Johnson County schools report declines in new COVID-19 cases — Here are 3 districts’ latest numbers

Here's where three Johnson County school districts' COVID-19 cases are at as the first month of a new semester comes to an end. Above, a Shawnee Mission elementary student wears a mask. File photo.

Johnson County school districts are beginning to see an ebb in their number of recorded COVID-19 cases, though more recent reporting has also been impacted by the suspension of contact tracing efforts by the county and state.

After local districts returned to class in early January, several high schools across three Johnson County districts quickly reverted to universal masking policies due to the high number of cases detected in students and staff.

Schools have also recorded higher than average absenteeism this month, among both students and staff.

But the drop in case numbers recorded in some public schools could be the start of a broader cessation in cases more broadly.

Steve Stites, chief medical officer for The University of Kansas Health System, said Monday in KU’s daily COVID-19 update that new cases are starting to drop across the metro.

As an indication, Stites reported that KU has 100 current active cases, after the hospital reported nearly 200 in recent weeks.

Likewise, Johnson County’s COVID-19 dashboard shows a drop to start this week in both new cases and positivity rate.

Some districts like Shawnee Mission and Blue Valley changed the way in which they track COVID-19 data after the county stopped contact tracing.

Roughly a a month into the new semester, here are the latest numbers being reported by the three public school districts in the Post’s coverage area:

Shawnee Mission:

  • As of Monday, Jan. 31, the district reports there are 614 active exclusions for students, according to the district’s COVID-19 dashboard.
  • That’s a decline from 922 and 919 active exclusions reported the previous two weeks, respectively.
  • It should be noted that Shawnee Mission is longer including students recommended for isolation (who may have been exposed to a positive case) on its dashboard due to a lack of contact tracing resources.
  • More than two-thirds of the current exclusions — 419 — are among elementary students. High school students account for 124 of those cases, and middle school students account for 83 of those cases.
  • There are also 58 active exclusions for staff, down from 111 reported the previous week.

USD 232:

  • There were 147 exclusions for isolations and 70 recommended quarantines for students from Jan. 22 to Jan. 28, according to USD 232’s COVID-19 dashboard.
  • This is down from 342 exclusions and 167 quarantines the week prior, which was also a four-day week after the district canceled school on a Friday due to a staff shortage.
  • During the week of Jan. 22 through Jan. 28, there were 16 exclusion for isolation and 9 recommended quarantines among staff members.
  • Cumulatively, elementary schools have been hit hardest by isolations and recommended quarantines with 1,439 in total in elementary schools during this school year.
  • In high schools, there have been 737 total exclusions for isolations and recommended quarantines. In middle schools, that nubmers is 625.

Blue Valley:

  • Since the county has stopped contact tracing, Blue Valley has changed how it reports COVID-19 cases on its dashboard.
  • The district is now updating the dashboard daily with both student illness and COVID-19 rates broken down by each school on its COVID-19 dashboard and does not present that data with districtwide totals.
  • In general, reported cases are going down in Blue Valley from previous weeks, to the point that most schools are below thresholds of new cases that might trigger mask rules for those buildings.
  • In all five high schools, the district’s reported COVID-19 rates — which include students who have tested positive, who are symptomatic or who have had known close contacts with a positive case — are all below 1% at each school, as of Friday, Jan. 28. Whereas, for the week ending Jan. 21, only one high school was below 1% of students with COVID-19.
  • Of the district’s more than 20 elementary schools, several are reporting COVID-19 rats above 2%, and one school — Indian Valley Elementary — is recording a COVID-19 case rate of 3.37%. A week before, nine elementary schools had case rates topping 3%.
  • Likewise, two middle schools — Harmony and Oxford — were over the 3% threshold for COVID-19 cases among students as of Jan. 28. That’s down from five middle school being over that rate the week prior.