Johnson County school districts all dealing with dozens of COVID cases in first weeks of classes

Rushton Elementary students in class

Johnson County school districts began reporting their first COVID-19 data for the 2021-22 school year this week. All four northern Johnson County districts are each reporting dozens of students either with confirmed positive cases or in quarantine due to possible exposure. Above, Rushton Elementary students on the first day of school in Shawnee Mission on Aug. 12. File photo.

Two weeks into a the new school year, Johnson County’s largest public school districts are all dealing with dozens of positive COVID-19 cases and quarantined students.

Blue Valley, Shawnee Mission, Olathe and USD 232 in De Soto had all updated their online COVID-19 dashboards by Friday, Aug. 27, for the first time this school year, detailing the number of students and staff members who have either contracted the virus or been quarantined at home due to possible exposure.

Shawnee Mission

David Smith, Shawnee Mission’s chief communications officer, said the district is excluding students and staff from school based on either a positive COVID-19 test or a presumed positive case based on symptoms.

Based on the district’s first update of its COVID-19 dashboard this week, Shawnee Mission currently has 96 active student exclusions.

There are less than six active staff exclusions. An exact number for staffers affected is not known because the district says it will not publish data sets of six or less individuals in order to protect privacy.

The numbers so far are not out of line with district expectations, Smith said.

“I believe staff in the district had various different expectations for what we would see this year, and our current data does not lie outside of those expectations,” Smith said.

Exclusions are different from quarantines, Smith said, because quarantines are based on results from contact tracing conducted by Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.

The district is opting for exclusions because it “does not have the capacity to do everything involved in contact tracing, and also serve the school health needs of its 27,000 students,” he said.

Of the 96 student exclusions at Shawnee Mission:

  • 42 are elementary students,
  • 18 are middle school students
  • and 36 are high school students.

Last year, Shawnee Mission had 395 students and staff in exclusions the reporting week of Nov. 16, and 661 students and staff quarantined the reporting week of Nov. 23.

Below is a look at three other northern Johnson County school district’s COVID-19 dashboard data, as of Aug. 27:

USD 232 in De Soto

  • USD 232’s dashboard reports 50 student impacted by COVID-19 and 5 staff members, between Aug. 16 and Aug. 22.
  • Of those 50 students, 18 are in exclusion and 32 are in quarantine. Of the staff members, 1 is in exclusion and 4 are in quarantine.
  • The district is differentiating between students and staff in “exclusions” and those in “quarantine.” Exclusions are those who have tested positive or are presumed positive. Quarantines are those identified by the Johnson County health department as having been in close contact with a positive case.

Olathe

  • From Aug. 12 to Aug. 19, Olathe’s COVID-19 dashboard reports 76 total confirmed cases among students and 31 cases among staff.
  • The district also reports 138 student quarantines and 48 staff quarantines during the same time period.

Blue Valley

  • Blue Valley’s dashboard updated Friday reports 39 positive COVID-19 cases among students during the first week of school and 9 positive cases among staff.
  • The district also reports 123 quarantines in the district, including both students and staff, during the same time period.

Meanwhile, Gardner-Edgerton saw 50 new COVID-19 cases and 200 quarantines in the first week of class, The Kansas City Star reports.

This prompted the district to tighten its mask policy and is now requiring all students to wear masks, the Star reports.

And the Spring Hill District in southern Johnson County this week reported 7 confirmed cases among students and two more presumed positive cases, along with two confirmed cases among staff.