Keeping schools open and safe is a top priority in the Shawnee Mission School District in the 2021-2022 school year. The rise of the omicron variant of COVID-19 has made this effort significantly more challenging, due to the dramatic rise in the number of infections and the corresponding impact on staffing and other issues.
District leaders continue to make modifications to the district’s COVID-19 mitigation plans, based on data relating to the rates of infection and transmission in Johnson County and in SMSD schools, vaccination rates, and other factors.
At the January 10, 2022 Board of Education meeting, the Shawnee Mission Board of Education approved changes to the district’s COVID-19 mitigation plan and winter event guidelines. These measures went into effect on January 11, 2022 and apply to all previously identified cases currently excluded.
You can view the updated documents here:
Extended break provision
The mitigation plan adopted on January 10 includes a new provision related to extended breaks. This provision states:
If school building rates of required exclusion and quarantine are unknown due diminished testing during one of the extended district breaks (such as Thanksgiving, Winter, Spring or Summer breaks) AND the county percent positive rate is 8% or higher according to the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment (JCDHE) dashboard, all buildings will return to school with full mask requirements until data can be collected to determine the actual building rates. This time period will be no longer than one week unless the positivity rate is greater than 3%.
Exclusion from school/work guidance
The mitigation plan also reflects changes based on direction provided by the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment (JCDHE) following recent updates from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in December 2021.
These updates include guidance for individuals who test positive for COVID-19, as well as for individuals exposed to COVID-19 based on vaccination status.
Updates also were made to Test to Stay guidelines. It is noted that Test to Stay will be available as capacity allows. When community transmission and testing demands are high, Test to Stay may be suspended until testing demands decrease.
The Shawnee Mission School District maintains a COVID-19 dashboard for positive cases. This information can be found here.
SMSD staff continue to monitor CDC guidelines and remain in ongoing communication with the JCDHE. As a result, safety mitigation protocols may change by action of the Board of Education or superintendent in response to classroom, building, or community transmission data and/or additional guidance offered from public health officials, with short notice.
The SMSD recognizes the strongest mitigating measures may be found in the immunity gained from vaccines. This goal requires the collective effort of our educators, families, public health, and county officials and support from the medical community. The district’s shared, primary goal of staying open is rooted in the belief in the benefits students gain from having schools open, including learning and interaction with others.
While keeping schools open remains a top priority, the district must confront the very real possibility that rising COVID-19 infections might make it impossible for the district to keep all schools staffed. In such an event, the district might be forced to close one or more schools for one or more days, as has already happened in other local districts. While closing school(s) would not be the preferred option, it will be important for families to keep this possibility in mind, and to develop contingency plans in case it becomes necessary.
As she visited Shawnee Mission schools this week, Superintendent Dr. Michelle Hubbard reflected that it was clear it has already been a challenging couple of weeks as students and staff have returned from winter break.
“So many continue to do whatever it takes to keep kids in school safely,” Dr. Hubbard shared. “I appreciate all of you in the Shawnee Mission School District and I am incredibly proud of the SMSD staff. Thank you all for Keeping SMSD Strong.”