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How to know if your school has COVID cases? It depends on your district

Districts have leeway on how much they tell parents about infections at school.

PHOENIX — How do you know if the school your child goes to has COVID-19 cases? How many cases? 

While many schools are still online-only, parents may soon find themselves asking these questions. Whether or not that information is available, likely depends on how transparent the district is. 

The state empowers individual school districts with many decisions, and while there are some basic guidelines, there is a gray area on how transparent they have to be. 

Maricopa County Unified School District, in the name of transparency, announced they had asked its football and wrestling teams to self-quarantine after a student tested positive. The release was not required. 

In a statement the school district said:

In a community as connected as ours, it is important we communicate transparently and factually about the level of risk and exposure to our community. The initial communication was a direct phone call to parents and staff who may have come into close contact with the affected individual. 

Then, a general communication was shared to ensure that other families and staff in our community received factual information regarding the level of exposure and to remind the MUSD community of the cleaning and disinfecting procedures taking place. 

At this time, no additional cases have been reported. 

However, that is not the route every district is following. Peoria Unified School district said it notified four families with phone calls and letters after an employee tested positive. A full release of that letter was given to 12 News later. 

“All of this is in flux,“ Jacob Frantz said. Frantz was a teacher with Queen Creek Unified School District before he resigned out of safety concerns.

He said before in-person classes resumed - multiple teachers tested positive, but says fellow teachers often learned about it only through word of mouth.

“they could have been infected they are endangering the lives of their spouses and girlfriend,” Frantz said. 

Queen Creek Unified School District did not respond to questions asked throughout the day.

New rules from the state health department will require any outbreak of COVID 19 to be reported to the local county health department.

Just because it needs to be reported to the health department does not mean all the parents at a school will learn about any outbreak. 

That will often be the district's decision. Meaning what you know as a parent, may be determined by where you live.

The county health department told us they do not release information regarding open or possible outbreaks and will not release school names.

When asked if the county health department will tell parents about outbreaks, a Maricopa County Spokesperson wrote back: 

"Maricopa County does not release information regarding open (or possible) outbreaks. We will not release school names and encourage schools to communicate directly to parents about outbreaks where their child may have had an exposure."