An expert in global education, Prachi Srivastava investigates international development and equity in schools. She recently led a high-level policy brief for the T20 Task Force on the pandemic, which informed G20 world leaders, but her latest project is focused much closer to home.
A Western University education professor, Srivastava has launched the COVID-19 School Dashboard, an interactive tool that reports and maps confirmed school-related cases of COVID-19 in publicly funded elementary and secondary schools in Ontario, Canada, and connects this to data on school-level social background characteristics and demographic data.
“The effects of COVID-19 are more severe on high-risk communities, populations, and schools,” said Srivastava. “And there are strong equity concerns. Visualizing COVID-19 case data with data on school social background characteristics will give us a better understanding of the composition of affected schools. In short, we will get closer to understanding the human dimension of COVID-19 on school populations.”
The main aim of the site, says Srivastava, is to provide real-time data visualization of affected schools for broad dissemination. It will also help to increase transparency and understanding for parents, students, teachers, staff and community members affected by the mounting cases of COVID-19 in the province.
The COVID-19 School Dashboard is automatically updated every weekday (excluding public holidays) following the release of school-related COVID-19 case data by the Ontario Ministry of Education. Cumulative totals represent all total cases reported to the Ministry of Education.
The red bubbles on the site are key for a quick daily diagnosis. The size of the bubble indicates the magnitude of cumulative cases (student, staff, unidentified) at specific schools relative to others. The bigger the bubble, the more cumulative cases at that school – that is, the more it has been affected relative to other schools.
Hovering on a bubble reveals school-specific COVID-19 case data and school social background information.
As with all data, however, there are caveats. Srivastava explains the dashboard is dependent on how quickly schools and school boards are able to report cases to the Ministry and how quickly and completely those cases are entered into the dataset.
Since the dashboard is dependent on Ministry data, there could be lags and ‘missing cases.’
While the site should not be used to draw inferences on the broader COVID-19 situation in Ontario, or on case numbers generally – it does provide users with a comprehensive minimum figure of school-related cases, where they are located, and crucially, over time as the situation evolves, we will get to see which schools and which school populations are most affected.
For Srivastava, this dashboard is a way to get data into the hands of the researchers, health and education professionals, education practitioners, parents, and the general public.
“My hope is this site may prompt other jurisdictions to post similar data in Canada and globally,” said Srivastava. “Or prompt the public to ask that they do.”