Schools eye usage of new metrics on data portal from Virginia Dept. of Health

Schools eye usage of new metrics on data portal from Virginia Dept. of Health

ALBEMARLE Co., Va. (WVIR) - The Virginia Department of Health is releasing new data showing potential safety concerns when it comes to school reopening. The question now is how schools will use this data and how important will it be in the decision-making process.

The new data uses guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help school officials make important decisions.

One district about to make those decisions is Albemarle County.

“We have a community that’s really invested in that, obviously, because of the personal impact it has,” Phil Giaramita, the strategic communications officer at Albemarle County Public Schools, said.

As part of Giaramita’s job, he hears lots of messages.

"Just judging from the feedback we get anecdotally emails and contacts from people, there are folks very passionate on both sides of this issue,” he said.

He says the data will be a large part of the decision the county school board plans to make on Oct. 8 -- will students return to classrooms? And if so, how many?

That’s exactly why the dashboard was published, said Virginia State Epidemiologist Dr. Lilian Peake.

“Our thought was that we wanted to have the most real-time data that we could get, or was reliable, to look at every day and understand what was happening,” she said.

It’s not the only thing guiding decisions for Albemarle County.

“I think that context piece is really important,” Giaramita said. "Not just looking at what the numbers are but looking at what they tell you about what’s actually going on in the community.”

Giaramita also says feedback from parents, teachers, students, and workers is valued. That’s why the county is planning to send out more surveys.

"That feedback was really important to us when we made our initial recommendations back on July the 30th, which was what put us in stage 2, and it’s going to be important again.”

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