s the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt all facets of the education system, Park Hill school officials announced several changes to their communication plan and a role reversal with the Kansas City and Platte County health departments.
When school resumes on Sept. 8, school districts rather than health departments will take the lead on contact tracing when a positive case of COVID-19 turns up in schools.
“Normally, when we are not in a pandemic situation if we had a communicable disease, they would be the ones to contact us and do all the contact tracing,” said Tammy Saylor, coordinator of health services in the Park Hill School District.
The reason for this role reversal is a backlog of COVID-19 cases, stretching health departments thin. While rates peaked in mid-July, according to the Mid-America Regional Council’s web site, the COVID-19 positivity rate in the non-Kansas City portion of Platte County is 14.52 percent.
The seven-day rolling average percent positivity rate is one of the methods health officials use to determine the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community. The percentage reflects the number of positive cases among those who are tested.
School board member Scott Monsees said he is suspicious of the positivity rate, refusing to believe it is the most effective measurement of COVID-19 in the community.
According to many health experts, if the positivity rate is above 15%, school districts should go into a full virtual learning mode.
A sustained rate below 5% reveals that the virus is reasonably well-controlled in the community. Based upon the positivity rate and other data, the Platte County Health Department Board of Trustees recently voted to allow the reopening of public school in Platte County with grade levels Pre-K through fifth grade being in-person and 6th-12th grades under a hybrid learning mode, utilizing a combination of in-person and virtual learning.
The district also shared information about its plans to improve its communication this upcoming year.
Although legal and policy obligations restrict district officials from sharing student health information, the district will contact the families of any child in direct contact at school with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 or someone whose medical provider diagnosed the child with a presumed case of COVID-19.
The district has organized a communication task force, assigned with placing these calls and sending out letters of communication when the times comes.
Additionally, the entire building will be notified when a child tests positive for COVID-19, district officials say.
Superintendent Dr. Jeanette Cowherd said the district will be putting out a “dashboard” of positive COVID-19 cases of staff and students. The report will display an aggregate number of cases in the district, but “not per building because it does become very identifiable and we cannot do that,” added Cowherd.
The dashboard will be displayed on the district’s web page in the first week of school and updated on a weekly basis.
The dashboard is in response to community feedback, requesting this information. “[W]e want to be responsive, but we also have to do it in a responsible way.”
According to the Mid-America Regional Council’s web site, the COVID-19 positivity rate in the non-Kansas City portion of Platte County is 14.52 percent.
The district also announced students will be taking the NWEA test upon their return to the classroom to measure their skills and proficiency following the 25-week gap in their education. Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) is a not-for-profit organization that serves school districts throughout the nation in improving learning through assessment. These tests, coupled with NWEA resources, allow educators to make informed decisions to promote academic growth.
NWEA partners with more than 2,200 school districts representing more than three million students.