Health department upgrades school reopening guidance to yellow, which suggests prohibiting ‘high risk’ sport competitions

photo by: Webpage screenshot/Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department

A screenshot of the Lawrnece-Douglas County Health Department's school reopening guidance on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020, shows an upgrade to the guidance's yellow tier, which calls for hybrid learning options and prohibiting some "high risk" activities, such as football and soccer competitions.

Story updated at 6:02 p.m. Thursday:

Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health has upgraded its COVID-19 guidance to county schools, which now suggests that schools use hybrid learning options and avoid “high risk” activities.

Following the update, the Lawrence school district announced it would suspend some competitions in sports and other activities starting Monday.

The health department announced in a news release Thursday that it increased the county’s color-based recommendation to the yellow tier, which is the second tier of the Education Unified Command guidance to schools.

In the yellow tier, the health department recommends schools use hybrid learning, which cuts down on the number of students in school buildings at one time. It also suggests “high risk” sports, such as football and soccer, should not participate in competitions, but does allow for modified practices and conditioning. Other sports, such as tennis and golf, are permitted to compete.

Until Thursday, the guidance had been in the green tier, which allows for fully in-person classes and for all activities to continue, as long as standard public safety precautions are taken.

The change comes after an increase of local COVID-19 cases in Douglas County, many from the University of Kansas’ testing of its students returning to campus. Despite the county’s overall infection rate remaining low, at 3.2%, the county’s 14-day moving average for new cases per day increased from less than 12 cases last week to more than 30 cases this week, the health department said.

“We recognize that the entry testing and high number of tests of University of Kansas students drove the number of new cases,” health department Director Dan Partridge said in the release. “Given those COVID-19 cases are now in our community, we believe it’s prudent to move to phase Yellow.”

In response to the change, Lawrence school district spokeswoman Julie Boyle said in an email that the district on Monday would delay “high risk” activity competitions until the health department’s recommendation returns to the green tier. She said that includes football, soccer, competitive cheer and dance, band and choir. However, Boyle noted the guidance identifies soccer as a sport that can be modified to decrease the risk of spreading COVID-19 and continue competing. She said the district will investigate possible modifications and submit a proposal to the Education Unified Command for review.

Most schools in Douglas County have not yet started the 2020-21 academic year. The Lawrence school district plans to begin its school year on Sept. 8 with at least six weeks of fully remote learning.

Conversely, the Eudora school district is planning to begin next week with a hybrid model and then move to fully in-person classes on Sept. 8, the Journal-World has reported.

The health department’s up-to-date school guidance can be found on its website, Department officials said the guidance will be updated weekly on Thursdays.


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