6 Shawnee Mission elementary schools with high student absences bring back mask rules

Crestview student Shawnee Mission

Six Shawnee Mission elementary schools are returning to masks until April 18. Above, a Shawnee Mission elementary student in a mask. Photo credit Juliana Garcia.

Students at six Shawnee Mission elementary schools returned to school Monday with mask rules back in place, according to district officials.

Why now: The six schools all surpassed the district’s 5% threshold of overall student absence rates related to illness, Chief Communications Officer David Smith told the Post via email.

The schools impacted are all elementary schools, including:

  • Arrowhead,
  • East Antioch,
  • Highlands,
  • Pawnee,
  • Rosehill
  • and Sunflower.

Smith said parent reports from the impacted schools show a gastrointestinal illness and influenza are circulating, prompting elevated rates of student absenteeism.

It remains unclear how many, if any, students at these schools may have been diagnosed with COVID-19, Smith said, so the move to masking is being done out of an “abundance of caution.”

Shawnee Mission’s online COVID-19 dashboard shows there are just 10 active reported exclusions for students districtwide as of April 4.

Background: The Shawnee Mission school board updated the district’s COVID-19 mitigation plan that included the new thresholds for when to bring masks back at individual schools at its Feb. 14 meeting.

The COVID-19 mitigation plan laid out not only the 5% threshold for absenteeism related to illness, but a 3% threshold for COVID-19 positivity rates.

These thresholds are building-specific, which is why these six schools are now returning to masks while other schools are not.

What happens next: Students at the six schools will remain in masks for at least 14 days, per the district’s COVID-19 mitigation plan.

That time period could be extended if, at the end of the 14 days, the percentage of positive COVID-19 cases is above 3% or the absenteeism rate related to illness remains above 5% in any one of the schools.

Key quote: “With the availability of home testing, schools may not always be notified of positive test results for COVID-19,” Smith told the Post via email. “When absenteeism rates exceed our pre-pandemic norms, out of an abundance of caution we follow the board approved mitigation plan with the goal of keeping schools open and maintaining healthy environments for learners.”