Fullerton Joint Union High School District re-introduces COVID-19 dashboard that reports positive coronavirus cases among students, staff

The+COVID-19+dashboard+provides+data+on+confirmed+positive+student+and+staff+cases+within+the+Fullerton+Joint+Union+High+School+District.+As+of+Oct.+7%2C+two+students+and+one+staff+member+from+Sunny+Hills+tested+positive+compared+to+La+Habra+High+School%2C+which+has+the+most+positive+COVID-19+cases+among+the+campuses+in+the+district.

Photo used with permission from Fullerton Joint Union High School District website

The COVID-19 dashboard provides data on confirmed positive student and staff cases within the Fullerton Joint Union High School District. As of Oct. 7, two students and one staff member from Sunny Hills tested positive compared to La Habra High School, which has the most positive COVID-19 cases among the campuses in the district.

Susie Kim

In an effort to be more transparent about students and staff testing positive for COVID-19, the Fullerton Joint Union High School District [FJUHSD] has created a digital dashboard that records the number of confirmed and active coronavirus cases in the district.

As of Oct. 7, the dashboard tallied a total of two students and one staff member who have tested positive for COVID-19 compared with the week of Sept. 7 after the Labor Day weekend when infection rates rose to eight students. No staff at that time tested positive for the coronavirus.

“I did expect less, but with that said, it seems that the numbers right now are tapering off and not increasing,” principal Allen Whitten said about the first week’s dashboard numbers for Sunny Hills. “I think our students are doing a better job at staying home if they get a test or if they have symptoms. Our students have wised up to that — if they get a test, they need to stay home.”

Assistant principal Hilda Arredondo said her job is to report the number of positive cases at Sunny Hills to the district.

The highest number of COVID-19 positive students on the FJUHSD dashboard as of Oct. 7 is four cases from La Habra High School, double that of Sunny Hills’ number.

The dashboard, first announced in a Sept. 3 email from FJUHSD superintendent Steve McLaughlin, reflects the number of students who tested positive within a 10-day period, the amount of time required for self-quarantine after receiving the test results.

If a student tests positive and identifies close contacts during school hours, Arredondo and several staff members personally walk out to the sources and inform them. Otherwise, students receive a phone call along with a follow-up email with instructions about returning to campus or not.

After senior Autumn Alverson visited the link to the COVID-19 dashboard for the first time, she appreciated the confidentiality of private information, such as the names of the student and staff who contracted COVID-19.

“I like that it is also transparent across all the districts because you can see our school compared to other schools and see that Sunny Hills is around the same level as the others,” Alverson said. “I think the numbers were not as bad as what I expected, so I feel good about being on campus.”

Her mother, Melissa Alverson, hopes the dashboard could contain more information on contact tracing to confirm that her child did not come into close proximity with someone who tested positive.

“It would be helpful to know more information about the person who tested positive, such as the last day they were on campus and what grade they are in,” Melissa Alverson said.

The COVID-19 Student Privacy FAQ document from March 20, 2020, which applies to all U.S. schools, informs school administrators that they may wish to proactively warn parents and students by disclosing the minimum amount of information required to address the issue.

“Given COVID-19’s high degree of infectiousness, it may be wise for schools to err on the side of caution and notify the entire school when suspected-but-unconfirmed cases exist,” the letter from The School Superintendents Association said. “However, it may not be necessary to identify the symptomatic individual.”

Since the level of information revealed to the public is not constant, Arredondo cannot give a set response as to how much remains confidential.

Besides concerns about communication with close contact, Melissa Alverson likes that the data is easily accessible to everyone.

The link to the dashboard can be accessed at the FJUHSD website, under the COVID-19 category which lists resources such as safety information and newsletters for students and staff. 

To maintain the accuracy and credibility of the dashboard, Arredondo asks that all families who have tested positive inform staff.

“We need to make sure that we keep students on our campus informed and safe,” she said.

However, Arredondo respects everyone’s concerns on reporting positive cases and understands it is a personal preference to do so.

“I am very happy with the cooperation of our family and community,” she said. “I appreciate everyone keeping us informed to help students and keep safe on our campus.”