March 17, 2020
JOCO superintendents support the Governor’s order to close schools through the end of the school year.
Click here for the Spanish translation.
In order to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus in Kansas, on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly ordered all public schools in Kansas to remain closed through the end of the school year.
“The steps we're announcing today will create the space we need at the state level, to develop a more strategic resilient infrastructure, so that we can get ahead of this threat and limit its long-term impact,” Governor Kelly noted.
Dr. Randy Watson, Kansas Commissioner of Education, joined the Governor for the announcement, and noted that top educators from around the state are already working on how to provide educational resources for students, and schools districts are planning for how to ensure that students can continue to receive breakfast and lunch while schools are closed.
“We have entered into a new reality,” said Dr. Mike Fulton, superintendent of schools, “and it requires all of us working together in support of our community.”
“Moving forward, we will provide our community with regular updates on our plans as they develop,” Dr. Fulton noted. “I would ask that we allow each other a measure of grace, as we develop plans for what school looks like in the weeks ahead. We are a uniquely gifted community, and we must use our many talents and strengths to support one another.”
“Now, more than ever,” he said, “we must work together for the benefit of our children and our community.”
You can view the Governor’s press conference online or read a press release issued by the Governor’s office.
March 16, 2020
SMSD Schools Closed Through April 3, 2020
At the direction of the Johnson County Department of Health and the Environment, all schools in the Shawnee Mission School District will be closed through April 3. Schools are being closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The district is engaged in planning on how to manage this closure, including contingencies for how to respond if the closure extends beyond April 3. In the meantime, we are currently working on meal distribution for children in need and will share that in a future communication. Staff will continue to be paid and will receive expectations for work after the conclusion of spring break.
There is much we do not know, but we will be working tirelessly over the next few days to prepare for the possibility of an extended closure and will continue to communicate regularly as plans develop. We recognize the challenges that this closure presents for families and students but are in agreement with JCDHE that this closure is in the best interest of students in our district. Meanwhile, please follow all advice from public health advocates in order to keep yourself and your family safe. This includes taking the idea of social distancing seriously and keeping yourself and your children away from group gatherings.
There will be a press conference at 11 a.m. tomorrow where additional information will be shared.
Johnson County superintendents release joint statement following KSDE recommendation
The Kansas State Department of Education issued the following statement on Sunday, March 15:
As of Sun., March 15, Kansas Education Commissioner Dr. Randy Watson strongly recommends that those schools currently coming off of spring break, suspend operations for the week March 16-20. All schools scheduled for spring break the week of March 16-20 will continue as planned.
Closing all schools during this same period of time provides Kansas officials the time needed to finalize a comprehensive plan for how to address COVID-19.
It is critical that we all follow a coordinated response to this situation.
This announcement does not directly impact districts in Johnson County, as all districts are on Spring Break from March 16-20, 2020; however, we commend Commissioner Watson on making this important recommendation.
As we are all well aware, proactive measures to combat COVID-19 are important to community health and safety. All Johnson County school districts will continue to work closely with Johnson County government, including the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment, to take proactive steps to address student, staff and community safety. Families should continue to proactively make plans for the very real possibility of a school closure beyond Spring Break.
As this remains a fluid and evolving situation, we will keep families updated as more information becomes available from Johnson County officials and the Kansas State Department of Education.
A parent of a student at Lenexa Hills Elementary School has tested positive for COVID-19. The family is currently in self-quarantine, and will not be back in the building until that quarantine period has expired.
The district is working directly with the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment (JCDHE). We are severely limited in terms of what we can say, in order to protect the privacy rights of the individuals involved. Anyone in the Lenexa Hills community who has had extended direct contact with anyone in that family has been informed, per JCDHE guidelines. We have been informed that the risk of COVID-19 exposure to anyone at Lenexa Hills is very low.
All buildings in the Shawnee Mission School District are closed for Spring Break, and will be deep cleaned and disinfected before students and staff return. Please be assured that our focus is on student, staff and community safety. This situation continues to be very fluid and, as things change, we will communicate as quickly as reasonably possible. Our communications are designed to both inform and dispel rumors. Please rely on official communications only for factual updates and guidance.
All Shawnee Mission School District facilities will be closed during Spring Break (March 16-20), with no keycard access. During this time, the buildings will undergo deep cleaning and disinfection. The closure and cleaning are being implemented to mitigate exposure to the COVID-19 virus and protect the health and safety of students and staff.
All athletics, facilities rentals, and other extracurricular activities have been cancelled through Spring Break.
Update 3.12. 20
In preparation for the potential of a school closure, the Shawnee Mission School District will send devices home with students in grades 3-12 as we dismiss for Spring Break. Additionally, teachers may elect to send classroom resources home with students that could include books and other instructional tools.
Additional communication and information will be provided as a result of any future direction from the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment (JCDHE) and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE).
The CDC has information about talking with children about Coronavirus, please see the below link.
From the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment (JCDHE):
The first case of COVID-19 in Kansas was reported on March 7, 2020. The case is a woman under the age of 50 who lives in Johnson County, KS. The woman had recently traveled to the northeastern part of the U.S. She became ill there and went to an urgent care where she tested negative for influenza. She wore a mask and returned by airplane to Kansas City. She did the right thing, self-quarantined at home and contacted her physician. She was tested Saturday, March 7, 2020 for COVID-19 and was positive. She remains at home in quarantine. Test samples will be sent to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for confirmation, but the case is being viewed as a “presumptive positive” at this time.
Shawnee Mission School District (SMSD) is working directly with the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment (JCDHE) for all COVID-19 related issues on a case-by-case basis. This includes individuals who have traveled to impacted areas but have not demonstrated symptoms. In these cases, JCDHE recommends a case-by-case evaluation, and based on that evaluation, will provide the district with a specific course of action, including all communication to the public. The JCDHE has the responsibility to balance individual privacy rights with the health and safety interests of students, staff and community.
There will be cases where a fourteen day self-quarantine is imposed because of the potential for exposure due to travel or other reasons. Based on guidance from JCDHE, self-quarantine that is precautionary in nature is not communicated to the public. JCDHE will direct the district on a case-by-case basis when communication to the broader community is warranted. Again, the district acts and communicates around COVID-19 based on direction from JCDHE.
Update 3.7.20 from Shelby Rebeck, Director of Health Services for SMSD
We are aware of the COVID-19 case in Johnson County and remain in close contact with the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment (JCDHE).
Recommendations at this time, are to continue good hygiene practices which include proper hand washing, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands, stay home if you are ill and avoid those who are sick. We will provide updates as necessary.
Update 3.3.20 from Shelby Rebeck, Director of Health Services for SMSD
As we begin to see more COVID-19 exposures in our community, I spoke with the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment (JCDHE) this morning regarding what to do in these cases. JCDHE states it is only the person with the direct exposure to a positive COVID-19 case that is required to quarantine. Others in the home may function normally unless they develop symptoms. At which time they should self-quarantine and call their doctor.
The Shawnee Mission School District (SMSD) has a comprehensive plan in place to manage potential outbreaks of infectious diseases. The district has brought together a team to update that plan with specifics related to the Coronavirus or COVID-19, working closely with the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment (JCDHE). Currently there are no identified cases of COVID-19 in Kansas, but we are being proactive.
Many people are asking if/when schools may close. This decision would be made in conjunction with JCDHE and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). If it becomes necessary to close schools, all families and employees would be made aware of the plans as we receive notification from the county and state health departments.
The following statement is from the JCDHE:
Even though the risk of this new virus to Johnson County, Kansas residents is low at this time, Johnson County Department of Health and Environment Preparedness Program Manager Steve Maheux says the health department is working closely with its partners across the healthcare system to evaluate the coronavirus outbreak and putting protective measures in place wherever possible.
The measures include: staying up-to-date on the latest state and federal guidance from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; securing enough personal protective equipment (PPE) if an outbreak occurs in the community; using existing tools to receive alerts if/when high risk patients present at hospitals; and educating the public on risk and prevention.
Currently, the district is following the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for COVID-19 (below). The district will continue to monitor developments, and will revise the district response/pandemic plan as appropriate.
The following information is from Shelby Rebeck, Director of Health Services for SMSD:
There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. There are many ways to protect our immune systems: eat nutritious foods, get enough sleep, hydrate, and decrease stress. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
- Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
These are everyday habits that can help prevent the spread of several viruses. In addition, CDC has specific guidance for travelers.
Click here for the SMSD webpage.