Johnson County Health Department releases guidelines for reopening schools

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OLATHE, Kan. — The Johnson County Health Department has released guidelines for reopening schools this fall.

Based on the current COVID-19 case trends, if school districts followed the department’s recommendations, many students would be learning remotely.

The health department has broken it down into phases, proposing learning modes based on its “gating criteria,” which is based on the percentage of positive tests and the number of new cases over the last 14 days.

Under the guidance, all students would be remote only if cases are increasing in Johnson County and more than 15% of tests are positive.

In the red phase, the county would have to see 14 days of less than or equal to 15% positive tests and steady or decreasing new cases.

At that point, elementary school students could return to in-person learning following safe opening principles — but middle and high school students would have to stay with remote learning.

The health department said that’s because there’s evidence showing older students transmit COVID-19 like adults, but young children don’t appear to be “major drivers of COVID-19 transmission and are at a lower risk to develop serious illness.”

In the yellow phase, Johnson County would need to see 14 days of less than or equal to 10% positive tests and steady or decreasing new cases.

At that point, middle and high school students could return to schools for hybrid learning, limiting number of people in the building.

To reach the green phase, the county needs to see 14 days of less than or equal to 5% positive tests and steady or declining new cases.

Then, all students could return to classrooms while following health precautions, like those required by Gov. Laura Kelly’s order.

The health department’s guidance also includes recommendations for extra-curricular activities.

Based on health department data, there has consistently been less than 15% positive tests in Johnson County over the last 14 days. The county has been fluctuating in the number of new cases in the past two weeks though.

And the health department’s guidance doesn’t apply to current case numbers but to data during the fall. You can track the COVID-19 data for the gating criteria here.

For now, every public Johnson County school district has decided to delay classes until after Labor Day.

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