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Johnson County schools’ mask rules are changing — see where your district stands

Johnson County school masks

Starting Monday, Nov. 29, high school students in both the Blue Valley and Olathe school districts will not be required to wear masks to school.  School boards in both districts

Starting Monday, Nov. 29, high school students in both the Blue Valley and Olathe school districts will not be required to wear masks to school. 

School boards in both districts earlier this month voted to ease mask rules in buildings that serve older students, but universal masking will remain in place for elementary and middle schools, per a countywide health order.

The changes in mask policy going into effect now come at a time when new COVID-19 cases are once again spiking in Johnson County.

Last week, before the long holiday weekend, the county’s online COVID-19 dashboard showed the county’s incidence rate at 222 per 100,000 individuals and percent positivity at 7.3%.

Both those figures have not been that high since late August, when a summer surge fueled by the Delta variant was beginning to wane.

At the same time, scientists around the world are monitoring the emergence of a new variant, dubbed Omicron, which was labeled a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization over the weekend. So far, no cases of the Omicron variant have been identified in the U.S.

Here are where mask policies stand in each of Johnson County’s four biggest public school districts following the Thanksgiving break.

Blue Valley

  • Starting Monday, masks will be optional in the districts high schools (grades 9-12) and in the district’s CAPS program.
  • Universal mask rules can be reimplemented if a school’s percentage of students and staff in isolation or quarantine tops 3%.
  • In elementary and middle schools, universal mask rules remain in place due to the county’s public health order.
  • For the week between Wednesday, Nov. 17 and Tuesday, Nov. 23, Blue Valley reported 76 positive cases among students and 9 positive cases among staff. (That figure represents roughly 0.3% of all Blue Valley students.)

Olathe

  • Starting Monday, masks will be optional in the districts high schools (grades 9-12).
  • Universal mask rules can be reimplemented if a school’s percentage of students and staff in isolation or quarantine increases above 4% or a school’s student absenteeism rate tops 7%.
  • In elementary and middle schools, universal mask rules remain in place due to the county’s public health order.
  • For the week of Nov. 12 through Nov. 18, the last period of data published, Olathe Schools reported 79 new positive cases districtwide among students, which works out to about 0.27% of all students.

Shawnee Mission

  • Currently, universal mask rules remain in place at all schools and in all grade levels through the end of December.
  • Starting Jan. 3, masks will be optional in grades 7-12.
  • If a school building’s percentage of students in exclusion and quarantine hits 3% or more, masks will be required again for at least 14 days — or until the percentage of recommended exclusions and quarantines drops below 3%.
  • Universal mask rules will remain in place in elementary and middle schools due to the county’s public health order.
  • For the week ending Nov. 12, the last published period of data, Shawnee Mission reported 54 active student exclusions, meaning positive and presumed positive cases. That represents roughly 0.2% of all students.

USD 232 De Soto

  • Masks have been optional at the district’s two high schools since Oct. 20. 
  • Universal mask rules could be reimplemented if a school’s weekly percentage of recommended quarantines and isolations exceeds 4%. If that number is reached, masks will be required for at least two subsequent weeks.
  • Universal mask rules will remain in place in elementary and middle schools due to the county’s public health order.
  • For the period Nov. 13 through Nov. 19, the district reported 39 students with either positive or presumed positive cases. That represents roughly 0.5% of all students districtwide.