While cases are spiking in Madison County, COVID-19 numbers are low in Norfolk Public Schools, according to its new online dashboard.
The district reported its first set of school COVID-19 data on Wednesday, showing all NPS schools in the yellow risk level and the district as a whole at a positivity rate of .16%.
The dashboard is now part of the NPS operations plan, which was revised at the board of education meeting Monday after several parents and teachers voiced concerns over the district’s orange risk level scenario.
Board members voted to decide COVID-19 risk levels by school building instead of districtwide. Previously, NPS followed the Elkhorn Logan Valley Health Department’s COVID-19 risk dial to determine which education scenario to use — green, yellow, orange or red.
Now administrators determine which scenario to use in each building depending on illness rates. If a school reaches a 2% to 3% positivity rate for COVID-19, or a 10% to 15% absenteeism rate for any illness, district leaders will start discussions about implementing the orange risk level scenario, according to the operations plan.
Bill Robinson, associate superintendent, said in Monday’s board meeting that the absenteeism rate guideline has always been in effect as a normal district rule.
“(The) 15% isn’t a new thing, it's been out there for many years,” Robinson said. “We just don’t talk about it a lot, but if you have an illness rate that high in a building, the health department would always want to get involved.”
While Madison County has slid into orange, all district schools remain in yellow because of low positivity rates. The district as a whole has a positivity rate of .16% and a total absenteeism rate from all illnesses at 2.48%.
The dashboard, located on the NPS website, also shows the rates at every school:
— Little Panthers Preschool: 0% COVID-19 positivity rate; 4.39% absenteeism rate
— Bel Air Elementary: 0% COVID-19; .029% absenteeism
— Grant Elementary: 0.41% COVID-19; 2.31% absenteeism
— Jefferson Elementary: 0% COVID-19; 2.64% absenteeism
— Lincoln Montessori Elementary: 0% COVID-19; 0.64% absenteeism
— Washington Elementary: 0% COVID-19; 1.83% absenteeism
— Westside Elementary: 0% COVID-19; 1.98% absenteeism
— Woodland Park Elementary: 0% COVID-19; 2.56% absenteeism
— Norfolk Middle School: 0% COVID-19; 2.46% absenteeism
— Norfolk Junior High School: 0.28% COVID-19; 2.23% absenteeism
— Norfolk High School: 0.33% COVID-19; 3.22% absenteeism
Superintendent Jami Jo Thompson said she hopes to update the dashboard on Wednesdays and implement a new scenario, if needed, on a Monday to give parents time to prepare, although this can’t be guaranteed.
While it might look as though schools aren’t in danger of moving to the orange risk level, the district can still change scenarios based on staffing. If a school doesn’t have enough staff members to fill positions, the building could go straight from the yellow level to red, which is remote learning.
“We could be really healthy in our students, but if we have a lot of staff out, it’s hard to have school,” Robinson said.
Limited substitute employees has put a strain on staffing this year, Thompson said during Monday’s meeting.
“Everyone across the district has taken on more responsibilities this year in order to provide safe environment for learning. I know it is difficult and beginning to wear on them,” Thompson said. “They are required to start their day at 7:45 a.m. instead of 8 a.m. and they are frequently asked to sub during planning periods due to lack of subs.”
Thompson said administrators are planning to meet to discuss this issue and ways to give teachers who have been subbing for other classes some relief.
While board members approved the hiring of a full-time substitute teacher to start Oct. 19, the district also is looking into providing teachers additional planning time and hiring instructional coaches for its current pool of substitutes.