Although public school districts in Johnson County, including Shawnee Mission and Blue Valley, continue to update their COVID-19 dashboards, hard data from local private schools is proving harder to come by.
The Shawnee Mission Post reached out to five major private schools that serve Johnson County, asking for their most recent COVID-19 case and quarantine data for the 2021-22 school year.
The Post received data from one school: St. James Academy Catholic High School in Lenexa.
Despite that, local health officials do have some idea of how spread is being contained in private schools.
Barbara Mitchell, public information officer for Johnson County Department of Health and Environment, said COVID-19 numbers for private schools are typically lumped together “to protect the privacy and confidentiality of those affected.”
Additionally, private schools may choose not to report some cases — even though “per statute, schools should be reporting,” Mitchell said.
“But we understand that the workload to track and report this information can be challenging,” Mitchell said to the Post via email. “JCDHE will continue to work with schools to improve reporting.”
County data provided by Mitchell shows that from Aug. 15 to Sept. 25, 179 total COVID-19 cases were reported in all private schools in Johnson County.
As of the week ending on Sept. 17, private schools in the county had a COVID-19 case rate of about 3 per 1,000 students, comparable to major public school districts like Olathe and Shawnee Mission.
Private schools’ responses
St. James Academy sends out a weekly COVID-19 update to parents in a newsletter, and school officials shared the document with the Shawnee Mission Post.
Below is a look at that school’s data:
- The first week of school, Aug. 23 to Aug. 27, there were two new COVID-19 positive cases at St. James. There were 17 students or staff quarantined or testing daily.
- The week of Aug. 30, the positive case number grew to nine — with 59 students or staff testing or quarantining.
- For two weeks — Sept. 6 to Sept. 17 — there were 10 new cases a week. The first week, 22 students and staff were testing or quarantining, and the second week, that number grew to 27 students or staff.
- The most recent data for the week of Sept. 20 shows four new cases at St. James Academy, with 17 students or staff quarantining or testing daily.
Molly Peterson, Bishop Miege’s director of advancement, told the Post via email that the school is “not able to share specific COVID-19 numbers due to privacy concerns.”
The school’s recently updated mask mandate policy makes masks optional in most circumstances, which Roeland Park city officials contend goes against a citywide mask order.
Peterson also the Post there hasn’t been a student-to-student COVID-19 transmission “in one year, no new cases in the last 10 days, and we are nearing a 70% vaccination rate”.
“We looked at Johnson and Jackson county incidents, both trending down, and what we observed within our school population, also down in the past two weeks,” Peterson told the Post last week. “Additionally, we have rapid response tests available to quickly determine if someone has COVID 19, should a student be exposed to the virus.”
At Pembroke Hill, just across State Line Road in Kansas City, Mo., Communications Specialist Andrew Mouzin said the school’s COVID-19 data is not readily available to share.
Likewise, The Barstow School on State Line Road in south Kansas City, told the Post via email there’s only been one week since the start of school “with any exposures that kept students or faculty off campus.”