The latest data from the state health department show rates of COVID-19 cases in public schools in Johnson County continue to decline as pandemic trends ebb across the county and greater Kansas City region.
Case rates in all six public school districts in Johnson County have declined since the Kansas Department of Health and Environment first began publishing districts’ COVID-19 and vaccination rates in an online dashboard nearly three weeks ago.
“Overall, the incidence rate of COVID-19 and the percent positivity in the community have been declining for the past few weeks. As the level of risk in the community decreases, we would expect to see similar trends in K-12 schools,” said Charlie Hunt, deputy health director with the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.
Districts’ latest COVID-19 numbers
Here are the latest figures from each of the six public school districts in Johnson County, compared to case rates measured in the final two weeks of September by KDHE.
- USD 232 in De Soto: 4.06 cases per 1,000 students (compared to 4.29 in late September)
- Shawnee Mission: 3.9 cases per 1,000 students (compared to 5.1 in late September)
- Blue Valley: 2.01 cases per 1,000 students (compared to 2.73 in late September)
- Gardner-Edgerton: 1.94 per 1,000 students (compared to 4.59 in late September)
- Olathe: 1.66 cases per 1,000 students (compared to 4.86 in late September)
- Spring Hill: 0.88 cases per 1,000 students (compared to 1.41 in late September)
Districts’ vaccination numbers
This data comes from the Kansas Immunization Registry, which vaccine providers are required by law to report to when they administer vaccines to individuals.
KDHE says these figures do not include vaccinations administered outside of Kansas or through federal partnerships.
- Blue Valley: 311.6 per 1,000 students (7.269 students presumed to have been vaccinated)
- Shawnee Mission: 309.9 per 1,000 students (9,216 students presumed to have been vaccinated)
- Olathe: 298.5 per 1,000 students (9,157 students presumed to have been vaccinated)
- USD 232 in De Soto: 298.3 per 1,000 students (2,202 students presumed to have been vaccinated)
- Gardner-Edgerton: 2.49.2 per 1,000 students (1,411 students presumed to have been vaccinated)
- Spring Hill: 133.1 per 1,000 students (754 students presumed to have been vaccinated)
Closer look at Spring Hill
The Spring Hill district saw an explosion in COVID-19 cases among students at the very beginning of the school year in August. At their height, the district recorded 15.47 cases per 1,000 students, more than five times the country-wide average at that time.
Until this week, Spring Hill had been the only school district in Johnson County to not put a universal masking rule in place for all students, staff and visitors. (USD 232, starting Wednesday, will make masks optional in its two high schools.)
In early September, Spring Hill was also the site of a COVID-19 outbreak following a cheerleading competition at Spring Hill High School.
But over the past month and a half, Spring Hill’s COVID-19 cases have dropped substantially and currently remain the lowest of any school district in Johnson County, according to KDHE’s dashboard.
In the most week of data, the district reports no confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 among students and three positive cases among staff.
District spokesperson Christopher Villareal told the Post in an email that Spring Hill does continue to offer mitigation efforts that are recommended by local health officials to prevent the spread of infections, though the district’s mask rules have not changed.
“School principals have put additional mitigation measures in place as a response to specific situations in their buildings,” Villarreal said in his statement. “This includes things like using plastic barriers between students at lunch, cohorting for PE class, and social distancing within the classroom.”
Hunt, with JCDHE, said Spring Hill’s notable drop in case rates could be due, in part, to such ongoing efforts to stop spread of the disease.
“We [JCDHE] have committed, as have the schools, a lot of resources to ensure that cases are identified on time and public health measures implemented to reduce the risk of spread in the schools,”he said.
He also noted that Spring Hill is significantly smaller in terms of student population than the other six Johnson County districts, which can make practices like social distancing and cohorting easier.
“Small changes in case numbers can have substantial impacts on the incidence rate [as well],” Hunt said.
While infections continue to ebb countywide and the promise of vaccination for younger children sits on the near horizon, Johnson County health officials say they continue to monitor each school district closely.
At the same time, Hunt said JCDHE currently has no plans to lift its recommendation that everyone inside K-12 schools wear masks.
Post editor Kyle Palmer contributed to this report.