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Johnson County schools no longer contact tracing, notifying families of COVID-19 exposures

Posted at 8:51 PM, Jan 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-07 21:51:21-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — If a child is exposed to a positive case of COVID-19 at school, parents might not know about it.

In Johnson County, many families received letters via email explaining why the districts are no longer contact tracing and notifying families.

So, the KSHB 41 I-Team did some digging to understand why and took a look at the policies for other school districts around the metro.

Of those that responded, Kansas City, Missouri, Public Schools, Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools, Kearney School District, North Kansas City School District and Raymore-Peculiar R-II School District said they're continuing to conduct tracing and notifying "close contacts."

The Belton School District is making a slight change. Instead of notifying individual students, entire classes or groups will be notified of possible exposure.

Park Hill School District is leaving tracing and notification solely up to the county health departments.

But Liberty, Olathe, Shawnee Mission and Blue Valley school districts are all changing their notification policies.

"We were told by the county this week, and we completely agree with them, we are not going to focus on contact tracing because, quite frankly, with the number of cases, we just can't keep up," SMSD Superintendent Dr. Michelle Hubbard explained earlier this week.

A representative for Blue Valley says the district was never solely responsible for contact tracing, they say that was up to the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.

However, JCDHE says the county would still get some help and information from schools.

Regardless, the county health department did change guidance this week, writing in a letter, "...intensive contact tracing within schools is no longer feasible..."

Both the health department and the schools say they don't have the manpower to keep up with the rapidly increasing case count to perform contract tracing for each case.

KSHB 41 spoke to several Johnson County parents off camera who shared they were troubled to hear they might not be notified by the school that their child was exposed, especially without masking in the older grades. However, those parents all requested to remain anonymous because they believe this issue has been politicized.

Still, there will be some instances where Johnson County schools notify families.

For example, an Olathe district representative said they might notify an entire class if there is a widespread outbreak in a specific classroom or lunch hour.

In Shawnee Mission, a representative says the district will try to send notifications by grade level for elementary students.

So, as a parent, what can be done?

Olathe schools are asking families to self report if their student tests positive and personally notify any close contacts.

If a student was potentially exposed, JCDHE has this advice:

  • Wear a mask for 10 days after exposure
  • Get tested five days after exposure
  • Participate in the school's test-to-stay program, if available