How 4 private schools in and around Johnson County are handling latest COVID-19 surge

Local private schools, like public school districts, are taking different approaches to COVID-19 mitigation efforts this semester. Some schools, including The Barstow School near Leawood, are enforcing masks and even offering virtual learning. Image via The Barstow School Facebook page.

The Omicron variant made its way to the Kansas City area just as most schools let out for winter break in December.

All Johnson County public school districts in the Post’s coverage initially returned to in-person classes in the first week of January with optional mask rules in most older grades — but days later, brought mask mandates back for all students after a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases.

Local private schools have also been responding to the new surge in cases. In some cases, private schools are re-implementing universal mask rules and also going to hybrid learning, where students split time between virtual and in-person classes.

Below is a look at how a few local private schools serving families in Johnson County are handling COVID-19 mitigation for the 2022 winter semester.

Bishop Miege masks
Bishop Miege High School in Roeland Park is keeping masks optional for the spring 2022 semester, according to a letter sent to parents on Jan. 5. File photo.

Bishop Miege

Bishop Miege families received a COVID-19 update on Jan. 5, one day before the beginning of the spring semester.

Masks at the school in Roeland Park remain optional, but both asymptomatic and symptomatic students who have been in close contact with a positive COVID-19 case will be required to mask for 10 days from the date of exposure, according to the letter.

Students who test positive must isolate for five days and, as long as they are symptom-free, can return to school but must wear a mask at school from days 6 to 10.

Bishop Miege is not offering COVID-19 testing until it “receives a supply of rapid tests,” according to the letter.

Additionally, students who develop symptoms of COVID-19 are asked to stay home and notify the school nurse.

The school’s COVID-19 dashboard shows there were 19 new positive cases in the school community from Jan. 6 to Jan. 7, and 28 new positive cases in the community from Jan. 10 to Jan. 12.

Molly Peterson, Bishop Miege’s director of advancement, told the Post via email that the school does “not have plans to switch to virtual learning.”

The Barstow School

Located at 11511 State Line Road, just across the street from Leawood, The Barstow School currently requires masks indoors, said Lisa Tulp, director of communications and marketing.

The school’s medical advisory committee also recommends individuals upgrade their cloth masks to medical-grade KN95 or N95 masks, she said.

Barstow is also offering hybrid learning, Tulp said, for families who want that option.

Although the school has remained open for in-person learning since the beginning of the pandemic, Tulp said, The Barstow School has also “continually re-evaluated nearly every aspect of its educational practices” to create a safe and healthy learning environment.

“We are committed to in-person learning for every student, but we recognize that some families have extenuating circumstances that require an online option,” Tulp said. “This year, we offered families the option to choose a full semester of online learning for their students.”

Students who test positive for COVID-19, or who are in the school’s quarantine protocol after exposure, can also opt into virtual classes, Tulp said.

Pembroke Hill

Pembroke Hill, in Kansas City, Missouri, just across State Line Road from Westwood, is once again requiring universal masking, Communications Specialist Andrew Mouzin told the Post via email.

Previously, the school allowed musical performers and athletes to be unmasked during rehearsals, performances, practices and competitions, Mouzin said.

Now, all students and faculty must be masked at all times — unless it is a swimmer while in the pool or a wrestler while on the mat, he said.

Pembroke Hill is also not allowing visitors on campus during the school day and has moved its parent meetings and admission open houses online, he said.

If Pembroke Hill needs to move to a virtual format, Mouzin said, it’s prepared to do so.

“We are doing everything we can to remain in-person,” Mouzin said. “We have plans in place to pivot to a virtual format if necessary. The decision to transition to all virtual learning may be made by class, grade, building, division, campus or all-school.”

St. James Academy
St. James Academy isn’t changing its COVID-19 mitigation plan this spring semester, according to a letter sent to families. Above, the school entrance. File photo.

St. James Academy

Located in Lenexa, St. James Academy has not changed its COVID-19 mitigation plan this semester, according to a letter sent to families.

Masks remain optional for students and staff, but like at Bishop Miege, masks may be required when someone is exposed to COVID-19.

Visitors will be asked to wear masks in the building, though, as will those who attend any extracurricular activities.

Students who test positive for COVID-19 or who are a close contact can return to school after five days at home as long as they are masked at school.

But if a student is involved in an extracurricular activity that may make it difficult to remain masked or is high-risk, they may not be allowed to participate until after day 10, according to the letter. This is the case for most winter sports, according to the letter.

President Andy Tylicki told the Post via email that St. James Academy does “not anticipate going virtual.”