Education Dept. develops online tool to help schools and parents during COVID-19

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As the number of COVID-19 cases increase across the state, school districts are continually evaluating their learning models. The Minnesota Department of Education has developed an online tool to help parents and others keep abreast of which learning models their school districts are implementing in real-time.

“This came about in response to many requests from parents and educators for more reliable data and transparency on the learning models of each district,” said Mike Dolbow, a MNIT specialist partnering with the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE).

On the Safe Learning Model Data web page Minnesotans can now access data by district and learn which ones are using in-person, hybrid, distance and combination learning models. The web page includes two tools, a dashboard and a model look-up. The dashboard allows users to view and compare state and the searchable database allows users to look up learning models using district, school name or address.

Dolbow credits colleagues with the massive data gathering, developing and enabling the data-entry pages for school districts to use, analyzing comparison data and communicating with districts. “This is the result of a tremendous team effort, not just among MNIT and MDE staff, but the school districts themselves,” he said.   

Dolbow works in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) where he makes maps and develops data for those maps such as school locations or district boundaries. “This work often extends into other areas, including anything that deals with education that can be visualized on a map. People want to know where districts and schools are using different learning models, so it made sense for me to be involved in this project,” he said.

“A lot of the work I do also benefits other state agencies. Say you’re responding to a chemical spill that might contaminate drinking water. One thing you want to know is where the schools are because kids are such a highly vulnerable population,” Dolbow added, noting that keeping accurate locations of schools in the state is a big part of his job.

The Minnesota Department of Health has begun adding school data to its Weekly COVID-19 Report.

“Infectious disease is not an area I’ve worked with a lot, so it’s fairly new to me. COVID-19 presents a big challenge for Minnesotans, and I’m encouraged to see a lot of cross-organizational collaboration at state agencies in response,” Dolbow said. 

Dolbow has three children in three different Mounds View schools.