State warns of early discrepancies in reporting school coronavirus cases

Like many area schools, Hamilton High School is dotted with warning signs regarding coronavirus precautions as students return to the city school district Monday. The impacts of coronavirus safety protocols are deep and widespread, say local school officials. (Provided Photo\Journal-News)

State officials unveiled a new dashboard Thursday listing the number of school students and staffers district-wide who tested positive for the coronavirus.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine cautioned the state’s first charting of cases is only by districts and may initially not calibrate with dashboards generated by individual school systems.

DeWine said the state’s listing will not include individual school buildings, which is a feature some local schools – such as Lakota and Hamilton – present on their recently created dashboards on their district’s websites.

And DeWine said Butler County remains in a Level 3 in the state’s coronavirus advisory system, and the county is currently one of six – among Ohio’s 88 counties – to have that designation.

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He called the new state dashboard for schools, which is available at the Ohio Department of Health’s website, “a positive thing” while praising local schools for their efforts in both preventing the spread of the coronavirus and their reporting to school parents.

“Schools are doing a very, very good job,” he said Thursday.

He asked for patience as state officials work to synchronize the state’s district-reported coronavirus positive test numbers with those reported by local districts.

“We are going to let this (state dashboard) run for a few weeks and see how it works out,” and then adjust it accordingly, said DeWine.

The state will not report on individual school buildings, adding “we can’t micromanage this.”

DeWine and local school officials noted all Ohio public and private schools are already working closely with their county and city health departments in communicating any new cases of students or staffers testing positive for coronavirus. They said they have been diligent in notifying school parents as to those numbers on a per school basis.

Among the few local school districts included in the state’s first report from Butler County was a discrepancy for Hamilton Schools' own dashboard, where the local district has reported six student cases – broken down by school building – whereas the state listing had four cases noted.

Lakota Schools was among the first in the area to post an online dashboard as of last week and it includes listings by individual school buildings. The district’s most recent dashboard, which will be updated on Mondays, reports six students tested positive, but the new state dashboard does not list any cases for Lakota.

“We have been working in partnership with the Butler County health commissioner … to develop not only safety protocols for a responsible reopening, but best practices for reporting positive cases to the county and to our families,” said Betsy Fuller, spokeswoman for the 16,800-student district.

“Since our students returned to school on Aug. 17, within 24 hours of being notified that a student or staff member has tested positive for COVID-19, our principals have shared this information with their families,” said Fuller.

The state’s report for Mason Schools' 11 student cases, matches that district’s current dashboard total.

DeWine said “if there are discrepancies, we will run that down.”

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