The Kern High School District has unveiled a dashboard on its website that notifies the public about positive COVID cases on its campuses and worksites, providing a snapshot of the largest district in the county.
In August, more students than ever returned to Kern County campuses for in-person instruction in the midst of a surge of COVID cases. On their first days of school, none of Kern County's 46 districts offered a dashboard with publicly available data about cases. Now KHSD's dashboard marks the arrival of a fourth. District spokeswoman Erin Briscoe-Clark said the dashboard was rolled out late last week, though it arrived with little fanfare.
It means three of the four largest districts offer public data: Bakersfield City and Greenfield Union school districts rolled out their dashboards nearly two weeks ago. Lamont Elementary School District, which began school in late July, rolled out its dashboard about a month ago. Panama-Buena Vista Union School District intends to introduce a dashboard as well.
When a positive COVID case is identified on campus, schools are required to notify the county Public Health Department and close contacts. This is a marked change from the last school year when schools were required to notify the entire school community, though far fewer students were on campus. In Kern County, where there are 46 districts of wildly varying sizes, each school district has taken a different approach.
KHSD flags those who are in a classroom with a positive case, in addition to close contacts and the county, according to Briscoe-Clarke. She added that the COVID-19 dashboard "provides one more layer of communication with our families and community."
The district's new dashboard will be updated every Monday and includes the number of confirmed cases within the last 14 days on any given site throughout the district. It also includes the number of students and staff at each site.
The district notes, as all administration have been carefully noting, that positive cases in the dashboard will appear "even if the case was contracted elsewhere."
Monday's update indicates that there have been 424 confirmed positive cases in the last 14 days among a total student and staff population of 51,660 or 0.82 percent of that population.
The rate of cases is far above average at Kern Valley High School. There were 33 confirmed cases among a population of 546, or about 6 percent of the student and staff tested positive over the last 14 days. Recently, two Kernville Union schools in Lake Isabella were shut down for two days because of staffing concerns prompted by COVID absences.
A category composed of district offices and support services noted a higher rate of COVID cases than other sites, except for Kern Valley. There were 15 cases among 671 staff members, which represents a 2.2 percent infection rate. Other campuses or centers were less than 1.4 percent during the last two weeks.
Because there are no requirements about how to release public data, each school district with a dashboard — if it has one — looks a little different. And depending on the dashboard, data that may be available one week may be gone the next. All of them break down the cases by site and whether the cases affect students or staff, giving a snapshot of what is happening at a school site in a particular week — typically the week prior.
Because BCSD and Greenfield Union have been sharing three weeks of data, there are trend lines in each district.
The number of cases in BCSD has held steady each week the district has shared data: 120 cases the week of the Aug. 27, 118 the week of Sept. 3 and 119 the week of Sept. 10. There have been 357 cases total since the district began sharing. The number of students and staff on campus fluctuated from 25,989 to 26,810, but this means that in the three weeks between Aug. 27 and Sept. 16, about 1.2 percent of population on campus received a positive COVID test, according to BCSD's COVID dashboard.
This week BCSD has also begun to share the number of individuals in the district that are in quarantine. This week there were 555.
Greenfield Union's numbers among students have been trending downward since the district began sharing data, and its numbers among staff have held steady. The week of Aug. 27 there were 55 positive COVID cases among students and eight on staff. The week of Sept. 3 there were 34 cases among students and seven on staff. The week of Sept. 10 there were 28 cases among students and 8 on staff.
This marks 1.27 percent of 9,241 students have tested positive for COVID and 1.45 percent of the 1,591 staff in Greenfield Union during the three weeks.
Unlike other districts, Lamont Elementary School District has kept a running tab of total cases since school began. It also includes "active" cases, which means the infected individual has not returned to campus. So far 61 students and nine staff members have tested positive for COVID since school began. Currently, 10 students have active cases, compared with a single staff member.