A peculiar pattern has emerged in recent weeks as Warren County Public Schools felt the heat – both from this newspaper and the governor – to publicly disclose its quarantine numbers via its online COVID-19 dashboard.

As student quarantines surged throughout the district, growing from 700 to more than 1,700 students in about a week, the school district’s leadership insisted there was no good reason to disclose that information. (The only reason the public knows just how many students are currently having to sit at home in quarantine due to exposure to COVID-19 is because of inquiries by local media – especially this newspaper.)

“In 18 months, I’ve yet to have any individual tell me what conclusion, what judgment, you can draw based on the number of quarantines in an organization,” WCPS Superintendent Rob Clayton said at a school board meeting Aug. 19 as he offered a defense for the school district’s decision.

Kevin Jackson, who serves on the district’s school board, echoed those comments in his own prepared remarks. “A COVID-19 dashboard with active cases for students and staff is currently displayed prominently on our website and there are numerous districts across the state that are not displaying this information,” Jackson said at that same board meeting. “We have not publicized our quarantine numbers unless asked because in 18 full months we have yet to meet an individual who could state a logical purpose for sharing quarantine numbers and what conclusions can be drawn from this information alone.”

But Tuesday, when local reporters were called to a surprise, impromptu news conference, the school district revealed that the number of quarantines had dramatically dropped since implementing a mask mandate initially ordered by the governor and now required by a Kentucky Department of Education regulation.

Indeed, with less than two weeks of universal masking under its belt, quarantines due to exposure to COVID-19 had fallen by about half – dropping from more than 1,700 to 834. The superintendent indicated the school district was also seeing declines in positive cases as well.

By now, the peculiar pattern should be apparent: When student quarantines are sky high, the school district’s leadership sees no “logical purpose” in reporting the figures through its online dashboard. When quarantine numbers are low, however, the district leaders are happy – eager, even – to share those numbers with local media.

To be clear, there’s nothing stopping the school district from reporting quarantine figures. Other school districts in the region do it, namely Glasgow Independent Schools and the Bowling Green Independent School District.

Still, when he was asked Tuesday whether the district would now be reporting quarantines via its online dashboard, Clayton said it would not. His reason: not wanting to “incite fear” or sow “confusion.”

It’s pretty clear that these are simply excuses and that the school district’s leadership is concerned primarily about optics, not transparency.

Blame should not, however, be laid at the feet of rank-and-file staff, who are doing yeoman’s work under trying circumstances. No doubt, COVID-19 has put parents through a living hell, but we ask them to try to extend grace when appropriate to everyday school staff who never signed up to do contact tracing or contend with the pandemic’s harsh realities. A wise man once said: “Be ruthless with systems. Be kind to people.”

As a newspaper, we will always stand for the public’s right to know.

We stand by this principle – even if it would create a public relations disaster for school administrators (with salaries paid by the taxpayer) who want to keep the broader public in the dark.

“Our Opinion” pieces in the Bowling Green Daily News exclusively represent the majority opinion of the newspaper’s editorial board and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints or beliefs of any other Daily News employees.