INDIANAPOLIS — School officials across Indiana hoped this year would be free of the disruption students and teachers experienced in 2020 during the first academic year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There was excitement about a return to full-time in-person learning, but increasing virus numbers due to the delta variant have led some school districts to require masks while others have returned to virtual learning on a temporary basis.
To keep track of cases in schools, the Indiana Department of Health updates its public dashboard at noon each Monday.
This week, schools reported 3,504 students, 172 teachers and 218 staff members tested positive for the coronavirus. The number of student cases is nearly double last week.
However, it is not necessarily a full picture of the COVID-19 situation in Indiana's schools.
Participation in the dashboard is not mandatory and a distribution map below the case numbers indicates 282 schools in the state — nearly 12% — have not reported cases for the dashboard since it first went online in October 2020.
An IDOH spokesperson said school officials are told to report confirmed COVID-19 cases to local and state health departments within 24 hours and they have received information about how to report to the dashboard.
Indiana State Teachers Association President Keith Gambill said the dashboard has been effective for families and employees in helping them know what's happening at their schools, but reporting has not been consistent among all schools in Indiana.
"And so we would certainly encourage those who are in charge of the dashboard to work with our school districts in making sure that they are doing all that they possibly can to keep that information," Gambill said.
Gambill added that it can be difficult logistically for some schools due to a lack of personnel, and help is needed.
"Any assistance in how that could be more effective in the report out, any way to assist our school districts, (because) many of them are strapped for school personnel," Gambill said.