School districts will now be required to report data to state agencies on a weekly basis in order to track and monitor COVID-19 cases.
On Aug. 27, the Texas Education Agency announced a collaboration with the Texas Department of State Health Services in conducting a statewide weekly data collection of positive coronavirus cases in schools, which started this week.
“The COVID case collection is needed to compile statewide data on COVID-19 cases in schools,” according to a release from TEA. “It does not include any individually identifiable information. Schools will still have to submit a separate form to report to their local health entity individual information for purposes of public health actions such as contact tracing.”
Aledo and Weatherford ISDs have already been publishing COVID-19 data on their websites.
“Weatherford ISD is already tracking this information and notifying families and staff when there is a test-confirmed positive case at a campus. However, TEA’s data may be useful to parents and communities because it will provide a broader view of where cases are emerging in school districts across Texas,” WISD Superintendent Dr. Beau Rees said. “We have a COVID-19 page on our website that includes a dashboard of individuals by campus that are test-confirmed positive for COVID. The information is updated each evening, as needed.”
As of Tuesday morning, WISD reported nine total lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases and zero reported as completing the isolation period.
AISD has also continued publishing data on its website.
AISD reported four active COVID-19 cases, four positive recovered cases and 51 who are in isolation, as of Tuesday afternoon.
“The district is required to report confirmed cases on Monday each week starting Tuesday, Sept. 8 because of the Labor Day holiday. Beginning the week of Sept. 14, the district will also report enrollment data,” AISD Director of Communications Mercedes Mayer said. “The district has already been tracking this information, and it is beneficial to us. The Aledo ISD will continue to publish data on the COVID-19 Dashboard on our website, and we will be making an adjustment to the dashboard this week to separate staff and student numbers in the categories that are currently listed on the dashboard."
Aledo ISD had a total of eight confirmed positive cases as of Tuesday afternoon, with four active cases.
Mineral Wells ISD is also publishing its data on a daily COVID-19 dashboard.
“If the state will permit it, we would likely prefer to publish our daily dashboard that we are already using to report case numbers to staff,” MWISD Superintendent John Kuhn said. “We are doing a great job tracking our cases, so I don’t know that this [TEA] reporting system will help us directly on that score, but it will help the state understand what is happening in schools. By giving us insight on what is happening around the state, it can help us gauge the impact the virus is having on our neighbors.”
As of Sept. 4, MWISD has had four students and two staff members test-confirmed positive with COVID-19.
AISD went to full in-person learning this week after following a hybrid on-campus learning plan since school began on Aug. 19. AISD is also offering full remote learning as an alternative.
“We are cautiously watching the district’s COVID-19 numbers and continuing to ask our families to follow all health and safety protocols that we have outlined in our Return to Learn Handbook,” Mayer said.
Kuhn said he feels the district’s safety practices will help reduce the spread of the virus.
“We are beginning to see cases appearing among our staff and student body. We anticipated that we would get cases — the virus is present in our county, so we never doubted that it would impact our students and staff,” Kuhn said. “While we are under no illusions that we will be able to prevent cases of the virus from appearing among students or staff, we feel confident that our robust use of [personal protective equipment], disinfection and sanitization practices, quarantines, frequent wellness self-checks, remote instruction, and social distancing will help to significantly reduce the spread of the illness within our schools.”
Parker County school districts will also be getting medical pods from the hospital district through a Memorandum of Understanding unanimously approved by the commissioners court Tuesday morning.
“What this allows us to do is push some of our funds that we’re getting under the CARES Act to the hospital district, which is then going to purchase medical pods for the schools and what those medical pods do is allow the students to go down to the nurses' office — not have to leave school, not have to have their parents come pick them up and go to a doctor — and they can immediately see the doctor there at the nurses' office at the school through this pod,” Parker County Attorney John Forrest said. “It can take their temperature and all their vitals and the doctor can make a diagnosis and then prescribe any medication that they see necessary. Additionally, [local health authority] Dr. Steven Welch was saying they can quickly do a turnaround on a COVID test to make a determination whether the child needs to go home and be quarantined or not.”
Forrest said there are about $600,000 worth of pods that are being purchased for Parker County schools under the CARES Act, which means there will be no financial impact to the county on the purchases.
“The hospital district has been purchasing these and placing them with the schools through taxpayer money in Parker County under the hospital district at a price of about $30,000 per pod,” Forrest said. “What this is going to allow us to do is utilize money through the CARES Act. It’s going to save $30,000 per school, per pod here in Parker County.”
Parker County Emergency Management Coordinator Sean Hughes said the pods will be useful even beyond COVID-19.
“It’s to cover every campus in Parker County with a student count of 200 or more. It is directly COVID-related and eligible for reimbursement,” Hughes said. “The other interesting aspect about this is if COVID were to end — who knows when — these pods will stay in place and they’ll still be able to be utilized beyond COVID for other things.”