Which Kansas school districts are home to the most children with COVID? New KDHE data reveals answer.
As Kansas schools experience a growing number of coronavirus clusters, state public health officials are releasing new geographic data on COVID-19 cases among children.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment on Friday released the first edition of a public dashboard tracking COVID-19 disease and vaccination rates by public school district.
While many rural schools have had zero cases among school-aged children in recent weeks, the worst case rates also happen to be in smaller districts. The 20 highest case rates are in districts with enrollments of fewer than 1,000 students.
The dashboard was first announced during a Wednesday meeting of Gov. Laura Kelly's Safer Classrooms Workgroup. It went live Friday before the governor's office issued a news release on the dashboard.
"This dashboard will provide transparent, frequently updated information to help local health officials and school districts make informed, data-driven decisions to control the spread of COVID-19 among our students," Kelly said in a statement. "My administration will continue working with our local partners and encouraging vaccinations among all eligible Kansans to beat this virus once and for all."
The data release comes as 79 Kansas schools deal with active outbreaks, including one that has turned deadly, according to the KDHE.
Last week, Education Commissioner Randy Watson announced the COVID-19 death of a middle school student. He didn't reveal what school the student attended or whether the student was infected at school.
While federal data show recent declines in the Kansas COVID-19 case rate, school-aged children continue to have higher positive test rates than other age groups. Statewide, the KDHE reported 11,394 infected children and 44 pediatric hospitalizations over the past month.
A searchable database with case rates for all 286 public school districts is available below.
In the Topeka area, the highest COVID-19 case rate was in the boundaries of Topeka Public Schools.
• Topeka USD 501 had a rate of 7.5 cases per 1,000 students. The district had 98 presumed student cases.
• Auburn-Washburn USD 437 had a rate of 3.8 cases per 1,000 students. The district had presumed student 24 cases.
• Seaman USD 345 had a rate of 4.4 cases per 1,000 students. The district had 17 presumed student cases.
• Shawnee Heights USD 450 had a rate of 2.7 cases per 1,000 students. The district had presumed student 10 cases.
• Silver Lake USD 372 had a rate of 4.1 cases per 1,000 students. The district had three presumed student cases.
• Kaw Valley USD 321 had a rate of 6.3 cases per 1,000 students. The district had seven presumed student cases.
The new dashboard doesn't necessarily provide an accurate picture of case rates within a school district.
The data show cases among school-aged children, defined as ages 5-17, based on the public school district in which they live. Vaccination data is cumulative, while case counts are for the two-week period of Sept. 11-23. More recent case data is excluded because it is expected to be incomplete.
The report doesn't filter for children who are homeschooled, attend private schools or who have transferred to a school outside their home district. There is no indication whether the exposure and transmission happened at school.
About 7% of case addresses and 5% of vaccination address were unable to be geocoded and weren't reflected in the dashboard. Vaccination data reflects the entire 5-17 age group, even though children younger than 12 years old aren't yet eligible for any of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Enrollment numbers are from the Kansas State Board of Education report card for 2019-20.
The co-chairs of the Safer Classrooms Workgroup said in the governor's office news release that the information will help local educators.
"Sharing this information in an easy-to-understand format will help parents and families understand the risks for COVID-19 in their own school district, empowering them to make the best choices to keep their kids safe in school by wearing a mask, getting tested regularly, and getting vaccinated if eligible," said pediatric hospitalist Stephanie Kuhlmann.
"With so much misinformation being shared about COVID-19, this school dashboard provides a simple tool to help school districts keep track of what is happening locally and across the state," said family physician and Wilson County health officer Jennifer Bacani-McKenney. "We will continue supporting our teachers and School Boards by providing timely, fact-based data so they can set strong policies to protect their kids, teachers, and staff."