Community members try to make sense of DOE COVID report

LIHU‘E — On Thursday, the state Department of Education reported 383 COVID-19 cases between Aug.14 and Thursday, Aug.19, and seven of those cases were reported on Kaua‘i.

Kapa‘a High School recorded two new cases, and one case was reported each at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School, Kapa‘a Elementary, Kaua‘i High, Kekaha School and Wilcox Elementary.

The report makes no distinction between staff and students, and that’s just one of the frustrations educators and parents alike are expressing about how the data is reported.

On Tuesday, the Hawai‘i State Teachers Association held a virtual press conference, and brought up members’ concerns that the data on the DOE website does not reflect the cases they have seen in their classrooms. HSTA would also like to see the information available daily instead of weekly.

John Johnson is a parent of two students at Kahala Elementary and Washington Middle on O‘ahu, and has been tracking the data since the start of the school year.

“The data they supply is extremely hard to use,” Johnson said.

Some of the problems Johnson cited were several errors mislabeling the school’s location and inconsistent spellings. Data from previous weeks is unavailable, and there is no summary breakdown of how many cases there are on each island or at any given school.

Johnson is a programmer and analyst. Frustrated with the DOE reports, he wrote his own software to aggregate the data each week to make it more usable, which he shared the “Hawai‘i for Safe Return to Schools” community Facebook page.

“We just want to be looking at the data and see what is happening in schools,” Johnson said.

Johnson would like to see more-detailed information released from schools, including how many kids are quarantining.

The Garden Island has requested information on the number of staff and students in quarantine and the number of classes that have transitioned to distance learning. The DOE had not responded as of Friday evening.

Parents are not the only ones to take notice of the DOE reports.

Ryan Catalani, director of advancement at Hawai’i Children’s Action Network, does not have kids, but looked up the data to get a better idea about what is happening in his community.

Catalani was alarmed that the data from week to week is not available.

“I think it is important that people are able to look back and see the entire scope,” he said.

Making that data available aligned with his interests and passions, so Catalani took it on as a personal project to make an interactive map of the islands with the ability to click on an area and see all of the COVID cases at each school.

With rising COVID cases in schools, several parents expressed a desire to have the option for distance learning.

Johnson hopes that more-accurate and easy-to-read data will help in the decision-making process to allow for that option. But on the other hand, he also hopes there’s not a need to continue tracking COVID-19 numbers for much longer.

“I hope to God that they shut down schools so all of this becomes unnecessary,” Johnson said.


Laurel Smith, staff writer and photographer can be reached at 245-0424 or​

  1. In person learner August 22, 2021 11:25 am Reply

    We need our kids back in school. Working class doesn’t have the luxury of a stay at home programmer/analyst. On top of all the benefits of in person learning for our children, we also cannot survive without child care so we can serve our thriving (for the haves) economy.

  2. RGLadder37 August 22, 2021 10:27 pm Reply

    I do. They’re failures athletics who went into politics.

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