On March 11, 2020, a few months after the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the United States, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) was the first large school district in the country to close. First, we were told there would be no school during the closure because the district couldn’t distribute laptops to everyone — despite being in the tech capital of the country. Next, we heard there would be online class meetings but zero instruction.
For the rest of the school year, my 11-year-old son had four one-hour Zoom check-ins a week. That is all. Like many parents, we wrote off the year and hoped like hell that fall would be better.
Over the summer, SPS asked families to choose between hybrid and remote options for fall. For those ready to send their children back in-person, it felt hopeful. But when former President Donald Trump weighed in to say kids should be 100% in person in fall, SPS — along with hundreds of other districts — reversed course. Despite Seattle having a relatively low number of COVID cases, the district announced plans for 100% remote learning for fall. The hybrid option was off the table.
As fall 2020 wore on, my normally gregarious son became increasingly silent, sedentary, and disengaged during remote school, watching Fortnite on YouTube during “school,” despite my best efforts to stop it (while trying to keep my own job), creating a nasty parent/child dynamic. It soon became clear that SPS had no plan for how — or when — to transition back to in-person school.
Some parents, growing weary of seeing their kids stare into a screen for hours on end, began to ask questions of SPS and the SPS board. We got no answers. And we began to wonder, where was our local paper, the Seattle Times, when it came to covering the impact of prolonged school closures on kids and parents?
As the following months would reveal, the Seattle Times could not — or would not — cover the situation by asking the hard questions about why Seattle started the reopening conversation later than other districts and took so long to reopen. A lifelong Democrat, former teacher, and union member, I became increasingly enraged at both the failure of the school system and the inadequacies of the education team to cover what was happening with the hard questions and critical analysis that the situation demanded.
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which pushed Dane County this week not to calculate its percentage of positive tests — a data point the public uses to determine how intense infection is in an area.
While positive test results are being processed and their number reported quickly, negative test results are taking days in some cases to be analyzed before they are reported to the state.
The department said it was between eight and 10 days behind in updating that metric on the dashboard, and as a result it appeared to show a higher positive percentage of tests and a lower number of total tests per day.
The department said this delay is due to the fact data analysts must input each of the hundreds of tests per day manually, and in order to continue accurate and timely contact tracing efforts, they prioritized inputting positive tests.
“Positive tests are always immediately verified and processed, and delays in processing negative tests in our data system does not affect notification of test results,” the department said in a news release. “The only effect this backlog has had is on our percent positivity rate and daily test counts.”
Staff have not verified the approximately 17,000 tests, which includes steps such as matching test results to patients to avoid duplicating numbers and verifying the person who was tested resides in Dane County.
All 77 false-positive COVID-19 tests come back negative upon reruns.
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