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CHICAGO (AP) — The nation’s third-largest school district has quietly changed how it tracks COVID-19 in schools, renewing concerns about the accuracy and transparency of data used to make decisions during the pandemic.
Chicago Public Schools officials recently acknowledged the district altered how it notes school infections after an outside observer found discrepancies with an online tracker, according to The Chicago Sun-Times.
Jakob Ondrey, a parent and former children’s hospital employee, runs a website tracking school COVID-19 cases by getting raw data from district servers. His analysis posted Thursday on social media found district-wide totals were updated as usual, but school-level cases were going unreported, making infections at individual schools appear lower. Parents have been complaining for weeks that infection updates they receive from principals at individual schools don’t appear in the district’s online tracker.
CPS officials responded by saying the change made Dec. 20 was intentional but wasn’t meant to mislead. District officials said they’ve started listing cases that have been verified by the contact tracing team to improve accuracy and protect privacy.
However, the disclosure prompted fresh questions about the district’s data, which has been criticized as inaccurate. The change came amid a standoff over pandemic safety protocols with the Chicago Teachers Union that canceled five days of classes earlier this month.
District officials said they’d again evaluate their methods.
“In light of the Omicron surge and in the interest of broader transparency, we are re-evaluating our data reporting and exploring reporting all open reported cases as well as closed cases at the school level,” district officials said.