Asian woman doctor with stethoscope in uniform

Five cases of the COVID-19 virus have been confirmed at Chandler Unified elementary schools since campuses started reopening three weeks ago.  

Data posted online shows Sanborn, Conley and Auxier elementary schools have all reported cases of the contagious virus among its students and staff after resuming in-person classes on Sept. 14. 

The district has decided to publicly disclose which schools have confirmed cases of COVID-19 by publishing data each week on the CUSD website.

The move follows a similar one by Gilbert Public Schools and, like GPS, Chandler Unified will only report the number of cases without distinguishing between students and staff to protect individuals’ privacy.

Although schools are obligated to report suspected cases of COVID-19 to their local health department, county and state officials have refrained from identifying which schools have had confirmed cases of the virus.

Instead, they’ve given districts the option of deciding whether or not the information will be disclosed. 

Many districts and charter schools have avoided public disclosure of COVID-19 cases, often opting to only notifying students who came into contact with an infected person.

CUSD is listing the number of cases at each of its 42 campuses through a dashboard grid on its website. Mesa Public Schools started the same thing last week.

District spokesman Terry Locke said CUSD opted for transparency in order to gain the community’s trust during an uncertain time. 

“We are providing a sense of partnership with our families as we do everything we can to keep our facilities safe,” he said.

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman recently called upon districts and health agencies to share which schools have had cases of COVID-19 in order to keep rumor mills from getting out of control. 

“Having detailed communications protocols in place – and making them publicly available – can help provide some level of certainty in these very uncertain times,” Hoffman said. 

She added that greater transparency was needed because “while we can’t control every rumor that goes through a school, we – as school leaders – should prioritize consistent and transparent communication.”

Health officials are offering the total number of school-related COVID-19 cases across Maricopa County, but have declined to narrow the data down to a district level. 

County officials have often cited privacy concerns as a reason to not disclose specific information on where COVID-19 cases are being reported. 

Multiple media outlets have spent months suing government agencies to reveal which nursing homes have had COVID-19 cases after one Chandler facility had a slew of COVID-related deaths back in April. 

Chandler Unified will report a confirmed COVID-19 case on its online dashboard after classmates of infected students are notified. 

Classmates or teachers who have been within 6 feet of the infected student for at least a 10-minute span of time will be asked to quarantine for two weeks.  

CUSD will start adding the district’s middle and high schools to its data dashboard next week after in-person learning resumes at secondary schools on Oct. 13. 

The online data only lists “active” cases of the virus, which CUSD defines as an individual who has not yet been cleared by a school nurse of no longer having COVID-19 symptoms. 

Once a student or employee is cleared, their case is removed from the dashboard.   

The district doesn’t require infected students to prove they’ve tested negative for COVID-19 before they’re allowed to return to class, said Health Services Director Lyndsay Hartley, because CUSD is restricted with what it can demand of families. 

“We cannot ask the parents to get them a test,” Hartley told the CUSD school board last month. “We can’t truly make them tell us.” 

The district will encourage parents to be transparent about the health status of their children, she added, and monitor the health of the student’s classmates to ensure a COVID-19 outbreak doesn’t take place. 

Regardless of any testing results, Hartley said CUSD will bring in county and state health officials if it suspects a school might have an outbreak consisting of more than one infected student.

 In that scenario, she said the county health officials would offer guidance on how to proceed with mitigating the virus’s spread. 

Any student displaying a COVID-related symptom at school will be sent home and may have to quarantine for several days, Hartley said, because the district can’t be sure whether the student is infected until they’re tested.  

“Without a test, you really can’t know whether they’re positive or negative for COVID,” she added.