MARICOPA COUNTY, AZ (3TV/CBS5) -- Maricopa County health officials have released a "dashboard for school reopening," a tool that shows you whether your school district or area meets the criteria to reopen schools safely.
The dashboard presents localized information by zip code, city, school district. It's designed to help school officials in Maricopa County determine if their communities are meeting reopening metrics set by the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) and Arizona Department of Education (ADE).
The charts show if an area is in the red, yellow, or green zone in terms of opening back up. “It’s extremely helpful. I mean if it’s just colors we need to look at, that makes it a lot easier than doing the math ourselves which no one can seem to figure out,” said Lara Palles, who has three elementary school kids in the Scottsdale Unified district.
School districts in the Phoenix-area are starting to alter in-person learning plans as COVID-19 cases grow in Maricopa County.
The tool allows school superintendents, principals and other decision-makers to see two weeks’ worth of data on the three metrics set by ADHS and ADE for opening schools:
• Case rate per 100,000 people: A way to standardize and compare the number of cases in specific populations
• Percent positivity: A way to tell if there is significant community spread and whether enough testing is available
• COVID-like illness: A way to monitor the percent of people who visit participating emergency rooms and hospitals with COVID-19 symptoms before they are tested. This is the first sign that a decrease or increase in COVID-19 community spread is occurring (data available at the county level).
“Maricopa County Public Health’s role is to provide information to school administrators about the spread of COVID-19 in their communities so they can make data-driven decisions to open schools in the safest way possible, and that’s what this dashboard is all about,” said Marcy Flanagan, executive director for MCDPH.
The data used to generate this report is based on the benchmarks and thresholds for schools reopening, established by the Arizona Department of Health Services.
“This dashboard will allow decision-makers to view their selected area’s overall risk level related to community transmission of COVID-19 and the recommended learning scenario, based on the most recent data,” said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director of disease control for MCDPH.
The dashboard is simple to use. The map is interactive; you can search by zip code, or different school districts.
Let’s take Phoenix zip code 85043 - it shows two benchmarks are still in the red, and one in the green as of August 14.
Mesa Public Schools, the largest district in the state, shows the same trend - two categories in the red and one in the green.
Both of those mean spread is still substantial and virtual learning should be in place, but for Palles’ kids in Scottsdale Uniifed, they are in two yellow moderate categories and one green, meaning a hybrid model of learning is suggested.
Palles worries about what happens if they slide back to red after going back to school in person.
“I think the inconsistency, the worry about starting and stopping is what I worry about the most,” she said.
One noticeable trend among all of the data is many areas in the county are green when it comes to COVID-like illnesses in the hospital, showing major improvement.
Palles said overall, this new tool may be the most helpful in helping her kids understand whats going on.
“That actually makes a lot of sense because that’s the first thing that we teach them walking down the street. So seeing that…green means “go” green means it’s safe,” she said.
All data will be updated weekly on Thursdays at 4 p.m. They'll also continue to have weekly webinars with schools as the weeks move forward.