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Here's where Olathe schools' COVID-19 policies stand amid record-breaking surge

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Other school districts have announced they’re pumping the brakes on their test-to-stay programs, but the Olathe school district’s is still up and running. 

Becky Grubaugh, the district’s media and marketing manager, said in an email that USD 233’s testing supply level is “adequate” and able to keep the program rolling at this time. 

TESTING POLICIES 

Under the testing model, students, teachers and staff in high schools who have been exposed to COVID-19 are required to mask-up and get tested every day until their quarantine period is up. As long as they keep the mask on and continue to test negative — via a PCR test — they can stay in their respective building. The test-to-stay model is one the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention supports, but it can take a lot of testing supplies to keep it running since every exposed individual must take a test every single day they’d need to be in quarantine, which can be as many as 10 tests a person. 

The testing center is run out of the Lindenwood Business Center in collaboration with Lenexa-based MAWD Pathology Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays while school is in session. Minors need a parent or guardian present while they’re taking a test. 

CHANGING COVID LANDSCAPE 

These policies were all set in November, back when the local COVID-19 situation appeared to be improving and the Olathe school district saw its lowest rates of student and staff quarantines. However, the reality has changed. For weeks now, Johnson County has recorded the most rapid spread of COVID-19 to date and local health systems are getting overwhelmed by rising demand for critical care amid staffing shortages. Per the MidAmerica Regional Council’s COVID dashboard, the area is seeing an average of 238 new hospitalizations for COVID-19 daily. 

Earlier this week, the Shawnee Mission school district announced it would suspend its own test-to-stay program and instead turn the focus on testing symptomatic individuals at least for this week. According to the Shawnee Mission Post, the district has also returned to masking after every middle and high school hit the trigger points to require face coverings on a building-by-building basis. 

MASKING REQUIREMENTS IN OLATHE 

In Olathe, four of the five high schools were put back under mask requirements after hitting the absenteeism threshold established by the Olathe Board of Education late in 2021. Those rules require schools with optional masks to require face coverings after the building rate of isolations and quarantines surpasses 4% or the building absenteeism rate is above 7%. 

Olathe North, Olathe Northwest and Olathe West highs hit that absenteeism threshold last week. Data reported from Olathe South shows it surpassed the 7% absent rate on Monday after clocking in at 8.7%. As of Tuesday, it has risen to more than 10%. Masking rules will remain until the individual buildings each fall below the established thresholds for two weeks. 

Olathe East is the only high school in the district that still has optional masking, reporting absenteeism rates below 4% this week. 

In Johnson County, all elementary schools and most middle schools are subject to the local public health order, which requires facial coverings in any building with students Kindergarten through sixth grade.

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