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Six Shawnee Mission elementary schools bring back mask rules after high student absences

A Shawnee Mission elementary student in a mask.
Juliana Garcia
Shawnee Mission Post
A Shawnee Mission elementary student in a mask.

Six elementary schools in the Shawnee Mission school district returned to wearing masks Monday. All of the schools surpassed the district’s 5% threshold of overall student absence rates related to illness.

Students at six Shawnee Mission elementary schools returned to school Monday with mask rules back in place, according to district officials.

The six schools all surpassed the district’s 5% threshold of overall student absence rates related to illness, Chief Communications Officer David Smith told the Post via email.

The schools impacted are all elementary schools, including:

  • Arrowhead
  • East Antioch
  • Highlands
  • Pawnee
  • Rosehill
  • Sunflower

Smith said parent reports from the impacted schools show a gastrointestinal illness and influenza are circulating, prompting elevated rates of student absenteeism.
It remains unclear how many, if any, students at these schools may have been diagnosed with COVID-19, Smith said, so the move to masking is being done out of an “abundance of caution.”

Shawnee Mission’s online COVID-19 dashboard shows there are just 10 active reported exclusions for students districtwide as of April 4.

The Shawnee Mission school board updated the district’s COVID-19 mitigation plan that included the new thresholds for when to bring masks back at individual schools at its Feb. 14 meeting.

The COVID-19 mitigation plan laid out not only the 5% threshold for absenteeism related to illness, but a 3% threshold for COVID-19 positivity rates.

These thresholds are building-specific, which is why these six schools are now returning to masks while other schools are not.

Students at the six schools will remain in masks for at least 14 days, per the district’s COVID-19 mitigation plan.

That time period could be extended if, at the end of the 14 days, the percentage of positive COVID-19 cases is above 3% or the absenteeism rate related to illness remains above 5% in any one of the schools.

With the availability of home testing, schools may not always be notified of positive test results for COVID-19,” Smith told the Post via email. “When absenteeism rates exceed our pre-pandemic norms, out of an abundance of caution we follow the board approved mitigation plan with the goal of keeping schools open and maintaining healthy environments for learners.”

This story was originally published in the Shawnee Mission Post.

Juliana Garcia is a reporter with the Shawnee Mission Post.
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