COVID Cases Increase Over Winter Break

Shakira Neal , Reporter

Since Winter Break, COVID cases have skyrocketed across the country including Kansas and within USD 259. 

So far Sedgwick County has seen over 109,000 cases of COVID-19 with over 1,100 deaths. In the United States, COVID total cases are now over 78.5 million and deaths are over 930,000. 

Before the break, there were about 170 student’s with positive cases from Dec. 2-8 and 23 staff members with positive cases. There were 873 students in quarantine as of Dec. 8 and only 80 staff in quarantine. However, cases have exploded since winter break. As of Jan.12 there were 1,192 student’s positive with COVID in the USD 259 district. From Jan. 13-19 there were 806 student’s positive. Positive staff cases during Jan. 6-12 were up to 317 cases. Jan.13 to 19 there were up to 306 staff members positive and  4,889 students in quarantine. Jan 20, 2022 there were 3,300 students that were within quarantine. There were up to 646 staff in quarantine on Jan 13 and 912 staff quarantined as of Jan 20. 

Wichita Public Schools will be changing it’s COVID isolation protocol to align with CDC guidelines. The isolation period for a person with a confirmed COVID case will be reduced from a minimum of 10 days to a minimum of five days. Within schools, the mask mandate is still in effect. 

Due to the staffing crisis within schools, the state-level requirements to be a substitute teacher have been temporarily lowered in an effort to keep schools open and provide relief to teachers and staff who may have been stepping in to teach classrooms. Originally, there was a minimum requirement of 60 semester credit hours from a college or university. The new rules state the person must be at least 18 years of age, have a high school diploma, a verified commitment from a district for employment, pass a background check, and submit a completed application to the state education department. This is only a temporary measure and it is set to expire on June 1 and will return to it’s more rigorous requirements. 

Most significantly, monitoring schools’ data to determine whether staffing challenges due to COVID warrant consideration of temporary school closure. Even with the lowering Sub requirements there still aren’t enough people to keep the schools functioning. As a result, there were six Wichita elementary schools closed due to COVID. South High School was also closed on Jan. 21 due to COVID.  

What will happen to schools if they are closed? Will there be days missed or will school continue  in the summer to make up the missed days? As of last year, some state-level guidelines for the schools were preventing them from going fully remote and are limited to a total of seven days of fully remote instruction per building by building basis. The Board of Education and will likely address the current COVID policies again in the near future.