Dallas ISD, TEA Launch Dashboards To Track COVID-19 Cases

District leaders detail procedures for addressing sick individuals and outbreaks

Regardless of whether Dallas ISD parents chose to keep children at home, learning virtually, or felt confident in sending them to school,  they were nearly universal in asking for some easy way to track how many cases the district had.

The district dashboard is updated by 5 p.m. daily and is easy to use. The default is the district-wide view, but users can easily see how many cases are in each school board trustee district, how many are in each zip code, or how many are in any given school.

But what happens when a student or staff member contracts COVID-19? 

In a memo sent to schools on Sept. 17, Dallas ISD chief of school leadership Jolee Healey outlined what it would look like when students or staffers are diagnosed with COVID-19.

In the memo, Healey outlined a seven-step plan for contact tracing that largely hews to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance. 

Those feeling sick go to the school nurse, who evaluates them using a screening tool developed by Dallas County Health and Human Services. If they do have symptoms, they are sent home, and the school removes the students (or staffers) from the classroom or office and deep cleans the space. The nurse documents the information and notifies the principal and the district’s health services department.

“The decision to close a school depends on the number of COVID-19 positive cases that can be linked cases.”

Dallas ISD

If the case is confirmed, a notification is sent to anyone identified as being within six feet of the sick student or staffer for more than 15 minutes two or more days before symptoms develop, or two days before a positive test – even if everyone was wearing a mask. Those students and teachers will be required to quarantine for 14 days, utilizing distance learning in the meantime.

Students and staff who test positive can return as soon as 10 days have passed since the onset of the symptoms or the positive test result, they haven’t had a fever in 24 hours (without fever reducer), and symptoms have improved.

The district also says that short-term closures for 24 hours might be required in some cases to engage in adequate contact tracing. The district may also, at times, need to close an entire school for 14 days if there is a widespread outbreak.

“The decision to close a school depends on the number of COVID-19 positive cases that can be linked cases,” the district explained. “For example, an individual is confirmed positive for COVID-19, and within 14 days, five of their close contacts also become ill and test positive for COVID-19. This is a total of six linked cases, which on the advice of Dallas County Health department, might trigger the closure of a facility.”

In September, the Texas Education Agency revealed its tracker, which charts the student and staff cases in Texas public schools. And Dallas County now also includes school cases, including homeschool and private school.

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, deputy editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at bethany.erickson@peoplenewspapers.com.

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