As COVID cases continue to spike in Jefferson county and across the country, amidst a newly reported outbreak in respiratory virus infections, as well, Jefferson County’s public school system is no exception. Add to the mix a vindictive Kentucky GOP supermajority that plotted and schemed with the likes of one-term governor, Matt Bevin, to pursue their political party’s agenda and strip executive powers away from his popular and charismatic replacement, Andy Beshear. These executive powers had previously allowed any Kentucky governor the right to grant a district in crisis more than 10 days of “non-traditional instruction” or NTI, and not risk their SEEK funding being held hostage for doing so. Between SB1 and HB208 during last year’s session, which I explain in an earlier post, that’s exactly what they’ve done.
Kentucky’s new governor obviously suffered these blows because the losing political party wanted revenge. They concocted a plan to make NTI, which many districts were already utilizing as a response to the crisis created by the pandemic, ILLEGAL AFTER THE FACT. But instead of responding with righteous indignation, the powers that be, including our own allies who fear being voted out of office more than they fear going to hell, apparently, participated in the spread of even more lies and manipulation by falling for the gimmicks of the GOP. They were told HB208 would solve the problem they had created so that SEEK funding could once again flow to the students of schools that had participated in the “illegal” act of NTI and all would be well again.
Unfortunately, the bill also contained “trojan horse” language that would force all school districts to reopen to in-person schooling before the end of the school year, presumably so testing companies could get their data and revenue. HB208 is the real reason JCPS and other districts were forced to reopen to in-person classes before the 2020-2021 school year ended. Thanks to much outcry from districts with vulnerable populations, especially ours, a last-minute compromise allowed districts to continue with a hybrid plan (half capacity, two days per week in person, with the remainder of instruction online) until the end of the year. This exception enabled Joint Education Committee Vice Chair Regina Huff to retain her favorable rating with the state-wide teachers union, Kentucky Educators Association, while she managed to successfully bluff her way through playing both sides long enough that the bill was passed, practically as the 2021 session gaveled out. The tea party libertarians who had concocted this plan hated the compromise so much they actually called for the revised bill to be killed, once again showing that they are willing to use children as pawns in their political charades. The compromises were only good until the end of the school year, however, and 2021-2022 was a whole new ballgame.
Summer never stopped to take a breath. The “big lie” gained momentum and a new deadly variant of COVID began to spread like wildfire, just in time to put our district and most of our state in the red as school was set to reopen. Vaccine resistance and mask-wearing became badges of honor, and the only way for these folks to continue to live in the lie, was to reject history and science and to ridicule others who don’t fall in line. They began storming our local school board meetings, work sessions and committee hearings. Along with it came the rise of anti-CRT legislation and outcry over the dogwhistle narrative that teaching history accurately “creates division” and is “hateful” and “divisive.” Truth is, the base of white supremacists is dwindling, and these desperate tactics are used to recruit new blood to help keep the “big lie” alive.
The billionaire elites, with Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul as experienced tour guides, have mastered the practice of preying upon the innocence and man-made ignorance of Kentuckians through their well-funded campaigns of disinformation, fear and hate. Despite the best efforts organizations like ours and countless others, and the will of the people we represent, they continue with their destruction unobstructed. We know that not everyone sees what is going on or believes us when we tell them. But we don’t think we have to convince everyone. We, the Leadership Team of Dear JCPS and practically everyone I’ve spoken to in the JCPS community who shares these experiences, believe we are enough.
It’s time to rise up.
I would like encourage everyone reading this post to realize the seriousness of the situations our families and educators across the state were placed in BEFORE this latest Delta variant surge, with every district being forced by that same GOP legislature to offer in-person instruction. Our current predicament does not even take into account the next wave that we fear is coming based on the reports we at Dear JCPS are receiving of cases that are not being accurately reported on the JCPS COVID Dashboard. We believe we have a moral obligation to share, not only what we’ve been hearing, since those we entrust to keep us safe can not always be counted on to do so.
To that end, I decided to compare yesterday afternoon’s JCPS COVID dashboard numbers to this morning, and I noticed an alarming increase overnight. Four new schools joined the club, and the number of infected and quarantined students and staff jumped, in some cases, by nearly 20%. On top of that, we are hearing alarming reports of cases that have still not made it to the dashboard, 48 hours after they were discovered. Sources tell us letters going home to families don’t match the numbers in the dashboard. In-school nurses are being asked to fudge numbers or data they report to the district, making healthcare professionals feel “caught in the middle.”
I was about to post this blog when something strange happened.
After an entire day of on again, off again internet issues, I was about to post my findings, when I decided to refresh my screen for the 3:00 PM update. That’s when I noticed that there was an even more dramatic jump over the 24-hour timeframe after I had already been reeling over the overnight numbers. As my brain tried to grasp what I was looking at, panic began to set in when I realized I had no way to disseminate these findings effectively. My chest felt like there was an elephant standing on it. I had to get the word out! But because I’m currently on a 7-day Facebook ban, and in a remote location with spotty internet, I have been down for the count.
I crunched the numbers and tried to dust off a fake account from my last Facebook ban to see if I could make that account an admin and post to our page. No luck. Another hour goes by, so I did the 4 PM refresh to see how much higher it went and guess what? The numbers went BACK DOWN to more in line with the trend we had been seeing at 10 am, 1 PM and 2 PM. Where did those 10 new sites go? What happened to nearly 400 new cases or quarantines? Meanwhile, I added another tab to the spreadsheet and came up with even more questions and concerns. I tried to capture the discrepancies in the following video.
Sorting by facility or group name, these 10 sites that were new on the 3 PM report had disappeared again by the 4 PM report.
Meanwhile, a parent had been messaging me since 7:49 Friday morning saying, “Some schools haven’t listed their cases from last week.” I told them I had seen and heard this from numerous sources, and for that reason I was working on a data gathering tool to try to triage and make sense of the conflicting information. Later that afternoon, I shared my discovery of the spike, including the 10 mystery sites with them. That is when they informed me that their site is on the “missing” list, confessing, “Letters were sent to families on August 18 regarding our school having a positive case.”
- What is the source of this extraneous data?
- Why are these sites not showing up on the dashboard (other than that one time)? We have confirmation they should be there.
- What caused this blip to show up just one time and not on previous or future reports? Are they suppressing it on purpose? Keeping two sets of data?
- How many more situations like these are there?
In addition to the 10 sites that are missing from the ongoing reports, several of the sites that are consistently reported also contributed to that spike at 3 PM. I tried to capture a sort order that shows some of the sites with the largest discrepancies based on student cases here:
If anyone has any additional information to share, you may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Lives may hang in the balance. Rest assured, correspondence will be kept confidential and identities will be protected.
How many others are not accurately reported? Help us find out by reporting missing or conflicting info on our survey.
The data spike during the 3 PM report possibly masked schools that DID experience significant increases in the 4 PM report, such as Lowe Elementary, which according to my comparisons, actually added 10 more students to the quarantine list while everyone else’s numbers were going down, taking them from 38 to 48. Please check the dashboard and ask around at your school to find out if there are discrepancies in your data, and use the survey to report them. We will compile the information to share in a confidential and orderly fashion so that others can have access to the same information we have and you can help the district troubleshoot where breakdowns are occurring.
And even without this unexplained anomaly, the increase in the number of cases and quarantines from Thursday to Friday is still alarming, with case numbers increasing between 20-36% in just one day. With more and more teachers and staff out on quarantine, and a dire substitute situation, this continues to not safe. We will see more situations like the one we saw with a student at Pleasure Ridge Park who was left to fend for themselves after more and more of them are corralled into cafeterias and gymnasiums to maintain control. Meanwhile, opportunistic lawmakers and politicians will use any violent outbreaks as an opportunity to blame the district leaders for removing police from our schools instead of admitting the 1,000 other things they did or didn’t do that got us here in the first place. It’s already happening, and I would even argue it was a calculated maneuver.
So we already know it’s bad. The questions are, “How much worse is it than we realize?” and “What are we going to do about it?”
Our community needs transparency in order to make the best decisions. In order to prevent avoidable suffering, humans have to be willing to see that our actions (or inactions) have cause and effect, and anticipate where our society is headed in order to make the best preparations. Change is inevitable. We can sit back and helplessly wait for it to happen to us, or we can recognize that each of us has the power to be the change that MUST happen and guide it in for a safer landing. The sooner we bend the arc of the moral universe towards justice, the less fallout, carnage and repercussions there will be. Parents, students, teachers and staff hold the power to make this shift happen sooner rather than later. And as they say in the medical profession,
an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Our Leadership Team will make every effort to validate, vet and share the information as it comes in, so you can continue to weigh all available information when making your own personal decisions about the health and safety of your families, but also to alert anyone in a position of authority who might be able to intervene on our behalf. To get a better sense of how widespread these disparities are, and streamline the vetting process, we have created a COVID discrepancy survey for parents/guardians and JCPS employees to report discrepancies, concerns, etc. that they are aware of. Participants will have the option to remain anonymous, and any personal data shared with us will not be shared with anyone outside of the Dear JCPS Leadership Team.
Thank you as we ALL do our part to keep our students, families and community safe! If you have updates to provide, please email email@example.com or come back and complete the form again. Please try to provide timestamps with your documentation so competing or duplicate reports can be reconciled.