Douglas County school virus guidance remains in yellow tier but key indicators increasing in severity

photo by: Sylas May/Journal-World Illustration

Douglas County students may continue attending classes in person for the time being, but increasing rates for the coronavirus may lead to changes in instruction soon.

Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health announced Thursday that its guidance to schools would remain for another week in the yellow tier, which calls for schools to use hybrid or fully in-person classes. The color-coded guidance is meant to help county school districts navigate reopening schools and conducting activities as the pandemic continues during the school year.

However, both of Douglas County’s 14-day average number of cases and 14-day average positivity rate for the virus have risen recently. If the trend continues, it could push the health department’s recommendation back into the orange tier.

According to the health department’s data, the average number of cases has increased to 54, while the positivity rate has increased to 9.7%, which is just shy of the 10% threshold that suggests an orange tier recommendation. While an orange tier recommendation allows for schools to continue using a form of hybrid in-person learning, it also suggests “high risk” activities and athletics should be prohibited.

photo by: Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health

Jan. 7 COVID-19 update from the health department

photo by: Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health

Douglas County’s 14-day average positivity rate for the coronavirus on Jan. 7, 2021.

Locally, the positivity rates are much worse for some communities. Eudora, which currently uses a modified hybrid model that allows students to attend in-person classes four days a week, has a positivity rate of 19.1%, well above the 15% threshold for a red tier recommendation that calls for schools to use fully remote learning methods.

The school district, which returned from winter break on Tuesday, said on Dec. 31 that it would continue using its modified hybrid model until at least Friday. As of Thursday afternoon, the district has not yet announced its learning method for next week.

Meanwhile, Lecompton has a positivity rate of 11.2%, Baldwin City has a rate of 9.7% and Lawrence has a rate of 8.9%.

Lawrence follows its own gating criteria, which made its first applicable recommendation to the district on Thursday. Previously the criteria was updated, but couldn’t be used because it came right before winter break.

The district’s system collects data for five criteria related to the spread of the virus in the community and school district. That data is then put into a weighted system — giving some criteria more weight than others — to come up with an average rating, which then provides a learning method recommendation.

On Thursday, the system provided a 2.2 average rating, keeping the district in the yellow tier. District spokeswoman Julie Boyle said the district will continue using its hybrid model for two weeks, through Jan. 22, unless its system increases to the red tier next week.

The Lawrence guidance can be found on its website,

The health department’s school guidance can be found on its website, Both are updated on Thursdays.

Contact Dylan Lysen

Have a story idea, news or information to share? Contact reporter Dylan Lysen:


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.