Six Chanute School leaders test positive for COVID-19 after leadership retreat in Branson

Chanute School District

CHANUTE, Kan. – Chanute Superintendent Kellen Adams says getting prepared for the upcoming school year has presented several different challenges. One of them has been getting all the right people together for longer than a couple of hours.

“In a typical day, our building leaders get pulled a hundred different directions, as do our district leaders,” says Adams.

To cut out some of the distractions, 11 members of the school district — three district leaders and eight building leaders — went to Branson for their annual leadership retreat. They stayed from July 27th through the 29th.

“And then on Friday [July 31st], we were made aware of a positive test by one person. And by Friday night I believe we had 6 total that had tested positive,” says Adams.

Adams says when they were in Branson, no one had any symptoms. It wasn’t until Friday morning that one of them woke up with a fever. Now, there’s one member of the group hospitalized in the ICU, and everyone else is quarantined and working from home.

“People were certainly socially distancing, oftentimes greater than six feet. So, I can vouch for the emphasis on cleanliness and social distancing,” says Adams. “But, to be fully transparent, masks were not worn 100 percent of the time.”

Everyone besides Adams has now been tested for COVID-19. Adams is quarantining under the advisement of the Neosho County Health Department to monitor for symptoms before being tested.

Teresa Starr, Administrator at the Neosho County Health Department, says that the district was very cooperative during contact tracing, and she is confident that everyone who needs to be quarantined is. The Health Department is, however, still working with KDHE to determine where the group came in contact with someone with the virus.

“We have our contact tracers and we have our Epi nurse, and we will be looking into that. And so, there’s always the possibility we could figure that out,” says Starr. “We’re hoping we will find out exactly where group zero was.”

“Whether we were in Branson, or whether Branson was the cause, I don’t know if anyone will really be able to prove that,” says Adams. “But, we believe firmly in the leadership retreat. So we would have still done it whether it was in Branson, or right here in Chanute.”

And seeing this happen has some parents concerned about sending their kids to school in person in just a few short weeks.

“I think it’s a valid question that certainly needs to be evaluated by families. I don’t know that I have a crystal ball that can tell you exactly where the pandemic went, but that is why we decided to give families some choice on whether or not remote was the best for them.”

School in Chanute starts on August 24th. The district is offering a virtual option, as well as in-person classes.

There are currently 11 active cases in Neosho County. As of August 4th, there have been 60 confirmed cases in the county, 49 of them have recovered. There have not been any deaths.