Technology & COVID-19: How technology helped the Fort Thomas Independent Schools District reopen


Nathan Mueller

Image shows a disinfectant spray bottle and the Fort Thomas Independent School Healthy at School website.

     The spray of a disinfectant bottle and the hum of a computer fan are some of the sounds that can be heard throughout the halls of Highlands High School.

     Throughout this pandemic, there have been massive leaps in technology usage and development, whether it be the spiking of disinfectant usage or the brand new 2020 MacBooks.

     Arguably the greatest achievement of the Fort Thomas community during this pandemic has been the swift nature in which the reopening of our schools happened. 

     This achievement can be credited to the hardworking and dedicated staff, students, community members, along with the groundbreaking discoveries and technologies that were used to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

     HHS Biology Teacher Shih Wen commented on the technologies used.

     “Based on policies from the CDC, the school implemented temperature sensors to determine whether a student had a fever. The district maintained a website that tracked and monitored the number of students that were positive or quarantined.”

     Wen stressed the importance of those tools.

     “[They] gave us the ability to make informed decisions about how the virus was spreading.”

     According to Wen, his kids had contracted COVID-19 at the beginning of the school year. 

     “We isolated both kids in their rooms and they basically had the hotel treatment. We would bring them their meals and if they needed something, we had a walkie-talkie system that allowed them to talk with us without having to shout across the house.”

     While he was able to control the problems at home, he admitted that teaching students in that situation was less than optimal.

     “My wife and I alternated days off and it was difficult to stay home and try to communicate with students. It was an unfortunate situation, but it was definitely the right decision.”


     One of the most noticeable implementations is disinfectant sprayers and dry paper towels to streamline sterilizing desks and student workspaces.

     According to Wen, it is very important to disinfect. 

     “Chemical disinfectants work to disrupt enzyme activity in viruses. Whether it’s a chlorine disinfectant or if it’s alcohol-based, the purpose of those disinfectants is to target and denature proteins.”

     Viruses are protected by proteins so using these disinfectants kills a virus’s protection. 

     The FTIS Healthy at School website stated this about the disinfectant used in the school.

     “Standard cleaning solutions and water are then disinfected using products that are registered and listed as effective against SARS-CoV-2 with the Environmental Protection Agency.”

     According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, there are many ways to determine if a product is certified.

     “If EPA Reg. No. 12345-12 is on List N, you can buy EPA Reg. No. 12345-12-2567, and know you’re getting an equivalent product.”

     So it could be assumed that the disinfectant used by the school is on the EPA’s list N because of the statement by FTIS, meaning it can kill COVID-19 effectively.


     During the 2020-2021 school year, FTIS employed digital learning at the beginning and middle of the school year. Digital learning, other known as NTI, proved helpful in the prevention of Covid 19.

     Documentation from the FTIS website stated how the NTI model was formed.

     “Based upon a careful analysis of feedback from student, parent, and teacher stakeholder groups in Spring 2020, our district has expanded upon our instructional methodology to encourage creative planning in the delivery of premium instruction to every student.”

     While students applaud the quality of learning teachers were able to deliver under this strenuous situation, Sophomore Joel Lippolis stated that there are some downsides of NTI.

     “NTI was not nearly as effective as in-person learning because students and teachers had a more difficult time communicating with each other for help. Students also had a harder time concentrating due to the distractions of home.”

     Many students struggled with temptations such as phones and video games. It was and still is incredibly hard for students to regulate themselves when it comes to learning. In an in-person environment, teachers have a much more hands-on and helpful approach to regulation.

     While NTI is a useful tool when needed, it doesn’t compare to the type of instruction that a teacher can offer in person.

     FTIS COVID-19 Dashboard and Contact Tracing

      Wen mentioned another piece of technology that was used to mitigate the damage of COVID-19.

     “The district maintained a website that tracked and monitored the number of students that were positive or quarantined.”

     The website Wen is discussing is still up and accessible via the FTIS website. It tracks everything from the number of quarantines per school to the number of cases in Kentucky.

     Using tracking like this and contact tracing the school was able to make informed decisions about their COVID-19 prevention protocol.

      Contact tracing was a large reason why the Fort Thomas Independent Schools District could reopen, it is the practice of tracking down the people that a person with the virus may have transmitted it to.

      According to the FTIS Healthy at School website when students have been flagged by contact tracing you can expect.

     “Your local Health Department will call to inform you that you’ve been exposed to COVID-19. You will be asked to watch your symptoms and let your local health department know if you have new symptoms.”

      You may also be asked to be quarantined for 14 days if the Health Department deems it necessary. 


     Other technologies were employed by FTIS such as temperature scanners however, the ones covered in this article were without a doubt the most influential. 

     All of this is best summarized by this quote from Wen.

     “The district has done a phenomenal job in trying to stop the spread of the disease. Safety protocols have been adjusted to follow CDC guidelines as we have a better understanding of the virus and its variants.”