Local school’s COVID-19 statistics confuse parents; district says it’s for student privacy

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — As COVID-19 cases continue to increase, parents in a smaller school district, are facing a tough decision.  Keep kids learning in-person, or switch them to an online setting. Some are basing that decision on data reported by the school district.

A few schools in the Tomah Area School District opened their doors this month.

“We’re excited to be back in full session,” said Superintendent Mike Hanson.

Like other school districts, Tomah has an online dashboard which lists active cases, inactive cases and other statistics on attendance.

With these stats and Monroe Health Department guidance, the school district continues to have in-person classes.

“Within our community, providing that in-person education is vitally important,” Hanson said.

But some district parents think the data is confusing.

“They’re calling this an active COVID case but, I don’t know what that means,” said Aaron Fox, a Tomah School District parent.

On the district’s website, the data for positive cases, those in quarantine and those awaiting testing are lumped into the same category of “active cases.”

Aaron would rather see those three categories separated.

“Not having that definitive number of how many positive cases that have actually occurred at these schools makes it impossible to make any kind of comparison,” Fox said.

Superintendent Hanson says the reason the numbers are grouped together isn’t to make things more confusing, but to protect students.

“Those are all put together to promote transparency of our reporting, but also the confidentiality rights of our students,” Hanson said.

However, Fox says putting the data together could inflate the numbers, which he is using to decide if his two sons will continue to attend in-person classes at Tomah Middle and High school.

“I would prefer to make that decision based on actual data, because if the data were to be out in the open and there were really only a handful of cases, I would feel bad for making that decision without having any data,” Fox said.

As of now, using the data from all three categories, Tomah High school has 19 active cases listed and Tomah Middle School has 12.

“Even for my children, I definitely recognize their desire to be in school, to be around their friends, and I respect that,” said Fox.

Lemonweir, one of the Tomah district schools, runs on a 45/15 school calendar, This week began its intercession break.
Over the span of almost three months of in-person learning, there was only one case of a student testing positive for the virus in July. Today, a second case was added to Lemonweir’s COVID Active Cases category.