Kansas schoolteacher created database of 700 schools reporting coronavirus

Kansas schoolteacher created database of 700 schools reporting coronavirus
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A Kansas high school teacher created what is believed to be the first national database tracking the effects of COVID-19 in K-12 schools, which has now chronicled the spread of the virus at more than 700 schools.

What began as a personal project to assuage her anxiety about students returning to the classroom turned into a crowd-sourced database manned by around 35 volunteers, Olathe West High School theater director Alisha Morris told The Washington Post.

Morris told the Post she believes it is the first national database on school outbreaks. It includes schools in 41 states, as of Monday afternoon.

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“We knew this would happen, and we had tried to make it known that it would happen, but seeing it on paper was, I think, the eye-opening part about it,” Morris told the Post. “It’s just that terrifying moment when you open it up and just keeps scrolling and you’re like: ‘How can there be so many?’”

The Google spreadsheet — which is updated every five minutes — chronicles total known cases, suspected cases, quarantined individuals, and deaths at each school reported by school officials or covered by local news outlets. Viewers can follow a link to a form to submit articles or announcements from school districts. 

Schools have emerged as a flashpoint in the pandemic, with the Trump administration pushing for schools to reopen while teachers’ unions have raised safety concerns. Negotiations in Congress over a relief bill expected to include funding for schools to reopen safely have stalled.  

Several school outbreaks reported on the spreadsheet have already been well-documented, such as 23 cases at Georgia’s North Paulding High School, where multiple people tested positive following a viral photo of students walking the hallways without masks, and more than 100 students in quarantine in Mississippi’s Corinth School District.

Morris’s database, however, examines the scale of the problem schools nationwide are facing as they begin to open over the next month. 

Morris told the Post she did not intend to push any particular political message with the database.

“My goal is to keep people healthy and save lives and to provide data that can hopefully help people make data-informed decisions for the future of their schools,” Morris said.

Morris will begin to teach her own classes — which she decided to hold online — on Tuesday, leaving her with less time to update the database, according to the Post. She said she hopes another individual or organization will take over updating the spreadsheet.