Superintendent addresses questions about COVID-19 data

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times
Mike Roth

While some school districts in the area have released information about the number of staff members and students who have tested positive for COVID-19 or been quarantined, the Leavenworth public schools have not.

Leavenworth Superintendent Mike Roth recently addressed the reasons for not releasing the information by reading a statement during a school board meeting.

“We do not want to give our school community a false sense of security that things are better than they are, and we also do not want to violate the privacy protections of our students and staff and bring them an undue negative attention,” Roth said while reading the statement.

Roth acknowledged during Monday’s meeting of the Leavenworth Board of Education that district administrators have received a number of comments and questions about reporting COVID-19 exposures and positive cases.

“Unlike some area school districts, Leavenworth USD 453, has yet to have any documented cases of a student-to-student or student-to-staff classroom transmission,” Roth said. “We have also yet to be advised by the Health Department to quarantine a classroom, grade level, or school building due to an outbreak. We certainly want to continue to maintain that trend.”

Roth said district officials do not want to report false or inaccurate information.

He said only the Leavenworth County Health Department has the ability to issue quarantine orders due to confirmed positive tests or exposures to COVID-19.

The superintendent said district officials have the ability to exclude students or staff members based on visible symptoms or if they have revealed their COVID-19 health status to school officials.

“However, there are likely instances when an individual is sick and doesn’t know it – and/or instances when someone has been recommended to self-isolate (such as a household quarantine), but they still report to work or school anyway,” Roth said. “We feel that there would be a negative impact of stating that there were ‘zero cases in our schools last week,’ unless we can be extremely confident in the validity of those numbers."

Roth also expressed concern that if the district released information about the low number of people in the schools who have tested positive for the virus, others may be able to figure out their identities based simply on who is absent from school.

“If our numbers were greater, if we had multiple positive cases, at multiple sites on a weekly basis – it might be easier to report out documented information while still maintaining confidentiality,” Roth said. “Because our numbers have been so low to date, that is nearly impossible to do.”

With a positivity rate in Leavenworth County of between 10 and 20%, Roth said, “we should all assume that there is the risk of transmission everywhere we go.”

The Lansing school district regularly releases information about students and staff members who test positive and the schools where they work and attend classes. The names of the individuals are not released. The district also releases the number of people at the schools who are considered to have been “close contacts” of those who tested positive.

The Basehor-Linwood school district releases updates about the number of students and staff members who are in quarantine but not information about positive cases.

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR