SMSD Board Meeting Recap

The school board discusses information regarding COVID-19 in Johnson County during a meeting on Nov. 10


Ally Pruente and Stella Grist


The SMSD Board of Education held a special meeting last night regarding the continuation of in person learning. The meeting was attended by the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment (JCDHE) to further discuss the current gating criteria in schools. 

JCDHE director of epidemiology Elizabeth Holzschuh stated that schools should continue to be in the hybrid model. This is because evidence shows that the rapid increase in COVID-19 rates in the county is not caused by students being in school and the hybrid model shows no correlation to the increase in transmission rates. 

Data has been recently collected and updated regarding students who have tested positive for COVID in the district. According to the chief of student services Christy Ziegler, 9 percent of students tested in a 2-week period in the SMSD tested positive. 

SMSD health services director Shelby Rebeck recommended all remote learning at last night’s meeting. Rebeck stated that contact tracing, the ability to trace a COVID positive individual to all others they have been in contact with, is a large reason why teachers and other students are isolated.  

“Classrooms and/or schools would move to remote only if infection rates/isolation of COVID-like illness (includes flu-like symptoms) approach 10 percent in classroom(s) and/or school(s),” Rebeck said. 

Mental health is also a large concern when considering switching learning models. Since the start of the pandemic, usage of Johnson County crisis services has seen a 35 percent increase. However, Johnson County Mental Health Center deputy director Susan Rome believes that mental health concerns alone should not decide the learning model for students, especially if it goes against the county’s public health recommendations. 

JCDHE does not recommend moving to remote learning at this time, due to the minimal transmission rates among students in school. However, if schools become understaffed due to teachers quarantining and an insufficient number of substitutes, SMSD may be moving to the remote learning model. 

The district has passed over all COVID responsibilities to the superintendent from the operating district and has advised them to consider the JCDHE when making decisions. The superintendent has the ability to follow JCDHE gating criteria or alter it to add or subtract criteria. More information will be provided after the next board meeting.