Students at 42 Charter School arrive on the first day of in-person classes since COVID-19 shuttered schools in March of 2020. (Michael Isaac Stein/The Lens)

The NOLA Public Schools district is reporting 27 cases of COVID-19 in students and staff, according to the district’s weekly report, the second one since the district began reporting case numbers last school year that relied solely on data from the state Department of Health, rather than self-reporting from district schools.

The district reported this week’s data more than a day past its usual deadline of Monday at 4 p.m. Last week’s data report, the first that used only state data, was late by several hours. 

Last week, the district reported just two cases in its tracker, though its reported test positivity rate suggested just over 30 cases had been identified through district testing. This week’s reported case total is also shy of the presumptive positive cases based on district test data — which suggests 53 positive cases were identified through district testing.

In the move to relying on Louisiana Department of Health data, the district’s dashboard no longer shows the number of people quarantining. Asked if quarantine data would be available in future reports, district spokeswoman Taslin Alfonzo said the LDH does not collect that information and therefore it would not be reported.

Through the last two school years, the district asked schools to report COVID-19 cases and quarantines by campus. Though it was not required, and there were technical challenges at times, the majority of schools appeared to file the weekly reports. 

The state’s most recent report, for April 4-10, shows 21 cases in Orleans Parish from 10 schools. But unlike the reports the district has released, the state’s public-facing report doesn’t include school names. Those 21 cases could be from NOLA Public Schools district charters, state charters or private schools. But the district, which runs the vast majority of schools in the parish, only reported two cases. 

According to this week’s report from the district, Audubon Charter School’s Uptown upper school campus had the most reported “active” cases, with seven. The majority of district schools show zero active cases. (The district defines an active case as one that was diagnosed within the previous two weeks.)

It’s hard to know how accurate the new reporting system’s numbers are, because the state reported again that more than 50 percent of the cases appearing in its data were based on tests more than a month old.

Positivity rate math doesn’t add up

Last week, the district reported conducting 17,047 tests with a positivity rate of .19 percent. That should translate to 32 cases, not the two that were reported. 

Asked about that differential, district officials did not provide a clear answer.

“This information was first reflected in NOLA Public Schools’ (NOLA-PS) COVID Tracker April 11, and it shows the counts of COVID-19 cases identified in LDH’s COVID-19 data as is reported to the district through a weekly Superintendents Report,” Alfonzo wrote in an email.

This week, the district reported conducting 10,951 tests with a test positivity rate of .49 percent. That should indicate 53 cases, rather than the 27 it is reporting.

Schools stopped reporting to the district weeks ago, according to a late March press release from the district. 

“While schools are required to continue to report cases to the state, many schools are gradually relieving themselves of the extra burden of reporting the data to the District, which goes above and beyond what’s required by health officials, and the COVID Tracker data from this point forward may reflect this,” the release said. 

Meanwhile, average daily new cases have increased citywide over the past week from under 24 to 44, according to city data. The citywide test positivity rate, however, has remained under one percent. 

Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned...