SMSD unveils new COVID-19 dashboard, tracker shows 141 students and staff in ‘active isolation’

SMSD Superintendent Mike Fulton unveiled the district's COVID-19 dashboard at the board of education meeting on Monday, October 26. Screenshot via SMSD YouTube.

Shawnee Mission Schools has unveiled an online COVID-19 dashboard that will publicly track the disease’s impact on the district’s schools as more students and staff return for in-person learning.

As of Monday night, the district reported 141 individuals in “active isolation,” a total which includes both positive and presumed positive cases of COVID-19, as well as individuals showing symptoms of the disease, according to a district spokesperson.

Of the 141 individuals in “active isolation,” 111 are students and 30 are staff members, according to screen shots of the dashboard presented by Superintendent Mike Fulton at Monday’s board of education meeting.

In addition, the district reported that 152 individuals are in “active quarantine,” meaning they have been exposed to a positive case. Of those individuals, 132 are students and 20 are staff members.

The dashboard is now live on the district’s website. (Updated figures on Tuesday morning showed 137 students and staff in “active isolation” and still 152 in “active quarantine.”)

“We are hopeful that the data picture over time will engage our community to help them follow mitigating measures, so that our schools may continue to serve our students until community levels [of COVID-19] fall so that we can return to in-person learning full-time,” Fulton said.

Of the 141 individuals in “active isolation,” 111 are students and 30 are staff members. The dashboard also showed that 152 individuals are in “active quarantine,” meaning they have been exposed to a positive case. Screenshot via SMSD YouTube.

SMSD joins other JoCo districts tracking COVID data

Other public school districts in Johnson County have already been publicly tracking their COVID-19 cases.

In Blue Valley, which has had all students in some form of in-person learning since Oct. 5, the district has reported a total of 104 positive cases since the start of September, when some elementary students began the year in hybrid learning.

In USD 232 in De Soto, the district has so far reported 31 total school-linked positive cases. Most of them — 22 cases — occurred in middle or high schools.

Both Blue Valley and USD 232 have been reporting cases down to the school level, though they are not identifying infected individuals.

The screen shots presented by Fulton Monday suggest SMSD’s dashboard won’t drill down as far. SMSD’s dashboard, instead, identifies individuals’ “location of exposure” in broader strokes. Those locations are broken down into four main areas: school, extracurriculars, in the community or unknown.

The screen shots presented Monday showed that for the vast majority of individuals in “active isolation,” — 114 of 141 overall — their location of exposure was “unknown.” In contrast, for those in “active quarantine,” the majority — 95 of 152 — were exposed in the community outside school.

“The data dashboard will provide a high-level picture of active cases in our district learning community,” Fulton said, noting that — like other districts — SMSD’s dashboard would not identify individuals in isolation or in quarantine.

School nurses will be used for contact tracing

Also on Monday, the Board of Education unanimously approved hiring up to five additional nurses to take over the duties of school nurses who will be working full-time this year to perform contact tracing in the district.

In a summary of the proposal, the district noted that its ability to track potential infections and their personal contacts in “an effective and timely manner” is required in order to comply with Johnson County health guidelines.

The board approved working with the district’s current provider of student health services, Overland Park-based Maxim Healthcare Services, to find candidates to fill the five positions. The board allocated up to $320,000 for the move, which a district spokesperson said will be paid for with federal pandemic relief money.

The dashboard and move to backfill nurse positions comes as more students return to SMSD schools for in-person learning. On Monday, middle and high schoolers began returning for face-to-face classes for the first time since March, when the pandemic short-circuited the latter part of the 2019-2020 academic year.

Also on Monday, elementary students who have chosen the district’s “in-person” learning model started attending in-person classes at school full-time.