How a custom app kept a district open during COVID

Rapid City Area Schools has been open throughout the 2020-21 school year
By: | May 10, 2021
A screen shot of Dallas ISD's COVID dashboard on May 10, 2021.A screen shot of Dallas ISD's COVID dashboard on May 10, 2021.

Spreadsheets did not cut it for Rapid City Area Schools administrators keeping track of COVID rates among 13,000 students, 1,900 employees and 23 schools.

South Dakota’s second-largest district, which has been open throughout the 2020-21 school year, moved quickly to adopt a more secure database platform that allowed nurses and other key users to better organize and review constantly changing COVID data.

The Kintone teamwork platform allows users to instantly and easily report a case or an exposure, and track rates by school, grades, students and employees.

Users can also sort by active and recovered cases and the number of staff and students in quarantine. “It was really helpful to locate where we were seeing spread,” says Amber Tilberg, the district’s acting nurse manager. “It was important for us in navigating COVID in a school district—there was no handbook on how to do that.”

In contrast to the multiple rows of a spreadsheet, the platform creates a single window for each student or staff member, which helps the database’s 75 users keep health records accurate, Tilberg says.

School nurses and attendance secretaries have editing access to the platform, while principals are able to view all the data.

To make the process even more user-friendly, district IT Director Shane Daniel developed a customized app to go with the platform. The app allows the superintendent and other administrators to monitor COVID numbers in real-time and make decisions about keeping schools open, Daniel says.

The district has not had to close any school buildings since the end of 2020, he adds.

A key to the district’s success with the platform is having nurses enter positive cases right away. The data collected informs the decision made in daily meetings of the district’s COVID committee.

And because the platform is user-friendly, staff are more likely to use it to its full potential, Tilberg says.

“It’s really important for our district to make decisions on solid evidence,” she says. “We wouldn’t want to have a knee-jerk reaction to an uptick in cases and shut something down or reopen.”

How to create a COVID dashboard

In Dallas ISD, administrators have to keep track of quarantines, travel notifications and vaccinations for students and staff in 230 schools.

Dallas ISD software developer Rick Nagy turned to Laserfiche software to create the forms staff could fill out to report everything from symptoms, positive and negative COVID tests, when they were last on campus and request for substitutes.

Staff could also request to work from home if they had a family member who was in quarantine.

All the forms were filtered through the district health service, who would make further decisions on quarantines.

All the data also allowed another Dallas ISD developer, Siva Gali, to create a real-time COVID dashboard

Using Laserfiche’s integrated system rather than a collection of spreadsheets and other services saved Dallas ISD about $500,000 as the IT team managed more than 100 forms, Nagy estimates.

“It’s been a huge time saver and a huge cost saver,” Nagy says.

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