COVID Reporting is Public Issue

How We Report Cases
Posted on 10/16/2020
Image of COVID reporting(Maia Belay reporting for Fox8.com/WJW)

When it comes to reporting coronavirus cases at school, some say there needs to be more transparency. But just what are the policies school districts should follow?

Akron Public Schools admit there can be some confusion about who should be notified and when, if there’s a positive case.

“I can see where that frustration may lay, whether it is a parent or community member or a staff member,” said Debra Foulk, Akron Public Schools executive director of business affairs.

The Ohio Department of Health issued an order in September outlining school districts coronavirus parent and guardian reporting policy. It states K-12 schools must report a coronavirus case within 24 hours to parents and guardians in writing. The notification is for classroom contacts and the school building of the person who tested positive. Districts are encouraged to put positive case counts online to inform the greater community.

For school districts operating remotely, there’s a difference in reporting guidelines. According to the Ohio Department of Education, “All districts and schools must report COVID-19 cases for students and staff who are on-site for class or any other in-person activity.”

The department clarified online, “…on-site means the student has engaged in in-person activity (instruction, extracurriculars, support services) during the infectious period.”

Akron Public Schools, although operating remotely according to Foulk, reports cases online like many districts across Northeast Ohio. Currently, the district reports a total of 12 student cases and 11 total staff cases. They are working out the details of future reporting upon students' return to the classroom.

“We haven’t gone through that yet and that would be a discussion with Summit County Public Health as to what direction they would like us to take,” Foulk said.

In the Shaker Heights City School District, teachers returned to the classroom on Thursday to prepare for students phased-in return later this month. However, the district is currently re-evaluating that plan amid the rise in coronavirus cases.

A spokesperson said they are still operating with 100 percent remote instruction and following reporting guidelines set by the state and Cuyahoga County Board of Health.

Independence Local Schools Superintendent Ben Hegedish said because they have a little more than 1,000 students total, he is informing all district families of the building and grade when there is a positive test.

“We individually call ‘close contacts’ who have to quarantine,” he said in an emailed response. “We have had two incidents of students testing positive, leading to quarantine, since we opened on 9/2.”

The North Ridgeville City Schools spokesperson said a classroom contact letter is sent to families of the student and staff members who may have encountered a person who tested positive for the virus. In addition, what the district calls a communication is sent to families and staff members in the district about a coronavirus case at a specific school.

A Rocky River City Schools spokesperson said their COVID-19 dashboard online is the primary reporting source, but they do reach out to close contacts by phone or email.

Kathryn Powers, superintendent of the Twinsburg City School District, said a letter is issued to the school district community about positive cases and a letter is sent to possible close contacts.

The Elyria City School District said its notification of positive cases is two-fold. The school building community is alerted about the positive case, in addition to the impacted classroom receiving a letter about the result.

“To date, we’ve had one confirmed case that required notification to families,” said Amy Higgins, the director of communications and marketing for the district through email. “As we go forward, we will continue to use the above notification process and we will likely use our robocall system, as well.”
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