By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – One week after InDepthNH.org exposed the state’s COVID-19 school dashboard as inaccurate, hard to find, and out of date, it was still on the Department of Health and Human Services’ website Monday with the same information as last week and some from last year.
Becky Wilson, governmental affairs director for the New Hampshire School Boards Association, said the state’s school dashboard has been off since last year.
Wilson was concerned that the inaccuracies could cause confusion for parents and local leaders trying to keep students safe, especially in a sensitive era when there are sometimes lots of different competing information about the virus.
It’s tough for the state, Wilson said, because case numbers are a moving target and sometimes schools rely on parents to report.
“It could create a lot of misunderstanding, confusion among people who don’t know what information is correct,” Wilson said.
State Sen. Tom Sherman, D-Rye, who is also a physician, and others had raised questions about the credibility of the rest of the data on the state’s COVID-19 website if so much is wrong on the school’s dashboard.
“It doesn’t matter,” Sherman said relative to suggestions that short-staffing could be behind the problem.
“The data needs to be accurate and timely. If you are going to post information, it is critical that it be accurate.”
The Conway School Board relies on many different metrics and subcommittees to decide what is best for students and staff during the pandemic, said Chairman Joe Lentini, suggesting SAU 9 Superintendent Kevin Richard would have the best information.
Richard said he uses a number of the pages on the Department of Health and Human Services COVID-19 website to keep track of community cases and community transmission.
“I do take a look at vaccination rates. But the actual school cases, they can’t keep up with it,” Richard said of the state’s school dashboard.
Richard said the Conway schools had 8 cases of COVID-19 Monday and the state’s school dashboard showed 1, the same as previous weeks.
“They are so far off I can’t really pay much attention to that,” Richard said. “They don’t have the manpower to keep up with it.”
Right now students and staff are required to wear face masks in the district, but any change would be up to the school board.
Last week Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut said the maps on the state’s school dashboard showing five schools teaching in full remote and dozens of schools in hybrid haven’t been updated since last year although they are dated as being update late last week. There are no schools in remote or hybrid, Edelblut said.
And administrators around the state noted the serious underreporting of cases on the state’s school dashboard.
DHHS spokesman Jake Leon has not responded to questions from InDepthNH.org since last week. Last week Commissioner Lori Shibinette did tell Sen. Sherman she would look into it immediately.
Gov. Chris Sununu’s spokesman Ben Vihstadt said in an email last week: “It is our understanding that the issue was a result of transitioning the data source to provide more accurate and timely updates, and that it is being addressed in an expedited manner.”