OSAWATOMIE – Schools in Osawatomie USD 367 will be closed until Wednesday, Jan. 19, due to staffing issues related to rising COVID-19 cases.
Prairie View USD 362 announced classes have been canceled for Friday, Jan. 14, due to increasing COVID-19 cases.
Osawatomie school board members unanimously made the decision during a special meeting called for 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 13.
The board members reviewed numbers that show two-week positive rates for staff and students are at 6.45 percent for Osawatomie Middle School and 6.28 percent for Osawatomie High School. Swenson Early Childhood Education Center is at 3.45 percent, and Trojan Elementary is at 2.84 percent.
The positives by week numbers show that from Jan. 2 to Jan. 8 there were 10 staff and 10 students, and from Jan. 9 to Jan. 13 there were 12 staff and 34 students.
The board members gave Superintendent Justin Burchett the ability to extend the closure if necessary. Schools were already going to be closed Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Burchett said Tuesday, Jan. 18, will be a professional development day, which will give them an opportunity to do a headcount and see where they will be at regarding staff for Wednesday. Staff and students who test positive can return to school following a five-day isolation period as long as they are fever free for 24 hours and are feeling better. Burchett said the closure will give staff members who tested positive today time to get back to school on Wednesday.
“With staff I have coming back by then, I’m hopeful that it will not be an issue for Wednesday,” Burchett said.
There will be no athletics on Friday, Jan. 14. Practices will resume Monday, and competitions will resume Tuesday.
Also during the special meeting, the board members approved changes to the district’s close contact protocols. The district will stop calling each family of a school-based close contact to notify them they were exposed at school. The district will also stop sending a letter of notification to each family of a school-based close contact to notify them they were exposed at school. The district will also stop publishing quarantine numbers (both modified and home) in the weekly COVID dashboard update.
The district will continue publishing COVID positive numbers (both staff and students) in the weekly COVID dashboard update, and the district will continue with current modified quarantine procedures for staff and students who live with a COVID positive household member.
The reasons given for the changes are that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment recently announced that it will discontinue contact tracing on Feb. 1, and all local health departments can immediately discontinue contact tracing for close contacts of a positive. Positive persons should inform their close contacts they have been exposed.
Additional reasons for the changes mentioned in the school board packet state that district staff can no longer determine exposure to any level of fidelity due to the current number of positive staff and students, and the district can no longer determine quarantine numbers or status of students due to the current number of positive cases.
Osawatomie school board president DJ Needham said the board members do not want to close schools.
“Nobody wants to do this, but I think that we’re stuck with we have to do this right now,” Needham said. “I would have never dreamed that we’d still be talking about this stupid virus at this point, but obviously it’s still affecting us.”
There was no discussion about implementing a mask mandate, but school board member Dr. Jeff Dorsett said he suggests people follow CDC guidance, which recommends that people wear a mask when indoors and socially distancing is not possible. He also encouraged people to get vaccinated.
“The best way that an individual or family can help contribute to ending the pandemic is to get a complete vaccine series,” Dorsett said.