Local school district uses smart thermometers to figure out illness trends

Local News

FRANKLINTON, N.C. (WNCN) — Is your child’s classroom making him or her sick?

A local school district which experienced mold problems a couple of years ago has discovered a way to find out.  

The district is now using smart thermometers to help figure out which students are getting sick and which classrooms need to be cleaned better.

Leslie Parrot is the school nurse at Tar River Elementary and uses a little device that’s helping her get a heads-up on student sickness.

It’s a smart thermometer.

“They are very flexible—which makes them very child-friendly,’’ says Parrot.

Nurses in Granville County schools, like Parrot are using one, made by Kinsa as part of a nationwide study.

“The study will span two years and during that time we will implement various cleaning protocols in our schools,’’ says Dr. Stan Winborne of Granville County Public Schools. “We’ll monitor absenteeism, student health and see how it correlates to academic achievement.”

When viruses start going around, a school is a perfect incubator because of the close quarters.

The smart thermometers will help determine where the problem spots are and which areas need to be cleaned.

“I got a message last week that said you had 8 cases of illness in your school so on an early release day, we had our custodians go do a deep clean of all of our classrooms,” said Tar Heel Elementary principal Courtney Curran.

Where does that information come from? The thermometers collect data from a person who uses it.

The school was given dozens of these thermometers to give to families who opted into the program.

We asked parent Kristin Edgecombe if she was worried about the privacy of that data.

“Not really,’’ she said. “It’s not really ‘personal information’ so I’m OK with a broad range of data.”

When someone in the program uses the thermometer, the information you obtain goes to a smartphone app.

That way, as a parent, you can figure out what’s going on. But, at the same time, that info also goes someplace else, to the school nurse who is able to collate it.

Nurse Parrot showed CBS 17 a recent data set.

“This is all grades. 166 kids. It shows us 3 kids sick in the past 7 days,” she said.

The thermometers were given to hundreds of families in the school district.

The info the nurse gets is anonymous, but the system in the app can track the kinds of illnesses and the classrooms the kids were in.

Prior to having access to all this information, consumer investigator Steve Sbraccia asked nurse Parrot how much guesswork was there in trying to figure out illness trends.

“It was a lot of guesswork. It was word of mouth. It was a parent calling to say, ‘hey I just took my kid to the doctor, he had the flu,’” she said.

When Granville county schools discovered mold in their buildings back in 2017, parents were concerned about the air quality and the district expended a lot of resources and man-hours to make sure they properly cleaned it up.

The thermometer app helps take some of the guess work out of the ‘to-do’ list. It not only tracks illnesses, it also offers cleaning advice.

The cleaning protocols will be developed in partnership with our staff, our custodians, and the professionals who work with the cleaning company as well as the industrial hygienists who will be running the study,” said Winborne.

So students get a cleaner school, administrators get a heads up on where sickness may be incubating, and parents get to keep an on-going medical score-card of their child’s health.

“One of my children does have an issue with fevers throughout life, so it helps me keep a record of things,” said Edgecombe.

In this case, the cost to taxpayers is zero.

All the costs are being covered by those conducting the study.

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