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Portland Public Schools releases new COVID-19 dashboard

The tool tracks the number of COVID cases at each school and breaks down the number of students and staff who are quarantining or isolating.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland parents have one more tool to get a clearer picture of COVID cases at their child's school.

On Tuesday afternoon, Portland Public Schools (PPS) released its new COVID-19 Dashboard. It shows information regarding cases at specific schools, as well as information on students and staff who are isolating or quarantining.

The numbers will be updated four times a day, at 6 a.m., 12 p.m,  6 p.m., and midnight.

According to data as of 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday for the period of Sept. 1-15, 140 students had been isolated, meaning they tested positive or were presumed to be positive for COVID. It also shows 309 students quarantined who might have been exposed outside of school and another 308 who could have been exposed at school. We asked the district why there is no data for the number of staff quarantined due to on-site exposure. We have not yet received an answer.

Lisa Kensel is mom to three kids in the district, one in elementary, middle, and high school. She's also president-elect for the Oregon Parent Teacher Association. We asked her what her thoughts were, as a parent, looking at the numbers.

“I'm not overly concerned given that we're a district of 50,000 students. 300 students is a very low percentage,” said Kensel.

Credit: PPS
PPS COVID-19 Dashboard with information for 9/1/21-9/15/21



Even though the new tool had only been released a day prior, she said she’s heard feedback about the dashboard from other parents.

“The mobile version is not optimized and so a lot of parents are looking at it on a mobile phone, not on a laptop computer or a desktop. So, they're having issues with accessing the information and being able to read it accurately,” Kensel said.

Questions for PPS

She also had other questions regarding how students, logistically, were supposed to continue their education if they had to quarantine.

A spokesperson for PPS, Karen Werstein, said it’s up to the student’s teacher to distribute material online through the school’s learning platforms (Canvas or Seesaw) or prepare work to be collected at the school's front office.

“What's the follow-through on the school side with individual teachers," wondered Kensel.

RELATED: Some smaller school districts delay school year because of COVID exposures

Kensel said she was hoping for a more concrete and specific plan for teachers across the board so all students will be able to equally access their work.

“If and when numbers start to creep up, I think that could be something that we need to look at a little bit more seriously as to how kids are getting their work at home,” she said.

She said there is additionally some confusion among parents who are notified that their child may have been exposed. Kensel said she received an e-mail that one of her children had potentially been exposed at school, but if they were fully vaccinated, they could return to school. She was unclear on what that meant for her family or her younger child who cannot get the vaccine. Kensel said she called five people in order to find out if her 10-year-old could go back to school despite their sibling’s potential exposure. It turns out her 10-year-old could go back.

For now, she said her kids are thriving with in-person learning and what gives her some security is seeing nearly 95% of staff are vaccinated. She hopes everyone who is eligible to get a vaccine, gets it.

Meantime, Jonathan Garcia, Chief of Staff for PPS emphasized the district's effort to mitigate the spread of COVID and build trust by providing more information.

“Our COVID-19 dashboard is the next step in our effort to help all of us make even more informed decisions about our collective health,” said Garcia.

Since the start of the school year

This month, KGW has heard from students, parents, and teachers who have been worried about the potential for COVID cases. We received photos that show Portland students packed together, illustrating their concerns

Credit: Lucy Michaud
Students at Grant High School

Werstein has said the district is abiding by state and CDC guidelines and has safety precautions in place.

At the start of the school year, KGW interviewed two doctors, Dr. Smitha Chadaga and Dr. Erika Meyer. They said it's realistic for parents to expect COVID cases.

Right now, it's hit or miss which districts are publicly posting COVID-19 data. Other districts that are posting similar data, include Vancouver Public Schools and the Beaverton School District.

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