How many students are learning full time, in person during the pandemic? Are certain student groups more impacted by school closures to stop the spread of COVID-19? How many employees are reporting to school sites?
These questions loomed large at the end of the 2019-20 school year and stretched into 2020-21. Locally, San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) employees worked with the County of San Diego to add language to the local public health order requiring schools to report the number of employees working on school sites and the number of students learning in-person, online, or a combination of the two.
The resulting School Reopening Dashboard made our region one of the only ones in the state that had such information readily available for the public and decision-makers. And people noticed.
The California Collaborative for Educational Excellence, State Board of Education, and California County Superintendents Educational Services Association asked SDCOE to take on the herculean task of building a dashboard where all 14,000 traditional district, charter, and private schools in the state can report their reopening status.
SDCOE's Integrated Technology Services (ITS) team was given only eight weeks to develop a web portal where designated school staff could enter data on students being served in each learning modality and number of employees on campus. And while the state ultimately moved forward with another solution for the dashboard, the work accomplished in a few short weeks was nothing short of amazing.
"This project presented unique challenges," said Assistant Superintendent and Chief Technology Officer Terry Loftus. "A development project of this type and scope would commonly be delivered in a four-to-six month time frame." As a result, Loftus said, the ITS team "needed to be highly flexible. We adapted as we went, and did away with the commonly used linear approach to development in favor of multiple teams working concurrently on the various project deliverables, with daily and weekly stand-up meetings to keep all teams in sync."
Developing the data collection approach for the project built on the work of Special Project Coordinator Bob Mueller, Data Scientist Dr. John Watson, and Chief of Staff Music Watson, who led the creation of the initial San Diego County dashboard.
Senior Director of Enterprise Project Management Office Peyri Herrera took the lead as project manager on the statewide dashboard, helping to coordinate the more than 30 SDCOE employees who were involved in building it.
"This was an incredible project, with so many components and moving parts," Herrera said. "Our team rose to the challenge of designing, developing, testing, and launching a web portal and dashboard in such a short amount of time. I could not be prouder of our team's dedication in delivering a high-quality product."
The Enterprise Applications team developed a web portal and designed everything from a login process to databases to hold all the data collected. The Infrastructure and Operations team was instrumental in making sure the would-be system could handle all the traffic that would come from so many people entering information at the same time. The Media and Creative Services team was poised to create videos to assist those submitting information for display on the dashboard.
"A statewide project of this scale simply could not be tackled without high-performing staff from across the organization," concluded Loftus. "And while we're disappointed the project did not move forward to implementation, it was truly remarkable how our teams worked together to begin developing the statewide dashboard. The efficient collaboration that took place across teams, departments, and divisions is truly remarkable, and it is a testament to the hard work, expertise, and flexibility of SDCOE staff."