Editorial: Counting the cases

As positivity rates throughout the state soar, the WSS Editorial Board weighs in on the ICCSD’s lack of effective communication with students regarding new COVID-19 cases.

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Sachiko Goto

Has the ICCSD been transparent enough with students about COVID-19 cases in schools? The editorial board voted “no,” 26-0.

Throughout the first trimester of the 2020-2021 school year, ICCSD students have received limited information regarding COVID-19 updates. Although the pandemic has occupied the news since March, many students, both online and hybrid, remain unaware of the COVID-19 status at their respective schools. The district contacts teachers and parents with occasional updates via email; however, information regarding the virus is not directly reaching the student body. The ICCSD has not been transparent enough with COVID-19 data at the school level, leaving many students anxious and unable to make informed decisions about their learning model and overall well-being.

A primary role of the ICCSD is to inform families about updates in the community relevant to the schools. Administrators in the district contact students about important news, whether it be about weekly school updates, upcoming college visits or even a gas leak at school. What makes the COVID-19 pandemic any different? During the transition to online schooling in the spring and throughout the summer, student guardians were the only individuals to receive district updates, meaning students could only receive information and attend ICCSD webinars when forwarded district emails by those who received them. Due to the district’s lack of transparency, there is a heavy reliance on parents and teachers to share crucial information.

Without the necessary information, students may be putting themselves at higher risk for contracting the virus than initially imagined.”

Since 55% of students in the district are attending in-person classes, they must be conscious of the presence of COVID-19 at their respective schools. This information could also encourage students to follow social distancing guidelines more vigilantly outside of school. Even students that are not in the building may be anxious due to the lack of communication since the pandemic affects the entire community, not just those in the hybrid model. Additionally, students from both learning models participate in school sports, and without the necessary information, they may be putting themselves at higher risk for contracting the virus than initially imagined.

Students should be aware of the risks that come with attending school during a pandemic, but the ICCSD’s lack of circulation regarding COVID-19 updates limits this understanding. Although deciding how they learn is ultimately a personal decision of comfort and practicality, students and their families should be conscious of all the factors and risks that go into choosing between the two learning models. If the district expects junior high and high school students to make their own decisions when it comes to class schedules and completing assignments, then these students are also old enough to receive district COVID-19 updates. With the change in trimesters, some students have opted to switch from one learning model to another. However, there was not enough information provided by the district for students to make the most informed decision possible. To combat this, the ICCSD must make this information more readily available to the student body and the community-at-large.

While resources like the ICCSD COVID-19 Dashboard provide useful insight into virus news, they are only valuable if everyone knows they exist.”

While resources like the ICCSD COVID-19 Dashboard provide useful insight into virus news, they are only valuable if everyone knows they exist. All students and their families should be made aware of where they can find district updates and COVID-19 data so they can make more informed decisions in terms of their schooling. The ICCSD may accomplish this by sending weekly email updates to students, notifying the entire school (not just parents and teachers) when someone tests positive and more widely publicizing resources like the COVID-19 Dashboard. However, increasing transparency surrounding COVID-19 in schools may heighten fear and discomfort in students, so this information must encourage awareness without directly increasing COVID-19 anxieties. Above all, individuals’ privacy must be prioritized when new data is provided to the community by following pre-established HIPAA guidelines.

When reflecting on the last trimester, the ICCSD has not been transparent enough when it comes to communicating COVID-19 updates with students. The district must increase and improve communication with students regarding the virus and other school and district news moving forward. If junior high and high school students are old enough to make other school-related decisions for themselves, they are also old enough to know the status of COVID-19 in their school community for the sake of their health. By making COVID-19 information more accessible and transparent, students can make more informed decisions for themselves, especially when it comes to following social distancing guidelines and deciding how they pursue their education for the rest of the school year.