive case is confirmed at a school.

The Review-Journal filed two public records requests seeking case and quarantine data for the first two weeks of school, but the district rejected both, saying it had no records responsive to the request.

The quality of CCSD’s COVID-19 data reporting was flagged Monday as an area of concern at a virtual forum on the CCSD Parents Facebook group, where members were invited to submit questions to school district officials.

‘Low trust levels’

Rebecca Garcia, one of the group moderators and president of the Nevada PTA, said one challenge for parents is they get a notification from their child’s school about a confirmed positive case, but the district’s case dashboard sometimes shows zero cases at that school.

“And with CCSD already having such significantly low trust levels, that makes parents feel like somebody doesn’t know what’s going on,” she said.

Garcia also asked Monica Cortez, an assistant superintendent for the district, why the district’s dashboard isn’t updated more frequently, noting it also “lacks some key information that I think most parents are looking for related to exclusions and more school-level information.”

The dashboard has data fed into it by two programs — a system called Origami for employees and Healthmaster for students — and input into those systems has to be done by a nurse, Cortez responded.

She said the target is for the dashboard to be updated every Friday, though this week its new data appeared to be entered daily.

Cortez said there’s a date on the dashboard that shows when it was last updated. She said she was not aware that the date isn’t visible when viewed using a mobile device, an issue brought up by Garcia.

Garcia noted that if the data isn’t being updated until Fridays, the figures could be a week old, not showing the current numbers of COVID-19 cases at a specific school that week.

Not focused on data

As for data on those excluded from attending school due to possible exposure, Cortez said the focus now is on those who test positive or are exposed rather than on compiling the data.

She said other large school districts have hired outside agencies to input data or are in health districts that are required to conduct all contact tracing.

Garcia said she agrees with Cortez about the need to concentrate first on the health process rather than the data, but noted the disconnect causes concern for parents.

Cortez said she appreciated the feedback about the dashboard.

“I think you will continue to see it get better,” she said.

To help track the quality of the information the district is providing, the Review-Journal is encouraging parents and school employees to send COVID-19 email notifications they receive to schooltips@reviewjournal.com. We will use them to inform our reporting and to provide additional information as we are able.

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.

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