Despite a request by state officials to cut down on information about coronavirus cases in school, the Franklin County School System will continue to give weekly updates.
CARNESVILLE – The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) has asked the Franklin County School System to change the way it reports its coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) numbers.
In an email Franklin County Schools Superintendent Chris Forrer shared with the Franklin County Board of Education during a work session Thursday, the state agency recommended the system not publicly publish numbers of cases or quarantined students or staff that are less than 10 unless the number is zero.
According to DPH, this is to protect the identities of those who were/are sick or quarantined as required by federal privacy laws like HIPAA and FERPA.
“The Department of Public Health (DPH) thanks you and your schools for reporting the number of COVID-19 related close contacts that occurred in your school communities weekly. We understand this is an extra task and we truly appreciate the work you do,” the DPH School COVID Team said in the email. “The information you and your schools reported weekly is included in the attached report. We encourage the district to use this information coupled with other data published by DPH, including the daily status report and the school aged COVID-19 surveillance data to inform school operations and situational awareness. The reports will be updated weekly and sent to the district. Please let us know if you do not wish to receive the reports.”
When presenting the email to the board, Forrer said the way the state had handled COVID and education has been bungled.
“I would say it was a Mickey Mouse operation, but that would be an insult to Mickey Mouse,” Forrer said. “DPH wants us to refer people to their sites instead of doing what we have been doing, which is transparent and simple. We didn’t have any fear mongering with the way we were doing it because people knew what was going on.”
All present members of the board, board member Kent Hall was absent, voiced their displeasure with the recommendation.
Chairman Robin Cato pointed out the email states it is a recommendation and not mandatory.
Forrer asked the board if he could look at the system’s legal options as far as continuing reporting the system’s COVID numbers as they have been.
“If anyone in the public disagrees with this, I suggest you give DPH a call (770-535-5743) and let them know you disagree,” Forrer said.
Tuesday night, Forrer gave the board an update after speaking with the school system’s attorney.
“Our attorney had no clue what law our reporting of the numbers violated so we posted it again today,” Forrer said. “It’s the wishes of the board and of the public so we will continue to publish our numbers as we have been doing every Tuesday at noon on our Facebook page and website.”
This week’s COVID numbers showed an increase in the total number of students with a known current positive status and those currently quarantined for known possible exposure.
As Forrer stated in a previous post, the student enrollment number was updated with the release of this week’s number. Forrer said this number would be updated at the first of each month.
Of 3,564 students enrolled in Franklin County Schools, four currently have positive COVID-19 status and 96 are currently quarantined.
There are currently no staff members with positive status or quarantined.