More than a half-year into a global pandemic, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is considering how it should report individual COVID-19 case information.
This should have been resolved by now.
As we reported Wednesday, the Missouri National Education Association and others have asked DESE when and how the department plans to report individual case information.
Communications Coordinator Mallory McGowin said during Tuesday's State Board of Education meeting that DESE is "looking into sharing publicly the positive case counts among school-aged students in a given community."
As we reported, DESE has data on positive cases for school-aged children and can track where the children who tested positive live. However, DESE cannot determine whether these children attend the public school district in the area, are homeschooled or attend a private school.
Despite such challenges, DESE should work quickly to implement a policy designed to share as much information with the public as possible and as quickly as possible.
Schools are required to report cases to their local public health agency (such as the Cole County Health Department) immediately, and the local public health agency is required to share COVID-19 information with schools immediately.
Some schools are good about sharing information with the public. Here in Jefferson City, the Jefferson City School District is reporting cases on its website, jcschools.us, under "Back to JC Schools Re-entry Plan." The district is also informing families of the affected schools.
Not all schools, however, are as forthcoming. The New York Times reported on Aug. 22 that some "districts have been silent, sometimes citing privacy concerns to withhold information, to the dismay of some anxious parents, concerned educators and public health experts trying to combat the pandemic."
Last week, one local school principal told a parent he wasn't at liberty to say how many positive COVID-19 cases there were in his school, only to later send an email to all parents disclosing the number.
It's inconsistencies like this that make it important for DESE to quickly and thoroughly report COVID-19 stats within schools.
Parents need to be armed with as much information as possible. Among other things, the numbers could determine whether parents want to send their children to school physically or keep them home for remote learning. The stats even could help parents determine which schools to send their children.
We urge DESE to redouble its efforts to quickly come up with a plan to share COVID-19 case information.