Johnson County schools report thousands of students out due to COVID-19 — See 3 local districts’ numbers

Blue Valley and Shawnee Mission school districts are reporting higher than normal student absenteeism and, at the same time, are warning parents about the potential for school closures as a result of staff absences. Above, a Shawnee Mission elementary students in school last semester. File photo.

The three Johnson County school districts in the Post’s coverage area are all reporting unusually high student absences amid the recent surge fueled by Omicron.

The warnings from Blue Valley and Shawnee Mission were sent Friday, the same day that USD 232 in De Soto canceled class because nearly 100 teachers were absent.

Both the Olathe and Kansas City Kansas school districts have also canceled classes for Tuesday and Wednesday due to hundreds of staffers in each district being out sick.

Here’s how those cases seem to be translating to student absences.

Shawnee Mission

David Smith, Shawnee Mission’s chief communications officer, told the Post via email that 15.2% of all students were absent on Thursday, Jan. 13 — more than double of the normal amount of students absences.

That translates to about 4,000 students out of class districtwide, Smith said. Typically, he said, the district expects student absences to be closer to 6%, or less than 1,500 students.

“[Student absence percentages] are the highest we have seen in a long time,” Smith said. “Because of that, we are struggling to respond to parent phone calls and questions seeking guidance.”

Smith said the district does not have the staffing capacity to track the percentage of students absent in each building. Staffing capacity also makes it difficult for the district to collect data on how many students are absent for specific reasons, he said.

The district does know that in addition to COVID-19, there is “an increase in flu cases, along with other respiratory illnesses,” he said.

Shawnee Mission’s COVID-19 dashboard was last update on Monday, Jan. 10 and, at that time, reported 735 students out of school due to either testing positive for COVID-19 or being exposed to a positive case.

USD 232

Like Shawnee Mission, USD 232 is seeing about double the amount of student absences it would normally expect.

Alvie Cater, USD 232 spokesperson, told the Post via email that the district averaged between 10% and 11% of students absent during the week of Jan. 10.

Student absences were a little more than 11% on Thursday, Jan. 13, he said, the day before the district canceled school because of a staff shortage.

A majority of students were absent due to illness, Cater said. This time last year, the district saw about 5% of students absent, he said.

  • About 11% of students at De Soto High School were absent the week of Jan. 10-13 this year, compared to about 3% last year.
  • At Mill Valley High School, 9% of students were absent the week of Jan. 10-13 this year, compared to 8% last year.

Blue Valley

Mark Schmidt, Blue Valley’s assistant superintendent, said during the Jan. 10 board meeting that there was no data on total student absenteeism at that time.

Unlike other districts, Blue Valley tracks the number of students absent in each school, and the district updates those numbers online here.

Below are the number of students absent on Thursday, Jan. 13 at each of the five high schools:

  • At Blue Valley High, 7% of students, or 106 students, were absent due to COVID-19 or an illness. Of that number, 55 students were absent because of COVID-19.
  • Blue Valley North, at almost 8%, had 122 students absent for an illness or COVID-19, and 50 of those were absent specifically due to COVID-19.
  • Blue Valley Northwest had 106 students absent due to COVID-19 or an illness. The number of students out specifically for COVID-19 was 36.
  • At 82 absences, Blue Valley Southwest had the fewest students out due to illness or COVID-19. Half of those absences were due to COVID-19.
  • Blue Valley West, the school with the largest population, also had the highest number of absences and the highest percentage. There were 139 student absences, or more than 8%, on Jan. 13 — 68 of those absences were due to COVID-19.