On Thursday, the Texas American Federation of Teachers debuted its own COVID-19 tracker that relies on teachers, staff, and others to report situations happening at their schools.
“This tool is giving a voice to our teachers, school employees, and the community to help keep them safe and monitor what’s really happening in their neighborhood school,” said Zeph Capo, Texas AFT president in a statement. “You can’t stop the spread of COVID-19 if you don’t have the information you need on outbreaks, or on dangerous workplace situations that can lead to an outbreak.”
The crowdsourced website, StopTheSpreadTX.school, uses a map of the state with pins that show submissions from educators and the community of COVID-19 cases, reports of unsafe working conditions and personal stories at different schools.
The latest news from around North Texas.
Texas AFT said staff members verify the information based on local news reports and also "evidence" linked to the reports people submit. On the website, some reports show screenshots of letters, emails, or text messages sent to the individual by either the school or district.
“We really want a letter from the principal that letter from the school district, the third-party validation as much as possible and then we have to make a decision on whether that case is published," Capo explained during a Zoom meeting with reporters on Thursday. “If for some reason, we feel like there are cases that are not validated, or maybe give us some hesitation or pause as to whether they are valid or not, because somebody may have that grudge, we have the ability to not publish them or unpublished those cases."
He said their verification process is also set up to help with minimizing duplication.
"For example, if the staff of 100 people received the same letter from their principal, we'll be looking at that evidence to say, 'OK what's the date on this letter. Is this the same as the case that was reported earlier this morning,' if that's the case and the evidence points to this being the same incident, then we would only be reporting the one incident on the publisher site," Capo explained.
The Texas Education Agency announced last month that it partnered with the Department of State Health Services to launch a tracking system to monitor and report confirmed COVID-19 cases in public schools.
According to a spokesperson for TEA, they anticipate that statewide data for schools will be available starting next week and district-level breakdown will be available the week of Sept. 21.
The state said the break down will reflect test-confirmed cases as a whole for the district.
The teacher's union said the reason it started its own website was that they wanted a break down by individual schools.
"If they're only reporting at the district level for districts like Houston, Dallas and San Antonio and Austin. Those are very large districts that cover extremely high level of geography. What good does that do parents and family members If they don't have the information about what's happening in their neighborhood and in their particular school?" Capo questioned.