• Last modified 883 days ago (Jan. 19, 2022)


3 of 5 districts close; 4th mandates masks

Staff writers

A COVID-19 surge unlike any seen before closed schools in three county districts and imposed a mask mandate in a fourth. The only school district not changing its procedures is one of two in the county officially listed among 11 COVID “clusters” in the state.

Hillsboro superintendent Max Heinrichs said COVID cases were continuing to quickly rise in all district buildings.

“Today we have 12 new cases at the grade school,” Heinrichs said Tuesday.

The grade school’s positivity rate was 12.79% as of Tuesday. A mask mandate for all students, staff, and visitors is in effect at the grade school through next Wednesday.

The high school hit a 10% positivity rate Thursday, which led to masks being required for a week. On Tuesday, the positivity rate had dropped to 6.9%.

Peabody superintendent Antoinette Root said Tuesday the high school has more than 10% of students with COVID and 5 to 10% of elementary students testing positive. She did not have exact numbers of sick students when she spoke to the Record because the school was still counting test results at the time.

Masks are required when the number reaches 10%, Root said.

Marion Middle and High School and Peabody-Burns High School were included last week on a list of 11 schools officially designated as COVID “clusters” statewide. Goessel schools almost without question will qualify for inclusion on the list when it next is updated today.

Peabody-Burns canceled all classes and activities last Wednesday and extended that cancellation to include Thursday and Friday. A Monday basketball game also was canceled as were Hillsboro’s Friday night games.

Peabody-Burns classes resumed Tuesday with a new mask mandate requiring all junior and senior high school students to wear masks and maintain three- to six-foot social distancing.

Day care and vocational-technical classes in Newton were included in the Peabody-Burns cancellation.

The district blamed the closure “not only on staffing shortages of essential certified and classified positions, but also on student illness and absenteeism, which includes COVID and non-COVID related absences.”

Teachers still were ordered to report for work.

Root said if students test positive, they are quarantined for 5 days, and if they come back they have to wear a mask at all times for the next five days.

“So far all activities are on,” Root said Tuesday. “We were supposed to play tonight in the Centre tournament and we’re not playing because Wakefield forfeited.”

Goessel canceled junior high basketball Thursday night and all junior high and high school classes Friday. Goessel’s elementary school, kindergarten through fifth grade, continued to meet.

All school activities at all grade levels Thursday through Monday were canceled. A teachers’ work day, originally planned for Monday, was moved to Tuesday, cancelling all classes until Wednesday.

Centre closed its school office last Tuesday and asked all elementary students through fourth grade to begin wearing masks for the next 10 days.

Centre’s board of education held a special meeting Tuesday afternoon and voted to dismiss school and cancel all sports for the remainder of the week.

“Because of the number of students impacted by COVID we have also canceled the Cougar Classic scheduled to begin tonight,” superintendent Larry Geist posted on the school website. “All Centre High School games have been canceled but other schools may decide to still play their games. We will not be playing the Junior High basketball game scheduled for this Thursday as well.”

Marion superintendent Aaron Homburg did not respond to a message asking him to call.

Despite being listed by the state as a COVID “cluster,” the only change reported for Marion schools was imposed by a school Marion visited for a basketball game Friday night.

Ell-Saline school district, the boys and girls teams of which defeated Marion’s teams Friday, imposed a mask mandate through Monday.

At Friday’s game at Ell-Saline, spectators and coaches were required to wear masks. It was announced before the game that spectators would not be allowed to enter or remain in gymnasium stands if they were not wearing masks properly.

Otherwise, no changes in Marion school activities were announced on school social media feeds except that Tuesday games in the Centre Classic basketball tournament were being moved to Marion.

In January, school board members changed policies so that students exposed to COVID could remain in school without masks if they had a documented case of COVID in the previous six months, even though some health officials question that a case within six months prevents a person from being contagious.

Board members made no changes to that policy at their meeting last week despite the middle and high school being included on the state’s short list of cluster sites.

County commissioners Tuesday approved isolation and quarantine guidelines issued by the state health department that will change the way some county schools handle the pandemic.

In the past week, COVID has canceled classes at Centre, Peabody and Goessel, led to mask mandates in Hillsboro and Peabody schools, canceled multiple sports events, and added Marion and Peabody schools to a list of just nine others schools statewide that have been officially identified as COVID “clusters.”

The guidelines commissioners approved Tuesday are not a mandate, and don’t impose masks on the public.

“We’re continuing to see our testing surge, and our numbers are surging,” health department administrator Krista Schneider said.

County commissioner Dave Crofoot said school districts wanted the policy passed in order to give them a clearer set of rules.

“The school system wants this so they are not responsible to tell people to go home,” Crofoot said.

Schneider said Kansas Department of Health and Environment has been working with boards of education to develop guidelines for the general population.. Schools will fall under the same guidelines.

“We feel strongly that doing what the state has set for us is important for our county,” Schneider said.

  • The guidelines require everyone with a confirmed or probable case of COVID to stay home five days, isolate from family members, and wear a mask if they have to be around family members.
  • For the next five days, they should wear a mask indoors and outdoors when around others. They should also avoid travel and avoid being around anyone at high risk for severe disease.
  • Anyone who can’t or won’t wear a mask is to stay home 10 days and isolate from everyone else.
  • If someone had severe symptoms, they should isolate at least 10 days and when they have been fever-free for 24 hours.
  • People who were vaccinated more than five months ago with Pfizer or Moderna but not boosted, who were vaccinated more than two months ago with Johnson & Johnson and not boosted, and people who were not vaccinated should quarantine at least five days and wear a mask if they must be around others,
  • After five days in quarantine, they should wear a mask whenever they are around others.
  • Even if they don’t develop symptoms, they should be tested for COVID five days after being around someone who has the disease.
  • People who are fully vaccinated and boosted do not need to quarantine unless they develop symptoms, but should be tested between five to 10 days after they were exposed.
  • If they do develop symptoms, they should isolate and be tested.

Last modified Jan. 19, 2022