A local web designer is using his skills to catalogue school COVID data no longer collected by the Ministry of Education.
Keith Foster is the co-owner of Zuul, a digital creative agency with an office in Kincardine. Foster created the website www.inkincardine.com in 2016, a sort of umbrella under which a number of programs or tools for the community have been built. One of those tools is a school COVID tracker.
Foster says The Ministry of Education will no longer be reporting school COVID case data because the data is no longer reliable, due to the changes as to who can receive a publicly-funded PCR test. Because of this, he has created a self-reporting tool that can be accessed by parents, students or staff. Users can self-report their rapid test results or their self-isolation, if they don’t have access to rapid tests and don’t qualify for a PCR.
“It's meant to give the local community an idea of the potential COVID situation at local schools, including absences,” said Foster. “It was started after seeing other similar trackers pop up in other school districts. As parents of a school-aged child who is just partially vaccinated, we know the uncertainty some parents might feel right now due to the changes in PCR test eligibility.”
Foster says both the positive/negative results of tests, as well as households in isolation, are important information. The results of PCR tests are not recorded, only the results of rapid tests.
“We hope the community will use the tool regularly as they test or a household goes into isolation,” said Foster. “The isolation piece is also important here - it's not just about COVID cases, but about absences as well. Now that if one person is presumed positive, the household must isolate for at least five days, that increases the risk of big absences which can be seen in other industries right now as well.”
The site, www.covid.inkincardine.com, is live and he hasn’t determined when the end date will be. Users can log any rapid tests and the results, or the isolation of any school-aged children or staff members. Foster has extensive experience working with sensitive information and privacy protocols, so all information is anonymous and won’t be shared with other organizations.
He says all Kincardine schools have been included, as well as Sacred Heart School in Walkerton and Ripley-Huron Community School. He is also looking at the possibility of including local child care facilities.
Foster says he and his wife Sarah make their decisions based on having the most up-to-date information possible. So far the current uptake of the tracker has about 30 reports, but as more people use the report, the more accurate the information will be and the more valuable. He says it is “not a tool to tell you what to do, but it hopefully will keep you informed.”
“We will continue as long as the community continues to enter data and find the tool valuable,” said Foster. “It's only as good as the data entered into it.”
Tammy Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent