Two large Kansas school districts shuttered as COVID surges

Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 7:26 AM CST
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OLATHE, Kan. (AP) - Two large school districts in Kansas have canceled classes this week as COVID-19 cases surge among their staff and students.

Olathe Public Schools and Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools canceled classes for Tuesday and Wednesday. There were no classes Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The closure includes before- and after-school care programs.

Olathe Superintendent, Brent Yeager, said the cancellations were unavoidable as more than 800 school employees — about 20% of all Olathe schools’ staff — were out sick heading into this week. Yeager said more than 1,500 students had the virus last week.

Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools reported it had 200 teaching positions unfilled Friday.

The virus-driven school staff shortage means there are not enough teachers to conduct online remote classes, Yeager said.

Three Wichita-area elementary schools — Cessna, Spaght, and Linwood — will be closed on Tuesday, also because of staff absences and a lack of replacements, said district spokeswoman Susan Arensman.

Wichita district officials warned parents last week that closures were possible as COVID-19 cases surge. The district said in a report issued Friday that 301 staff members and more than 1,100 students tested positive for COVID-19. The district already had about 4,500 students and nearly 650 staff in quarantine.

Three Catholic elementary schools in Wichita also will close on Tuesday. Christ the King, St. Francis of Assisi, and Magdalen will be closed Tuesday, with St. Francis and Magdalen also closed Wednesday, Wichita Catholic Schools superintendent Janet Eaton said.

The latest school closures follow the closures of several other Kansas districts last week due to the surging virus. Those districts included Eudora, Desoto, Manhattan-Ogden, Bonner Springs, and El Dorado.

Some churches in Wichita have also returned to requiring members to wear masks during services.

Plymouth Congregational Church’s decision to require masks again has received mixed reactions, Senior Minister Don Olsen said.

“There are people who aren’t as happy as other people are to put a mask on,” Olsen said. “But we do believe in the community and being supportive of the community and protecting other people’s health.”

College Hill United Methodist Church is requiring masks, giving out COVID-19 rapid tests, and had a vaccination clinic on Saturday, the Rev. Jill Sander-Chali said.

“If there’s something we can do, by and large, this congregation says sign me up,” Sander-Chali said.

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