The Governor and Tennessee Education Commissioner Unveil New COVID-19 Reporting for Schools

Tennessee’s Education Commissioner, Penny Schwinn, unveil’s State’s response to reporting COVID-19 in schools.

She says they have released plans 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 will inform how COVID-19 is affecting student attendance, chronic absenteeism and overall student attainment.”

Next week, as the final two districts in the state begin the new school year, 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 (FERPA) and protecting personally identifiable information of our youngest Tennesseans is critically important. To ensure protections of individual privacy, schools with fewer than 50 students will not be reported in the dashboard. For schools reporting under 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 amongst 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.

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 listed as positive does not necessarily indicate they contracted COVID-19 at the school building.

Users will have two ways to access information:

  • A map view— An interactive map of the state of Tennessee will enable users to hover over their county or region and select their school to reveal more information.
  • And a menu view—A drop-down menu will allow users to quickly select a particular district of interest to reveal more information.

To protect individual privacy, schools with fewer than 50 students are not reported in this 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 on September 8. The department will be working closely with districts to support their reporting and encourage them to update information on a weekly basis. Districts will receive instructions for reporting this information to the department as well as technical assistance when needed.

Governor Bill Lee says reporting the cases has presented “significant hurdles,” however officials have developed a system that will inform but not violate privacy rights. The system is set to launch next week.

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