SPS to soon unveil COVID-19 dashboard

Published 6:48 pm Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Suffolk Public Schools will soon have a COVID-19 dashboard to track positive cases among students and staff.

Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon III said at the Nov. 12 School Board meeting that it was about 70% to 80% complete and that he expected it to be online later this week. The dashboard, he said, would include information on the total number of positive COVID-19 cases in the division, along with the health metrics.

“The health metrics are always going to be the things that really push our decisions on if we should stay virtual, go hybrid, or if we have to close,” Gordon said.


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He noted that the division has already been sending letters home for any potential cases in the division that may be high or low risk for exposure.

“We have not released our COVID dashboard yet because we did not have enough students in school,” Gordon said initially in response to a question from board Vice Chairwoman Dr. Judith Brooks-Buck, noting that there were about 126 students in specialized programs attending school in person, but they are not in all of the division’s schools.

Staff members are also working from their respective schools at least twice per week.

The division has partnered with AlphaBEST Education to provide childcare at all 11 of the division’s elementary schools for children ages 4 to 12 during virtual and hybrid learning models. Initially, the program had 726 spots available — 66 for each school. When full-time, in-person learning resumes, the program will shift to before-and-after care.

Currently, AlphaBEST notes there is a wait-list because it has reached its current capacity.

Brooks-Buck asked why the information has not been posted when children are in school currently. She said if the division puts the dashboard online, the board and the public would be dealing “with facts rather than dealing with people’s imagination.”

“We’re getting communications from people saying that they’re getting communications,” Brooks-Buck said. “And of course that leaves us, as board members, not knowing until we’re hearing things from other people. We need to be aware of what’s going on.”

Said Gordon: “Anytime we have a positive case, I always make sure that I alert the School Board before a letter goes out to the school community. And each letter has been the same for any school that has had an issue.”

Board member Tyron Riddick said he agreed with Brooks-Buck, that the information needs to be available “immediately, if possible.” He said having the information online would help answer questions he’s been receiving, and it would help explain his votes to keep students in virtual learning.

“I think we should move forward and make that information public,” Riddick said.

Board member Karen Jenkins said she wants the public to be able to know how many cases the division has had at least since September, or at least in the last month. Like Riddick, she wants the dashboard to go up “immediately.”

“I agree wholeheartedly that we need to be transparent and let everyone know if we have cases in our school system,” Jenkins said.

Gordon said based on the feedback from the board, he would have the division’s community engagement team and Supervisor of Health Services Sara Williford ensure that the dashboard is reporting the information the division wants it to, and have it ready this week.