Shawnee Mission school board to discuss COVID-19 policies at special meeting Monday, Jan. 3

Shawnee Mission South students in class

The Shawnee Mission school board will hold a special meeting on Monday, Jan. 3, to discuss the district's COVID-19 mitigation plan for the upcoming semester. The district's current COVID-19 plan includes optional masks for middle and high schools. Above, Shawnee Mission South students are in class.

The Shawnee Mission school board will discuss the district’s COVID-19 mitigation plan for the upcoming semester on Monday in a special meeting, according to a district press release.

The meeting will be held at 5 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 3 at the Center for Academic Achievement, 8200 W. 71st Street.

A more specific agenda for the special meeting was not available at the time of publication, but the release said the meeting’s purpose would be to “discuss the 2021-2022 Semester 2 Mitigation Plan.”

Students are set to return to in-person classes on Wednesday, Jan. 5.

The district’s calendar says Monday, Jan. 3 is a teacher workday and Tuesday, Jan. 4, is professional development for staff.

On Thursday night, Chief Communications Officer David Smith said he did not have any additional details about Monday’s meeting.

Heather Ousley, an at-large board member and current board president, sent the Post the following statement on Friday morning regarding the special meeting:

“With infection rates climbing, the new more transmissible Omicron variant, and with waning immunity for 12-15 year olds who do not have access to a booster shot yet, factors considered by the board in updating mitigation strategies in November have changed,” Ousley said. “The board needs an opportunity to understand these factors and how they could impact the upcoming semester.”

Mitigation plan currently in place

Shawnee Mission does have a mitigation plan in place for the second semester.

That plan, approved by the school board in November, makes masks optional at the district’s middle and high schools.

If an individual building reaches 3% or more of the student body in exclusions and quarantines, the building will return to a universal masking rule.

Elementary students will still be required to wear masks under this mitigation plan, as there is still a countywide mask order for students in grades kindergarten through sixth.

The new plan is set to go into effect on Monday, Jan. 3, when teachers return to work.

Prior to winter break on Wednesday, Dec. 22, Shawnee Mission still required universal masking in all its schools.

Under the current second semester mitigation plan, Shawnee Mission will also enter the “Test to Stay” COVID-19 testing program after winter break.

Under that testing protocol, students who show COVID-19 symptoms or who are asymptomatic and exposed to a positive COVID-19 case can remain in person at school if they test negative over seven consecutive days.

Current COVID-19 conditions

Local schools prepare to return to in-person learning as the Kansas City region, like much of the rest of the U.S., is experiencing a new wave of cases and hospitalizations prompted by both the new Omicron variant the lingering Delta variant.

As of Wednesday, data collected by the Mid-America Regional Council showed that the seven-day rolling average for new COVID-19 hospitalizations in Johnson County was 29, an increase of 5.7% from the previous week.

That’s nearing the peak of 35 daily hospitalizations recorded in Johnson County in early January, before widespread vaccination efforts had kicked into high gear.

At the same time, the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment’s COVID-19 dashboard shows that the incidence rate of new cases has increased this week to 407 per 100,000 residents. Percent positivity has increased to 11.5%.

This story has been updated with comments from Heather Ousley, a Shawnee Mission at-large board member and current board president.