KSLA Investigates: Will your child’s school notify you if a classmate, teacher or staffer gets COVID-19?

We surveyed every school district in the ArkLaTex; more than half responded; 2 common answers emerged

Will you be told if someone at your child's school tests positive for COVID-19?

SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — In most parts of the ArkLaTex, busses are now rolling, crossing guards are standing posts and carpool lanes are in motion. All signs that the new school year is officially underway.

But thanks to COVID-19, classrooms and student dress codes are looking a bit different this year. And the global pandemic has some parents facing a new worry. Namely, whether a child’s school district has a plan to notify parents if a student, teacher or staff member tests positive for the coronavirus and poses a risk of infection to their kid.

Looking to answer that question, KSLA Investigates surveyed every school district in the ArkLaTex, asking whether officials adopted a COVID-19 notification policy and, if so, under what circumstances parents would learn about a positive test and the manner schools intended to use when notifying parents.

More than half of the 79 local school districts responded, with two common answers emerging.

First, in order to protect personal privacy, every district said they would not release any information that could possibly identify a student, teacher or staff member testing positive for the virus.

And second, all the districts indicated that if school leaders determine a child has come into close contact with a person who has tested positive, students’ parents will be notified immediately. In many cases, that notification will be done by phone; but some districts state they will notify parents of the close contact by email or letter.

One of the more transparent districts in the ArkLaTex, according to KSLA’s survey, is Marshall ISD in Texas.

“Coronavirus is here, and there are going to be cases that pop up in our schools,” said David Weaver, the district’s communications director.

Weaver says under Marshall’s plan, if a student or teacher tests positive for coronavirus, parents of every student having a class with the infected person will get a phone call from the school’s principal.

“That’s the very first thing that goes out.”

After that, Weaver said, the affected school’s entire community gets a letter.

“That lets parents know, ’Hey we’ve had a case that’s been confirmed on the campus. If you did not receive a phone call this morning, you’re basically in the clear’.”

Finally, Marshall ISD plans to update the media whenever new cases pop up and after students, teachers or staffers recover from the virus.

“If you get something official from the district that we put out, hopefully, that can build a level of trust and security,” Weaver said, " so that you know you can send your kid to school safely and if something pops up the district is going to be open transparent and let me know.”

But based on KSLA News 12’s survey, few districts follow Marshall’s plan of transparency.

In fact, 24% of the districts responding say they will only notify a parent if their child comes in close contact with a person testing positive for COVID-19.

And 31% of the responding districts plan to notify every parent whose child has a class with a person testing positive for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, 48% are prepared to generically inform every parent with a child in the affected school.

And 21% plan to inform the wider community, by news, social media or a school’s website if a person tests positive for COVID-19.

According to Brandon Southerland, communications coordinator for Lincoln Parish schools, his district is one of a handful that intends to use school websites to help notify parents when new cases of COVID-19 pop up on campus.

“That’s something we’re working on right now. Knock on wood, a positive test, it hasn’t happened yet.”

But if the time comes, instead of giving raw numbers, Southerland said, Lincoln School District will release the percentage of students testing positive for the virus in the affected class.

“We want to keep some sense of anonymity there,” said Southerland. “So showing that percentage will help do that.”

With the responses to KSLA News 12’s survey being so varied among school districts, we put all the information together here so parents can view the general information for themselves.

School districts are listed alphabetically by state.

ArkLaTex schools’ COVID-19 notification policies

ARKANSAS

  • Ashdown ISD: unavailable
  • Blevins ISD: unavailable
  • DeQueen ISD: unavailable
  • Dierks ISD: unavailable
  • Emerson-Taylor-Bradley School District: unavailable
  • Foreman ISD: Parents of students who are probable close contacts with a person testing positive for COVID-19 are notified by phone call, text, email and letter.
  • Fouke ISD: unavailable
  • Genoa Central ISD: unavailable
  • Hope ISD: Parents of students determined to be in close contact with a person testing positive for COVID-19 will be notified immediately by phone call.
  • Horatio ISD: Parents of students determined to be in close contact with a person testing positive for COVID-19 will be notified immediately by phone call.
  • Magnolia ISD: Only parents of a student who is a probable close contact of a person testing positive for COVID-19 are notified by phone call and letter.
  • Mineral Springs ISD: There is no policy in place to notify any outside individuals when a student, facutly member or staffer tests positive for COVID-19.
  • Nashville School District: Only parents of students in the affected class are notified by phone call if a teacher or student tests positive for COVID-19.
  • Nevada ISD: Parents of students who are probable close contacts with a person testing positive for COVID-19 are notified by a phone call from the district’s school nurse.
  • Prescott ISD: unavailable
  • Texarkana ISD: unavailable

LOUISIANA

  • Bienville Parish Schools: Parents of students testing positive or having close contact with a person testing positive for COVID-19 are notified immediately by phone call. Also, all parents in the affected school receive a generic letter of a positive case at their child’s school.
  • Bossier Parish Schools: Parents of students having close contact with a person testing positive for COVID-19 are notified by any means possible, but verbal notification is preferred.
  • Caddo Parish Schools: Parents of students having close contact with a person testing positive for COVID-19 are notified by phone call and a follow-up letter.
  • Claiborne Parish Schools: unavailable
  • DeSoto Parish Schools: Parents of all students identified as having been in close contact with an individual testing positive for COVID-19 will be notified by phone call.
  • Lincoln Parish Schools: Parents of all students identified as having been in close contact with an individual testing positive for COVID-19 will be notified by letter. Also, school websites will be updated with the percentages of positive cases per affected class.
  • Natchitoches Parish Schools: Parents of a student who has been in contact with a known positive COVID-19 case will be notified by phone call and letter. The school and grade level will be identified when possible. Members of the public can request total school numbers through the school district’s superintendent.
  • Red River Parish Schools: unavailable
  • Sabine Parish Schools: Parents of a student testing positive or in close contact with a person testing positive are notified by letter. And all parents in the affected school receive a generic letter of a positive case at their child’s school.
  • Webster Parish Schools: unavailable

OKLAHOMA

  • Battiest Public Schools: unavailable
  • Broken Bow Public Schools: unavailable
  • Denison Public Schools: Parents in the affected class and parents of a student potentially exposed to COVID-19 are notified of the positive case by phone call and letter. A generic notification also will be posted on the school’s website and Facebook page.
  • Haworth Public Schools: unavailable
  • Idabel Public Schools: At the elementary school level, parents of students in the affected class are notified by letter. At the secondary level, all parents of students in the affected school are notified by letter. Parents of students in close contact get phone call from the school nurse. Community members are notified generically by social media and local media.
  • Smithville Public Schools: unavailable
  • Valliant Public Schools: At the elementary school level, parents of students in the affected class are notified by letter. At the secondary level, all parents of students in the affected school are notified by letter. The School District also plans to notify parents in person and to post generic statements on the school website and social media.
  • Watts Public Schools: unavailable

TEXAS

  • Atlanta ISD: Parents of students who are considered to have had close contact with someone who has COVID-19 are contacted. Also, the School District provides notification of positive cases on its website as well as social media.
  • Avinger ISD: unavailable
  • Beckville ISD: Parents will be notified by recorded call or text then receive an email or letter with additional details depending on the level of contact their child had with the COVID-19 infected person.  The School District’s case totals will be updated on its website.
  • Bloomburg ISD: unavailable
  • Carthage ISD: All parents of students in the affected school are notified by letter of a positive COVID-19 case with the specific grade level of the positive case noted.
  • Center ISD: All parents of students in the affected school are notified by a generic letter of a positive COVID-19 case at their child’s school.
  • Chapel Hill ISD: All parents of students in the affected school will get a phone call that a positive COVID-19 case was detected; and the grade level will be released. Parents of students who have had close contact will be made aware.
  • Daingerfield-Lone Star ISD: unavailable
  • DeKalb ISD: unavailable
  • Elysian Fields ISD: Parents of students having had close contact with a person testing positive for COVID-19 will get a phone call. And all parents of students in the affected class will be notified by a generic letter. The School District will send to the media weekly COVID-19 updates about new cases and recoveries.
  • Excelsior ISD: The entire school community will be notified of a positive COVID-19 case in the School District, first by email and by phone call.
  • Gary ISD: unavailable
  • Hallsville ISD: Parents of students who have had close contact with a person testing positive for COVID-19 will get a phone call. And all parents of students in the affected class will be notified by a generic letter. The School District will send out basic COVID-19 numbers by campus weekly.
  • Harleton ISD: Parents of a student who may have had close contact with a person testing positive for COVID-19 are notified by phone call. And the entire school community is notified by phone call, text, email, letter and social media that a specific campus has had a positive case.
  • Harts Bluff ISD: All parents having a student considered to be a potential close contact of a person testing positive for COVID-19 will be notified by letter. And a generic letter will be sent to parents of students in the affected school of a positive case on campus.
  • Henderson ISD: Parents of a student having close contact with a person testing positive for COVID-19 are notified by phone call, text, email and letter. And the entire school community is notified of a positive case on a specific campus by text, email, the school website and social media.
  • Hooks ISD: unavailable
  • Hubbard ISD: unavailable
  • Hughes Springs ISD: All parents of students in the School District will receive an email that a positive COVID-19 case has been detected. The School District also will post information on social media.
  • Jefferson ISD: All parents of students in the affected school are notified by a generic letter of a positive COVID-19 case at their child’s school.
  • Joaquin ISD: unavailable
  • Karnack ISD: Parents of students who have had close contact with a person testing positive for COVID-19 get a phone call and a letter. And all parents of students in the affected class are notified by a generic letter.
  • Leary ISD: unavailable
  • Liberty-Eylau ISD: All parents of students in the affected school are notified by a generic letter of a positive COVID-19 case at their child’s school.
  • Linden-Kildare ISD: unavailable
  • Malta ISD: unavailable
  • Marshall ISD: Parents of a student who has had close contact or class with a student or teacher who has tested positive for COVID-19 will get phone call from the school principal. The entire school community then will get notified by a generic letter stating that a person in a particular grade has tested positive for the coronavirus. And the media will get regular updates about new and active cases, recoveries and total cases among staffers and on each campus.
  • Maud ISD: All parents of students in the affected school are notified by a generic letter of a positive COVID-19 case at their child’s school.
  • McLeod ISD: unavailable
  • Mount Enterprise ISD: unavailable
  • Mount Pleasant ISD: unavailable
  • New Boston ISD: unavailable
  • Pewitt ISD: unavailable
  • Pittsburg ISD: Parents of students having had close contact with a person testing positive for COVID-19 get a phone call. And all parents of students in the affected class are notified by a generic email.
  • Pleasant Grove ISD: All parents of students in the affected school will be notified by a generic letter of a positive COVID-19 case at their child’s school. The letter will be sent home with elementary school students and delivered via SchoolMessenger for secondary school students.
  • Queen City ISD: The School District will post notifications of a positive COVID-19 case on its website and social media identifying the student’s or teacher’s approximate age, grade and class.
  • Red Lick ISD: All parents of students in the affected school are notified by a generic letter of a positive COVID-19 case at their child’s school.
  • Redwater ISD: All parents of students in the affected school are notified by a generic letter of a positive COVID-19 case at their child’s school.
  • Shelbyville ISD : All parents of students in the affected school are notified by letter of a positive case of COVID-19 with the specific grade level of the positive case noted.
  • Simms ISD: unavailable
  • Tatum ISD: unavailable
  • Tenaha ISD: unavailable
  • Texarkana ISD: All parents of students in the affected school are notified by a generic letter of a positive COVID-19 case at their child’s school.
  • Timpson ISD: Notifications about positive cases of COVID-19 are updated on the School District’s website and sent to the state health department.
  • Waskom ISD: unavailable

Copyright 2020 KSLA. All rights reserved.