Helping Schools Navigate the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted every aspect of American life. During this pandemic, school superintendents face unique challenges. Not only must they ensure the best educational outcomes for students, they must also protect the health of students, teachers, and communities.

“In addition to making the usual safety, operational, and educational decisions, superintendents are now expected to assess the current landscape in order to make critical choices regarding public health,” said Neil English, the superintendent of Riverview School District in Pennsylvania. “Navigating the health crisis is unchartered territory, and school leaders are tirelessly managing the confluence of local, state, and federal mandates; CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines; and local health metrics to assess risk and make informed decisions regarding the health and safety of the students and their families.”

Like other school districts in the United States, Riverview was flying blind. However, Esri partner Epistemix helped the district make better-informed policy decisions. Epistemix used its epidemiological simulation platform to model the local, specific health impacts of the response and opening strategies under consideration.

Riverview School District Dashboard showing student and teacher infection cases in a bar graph and pie chart
Epistemix calibrated the COVID-19 model with realistic social dynamics, imported the results into a hosted layer in ArcGIS Online, and presented them to the district.

Using a statistically accurate digital twin of the US population that individually represents every student, teacher, and resident within the district and surrounding areas, Epistemix calibrated the COVID-19 model to the evolving epidemic with realistic social dynamics, using ArcPy geoprocessing tools. The results were imported into a hosted layer in ArcGIS Online with additional data from ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World. The results were presented to the district using ArcGIS. A dashboard gives English and the school board the information needed to lead the district through this pandemic, including specific estimates for student, teacher, and community infection rates for four different opening strategies with breakdowns for individual schools within the district.

Riverview isn’t flying blind anymore. “Epistemix helps to lead the way by providing much-needed projection and modeling data that can help superintendents make more informed decisions,” said English. “And more informed decisions are a valuable commodity in the wake of COVID-19.”