Maintaining Healthy Operations
Schools may consider implementing several strategies to maintain healthy operations. Click to enlarge.
Schools may consider implementing several strategies to maintain healthy operations. Administrators should make decisions in collaboration with local health officials based on several
- the level of community transmission;
- whether cases are identified among students, teachers, or staff;
- what other indicators local public health officials are using to assess the status of COVID-19; and
- whether student, teacher, and staff cohorts are being implemented within the school.
Protections for Staff and Children at Higher Risk for Severe Illness from COVID-19
- Offer options for staff at higher risk for severe illness
(older adults and people with underlying medical conditions or disabilities) that limit their exposure risk (e.g., telework, modified job responsibilities that limit exposure risk).
- Offer options for students at higher risk of severe illness
that limit their exposure risk (e.g., virtual learning opportunities).
- Provide inclusive programming for children and youth with special healthcare
needs and disabilities that allow on-site or virtual
participation with appropriate accommodations, modifications, and assistance (e.g., students with disabilities may have more difficulties accessing and using technology for virtual learning).
- According to the CDC, about 90% of all COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization have underlying conditions. Consistent with applicable law, put in place policies to protect
the privacy of people at higher risk for severe illness
regarding underlying medical conditions.
An important strategy to limit exposure is called cohorting. Click to enlarge.
An important strategy to limit exposure is called cohorting. It involves dividing students and teachers into distinct groups (cohorts or pods) that stay together throughout
an entire school day during in-person classroom instruction. An important cohorting policy limits the mixing between groups so that there is minimal or no interaction between cohorts.
Alternate the days when cohorts physically attend school. For example:
- Certain grades or classrooms physically attend school on Monday/Tuesday. Other grades or classrooms physically attend on Thursday/Friday (and the school is thoroughly cleaned
in between, on Wednesday).
- Some schools intentionally rotate in-person attendance weekly with one group of students attending during a week, followed by a different group the next week in rotation with
thorough cleaning on the weekends.
- Student arrival, drop-off, and pick-up time or locations can be staggered by cohort, or other protocols can be put in place to limit contact between cohorts and direct contact
with parents, guardians, and caregivers as much as possible.
- Hybrid options (in-class, virtual) can apply a cohort approach to the in-class education provided.
Gatherings, Visitors, and Field Trips
Convene sporting events and participate in sports activities in ways that reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.Click to enlarge.
- Pursue virtual group events, gatherings, or meetings, if possible, and promote social distancing of at least 6 feet between people if events are held. Limit group size to the extent possible.
- Pursue options to convene sporting events and participate in
sports activities in ways that reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to players, families, coaches, and communities.
- Limit nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving external groups or organizations as possible – especially with individuals who are not from the local geographic area.
- Limit cross-school transfer for special programs. If students are brought from multiple schools for special programs, consider using distance learning and virtual environments
to deliver the instruction, or temporarily offer duplicate programs in the participating schools. For youth sports considerations, visit the FAQs for Youth Sports Programs (e.g., physical distance, wearing masks, etc.).
- Develop a plan for staff who travel between schools (e.g., school nurses, psychologists, therapists). For example, consider allowing them to have virtual meetings in place of
physical school visits and revise schedules to limit their visits to multiple campuses.
- Pursue virtual activities and events in place of field trips, student assemblies, special performances, school-wide parent meetings, and spirit nights, as possible.
Designated COVID-19 Point of Contact
Designate a staff person, preferably someone such as the school nurse, to respond to COVID-19 concerns.Click to enlarge.
Designate a staff person, preferably someone such as the school nurse, to respond to COVID-19 concerns. All school staff and families should know who this person is and how to contact them.
Travel and Transit
- Consider options for limiting nonessential travel under state and local regulations and guidance.
- Consider postponing or canceling upcoming student international travel programs.
- Encourage students, faculty, and staff who use public transportation or ride sharing to use transportation forms that minimize close contact with others.
- Ensure options for safe travel on campus for people with disabilities. For example, social distancing in designated seating areas for wheelchairs may not be possible, and drivers who may need to have close contact to assist a person with disabilities.
- Encourage students, faculty, and staff who use public transportation or ride sharing to follow CDC guidelines on protecting themselves. Encourage them to commute during less busy times and clean their hands as soon as possible after their trip.
Participation in Community Response Efforts
Consider participating with local authorities in broader COVID-19 community response efforts (e.g., sitting on community response committees).
Notify staff, families, and the public of school closures and any restrictions in place to limit COVID-19 exposure.Click to enlarge.
Put systems in place to communicate the status of students and staff:
- Staff and families should self-report to the school if they or their students have
symptoms of COVID-19, a positive test for COVID-19, or were exposed to someone with COVID-19
within the last 14 days.
- The reporting system should be consistent with the
health information sharing regulations for COVID-19 and other applicable federal and state laws and regulations relating to
privacy and confidentiality, such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
- The communication methods should be accessible for all students, faculty, and staff, including those with disabilities and limited English proficiency (e.g., use interpreters
and translated materials)
- Notify staff, families, and the public of school closures and any restrictions in place to limit COVID-19 exposure (e.g., limited hours of operation).
Leave (Time Off) Policies and Excused Absence Policies
Implement flexible sick leave policies and practices.Click to enlarge.
- Implement flexible sick leave policies and practices that enable staff to stay home when they are sick or exposed to someone who is sick.
- Examine and revise policies for leave, telework, and employee compensation.
- Leave policies should be flexible and not punish people for taking time off and should allow sick employees to stay home and away from co-workers.
- Leave policies should account for employees who need to stay home due to school or childcare closures or if they need to care for their sick children.
- Additional flexibilities might include giving advances on future sick leave days and allowing employees to donate sick leave to each other, for example.
Back-up Staffing Plan
Monitor absenteeism of students and employees, cross-train staff, and create a roster of trained back-up staff.
- Train staff on all safety protocols.
- Conduct training virtually or ensure that social distancing is maintained during training.
Recognize Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms associated with COVID-19 remains under study and will be updated as warranted by research findings.Click to enlarge.
We learn more about COVID-19 every day, and as more information becomes available, CDC will continue to update and share information. As our knowledge and understanding of
COVID-19 evolve, this guidance may change.
Based on the best available evidence at this time:
- CDC does not currently recommend universal symptom screenings (screening all students grades K-12) be conducted by schools.
- Parents or caregivers should be strongly encouraged to monitor their children for
signs of infectious illness, including COVID-19, every day.
- Students who have symptoms of any infectious illness or symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should not attend school in-person.
- The profile of symptoms associated with COVID-19 remains under study and will be updated as warranted by research findings. Further information on what symptoms may suggest
infectious illness and recommended return-to-school policies is available at Screening K-12 Students for Symptoms of COVID-19: Limitations and Considerations.
- Schools that choose to conduct symptom screening should conduct these screenings safely and respectfully. Screening should be conducted under applicable privacy laws and
regulations (e.g., confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act [FERPA]). It is necessary to keep
accurate records on-hand.
- The considerations detailed here are intended only for students in K-12 school settings.
For guidance related to screening of staff, please refer to CDC's
Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers Responding to Coronavirus Disease 2019 and the Prevent Transmission Among Employees
section of CDC's Resuming Business Toolkitpdf icon.
When Someone is Sick
Ensure safe and correct use and storage of cleaning and disinfection products.Click to enlarge.
Schools may consider implementing several strategies to prepare for when someone is sick with COVID-19.
- Advise staff and families of students sick with COVID-19 of home isolation criteria. Sick staff members or students should not return until they have met CDC's
criteria to discontinue home isolation.
- Make sure that staff and families know when they should stay home. Ensure that staff and families know that they (staff) or their children (families) should not come to school.
They should notify the designated COVID-19 point of contact if:
- they or their children test positive for COVID-19;
- have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 symptoms; or
- have been exposed to a suspected COVID-19 case.
These critical communications should be accessible to individuals with disabilities and limited English proficiency.
- Isolate and transport students who develop symptoms while at school. Some students may develop symptoms of infectious illness while at school. Schools should take action
to isolate students who develop these symptoms from other students and staff. Follow the school isolation protocol outlined in Screening K-12 Students for Symptoms of COVID-19: Limitations and Considerations when a student develops symptoms of an infectious illness.
- Close off areas used by a sick person and do not use them until after
cleaning and disinfecting them. For outdoor areas (e.g., playgrounds, sitting areas, outdoor eating areas, etc.), this includes surfaces or shared objects in the area, if applicable.
- Wait at least 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting. If 24 hours is not feasible, wait as long as possible.
Ensure safe and correct use and storage of cleaning and disinfection products, including storing products securely away from children.
Notify Health Officials and Close Contacts
A school might need to implement short-term building closure procedures.Click to enlarge.
- Per state and local laws and regulations, school administrators should notify
local health officials, staff, and families immediately of any case of COVID-19 while maintaining confidentiality under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and FERPA or and other applicable laws and regulations.
- Inform those who have had close contact with a person diagnosed
with COVID-19 to stay home and self-monitor for symptoms, and follow
CDC guidance if symptoms develop. Maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and/or other applicable laws and regulations.
- A school might need to implement short-term building closure procedures if/when an infected person has been on campus during their infectious period and has close contact with others. If this happens, work with local public health officials to determine the next steps.
- One option is an initial short-term class suspension and cancellation of events and to allow time for local health officials to gain a better understanding of the
COVID-19 situation and help the school determine appropriate next steps, including whether such a suspension needs to be extended to stop or slow the further spread of COVID-19.
- In situations where schools are cohorting students (e.g., in pods), administrators may choose to close the building in areas where others were exposed to the infected person.
- If local health officials do not recommend building or classroom closures, thoroughly cleaning the areas where the infected person spent significant time should be considered.
- Local health official recommendations whether to suspend school or events and the duration of such suspensions should be made on a case-by-case basis. Use the most up-to-date information about COVID-19 and taking into account local case-counts and the degree of ongoing transmission in the community.
What to do if a Student Becomes Sick at School or Reports a New COVID-19 Diagnosis
Use the following steps if a student displays signs or reports feelings of being sick at school. You can also download and print a
flowchart showing these steps.
- Student(s) displays signs of infectious illness consistent with COVID-19.
- The teacher or staff excuses student(s) from the classroom, cohort/pod, or area within the school and notifies COVID-19 designated Point of Contract (POC).
- COVID-19 POC takes student(s) to designated isolation room/area until transportation can be arranged to send student(s) home or seek emergency medical attention. Note: If multiple
ill students must be placed in the same isolation room/area, ensure mask use and that they maintain at least 6 feet of distance between them.
- COVID-19 POC notify parent(s), guardians, or caregiver(s) of ill student(s).
- Parent(s), guardians, or caregiver(s) pick up student(s). The student(s) should consult with their healthcare provider for evaluation and determination if testing is recommended.
Student Negative COVID-19 Test Result
- Student(s) return to school following existing school illness management policies.
Student Positive COVID-19 Test Result
- A student(s) is newly identified as having COVID-19.
- COVID-19 POC initiates a list of close contacts of the ill student and communicates the possible exposure to teacher(s), staff, and parent(s), guardian(s) or caregiver(s) of
student(s) in the school.
- Exposed area(s) (e.g., classroom) closed off for up to 24 hours. Cleaning and disinfection of area performed by appropriate staff.
- Administrators work with local health officials to assess transmission levels and support contact tracing efforts.
- Close contacts are notified, advised to stay home (quarantine for 14 days), and to consult with their healthcare provider for evaluation and determination if testing is recommended.
- Administrators or COVID-19 POC communicate with teacher(s), staff, and parent(s), guardian(s) or caregiver(s) the importance of COVID-19 mitigation strategies (e.g., staying
home when sick, washing hands, wearing masks, social distancing).
- Members of the student(s)' household are requested to quarantine for 14 days.
- Student(s) returns to school after meeting the criteria for ending home isolation.
Note: COVID-19 POC is the designated point of contact (a staff person that is responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns, such a nurse)
- Close contact is defined as someone who was within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more within 2 days before illness onset, regardless of whether the
contact was wearing a mask.
- Student can end home isolation after meeting all of the following three criteria: at least 10 days since
Students with Disabilities or Special Healthcare Needs
It is necessary to plan for accommodations, modifications, and assistance for children with disabilities and special healthcare needs.Click to enlarge.
It is necessary to plan for accommodations, modifications, and assistance for children with disabilities and special healthcare needs.
An individualized approach for COVID-19 may be needed for children:
- with disabilities who have limited mobility;
- have difficulty accessing information due to visual, hearing, or other limiting factors;
- require close contact with direct service providers;
- have trouble understanding information;
- have difficulties with changes in routines; or
- have other concerns related to their disability.
This approach should account for the following:
- Education should remain accessible for children in special education who have a 504 Plan or Individualized Education Program.
- Social distancing and isolation at school may be difficult for many people with disabilities.
- Wearing masks may be difficult for people
with certain disabilities (e.g., visual or hearing impairments) or for those with sensory, cognitive, or behavioral issues.
- Students may require assistance or visual and verbal reminders to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when they cough or sneeze, throw the tissue in the trash,
and wash their hands afterward.
- Where service or therapy animals are used, use guidance to
protect the animal from COVID-19.
- Cleaning and disinfecting procedures may
negatively affect students with sensory or respiratory issues.
- Students may require assistance or supervision washing their hands with soap
and water for at least 20 seconds or using a hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol).
- Cleaning and disinfecting personal belongings,
school objects, or surfaces may require assistance or supervision.
- Behavioral techniques can help all students adjust to changes in routines and take preventive actions. These techniques may be especially beneficial for some children
with disabilities and may include modeling and reinforcing desired behaviors and using picture schedules, timers, and visual cues. Organizations that support individuals
with disabilities have information and resources to help schools with these behavioral techniques. Also, behavioral therapists or local mental health or behavioral health
agencies may provide consultation for specific concerns.
Check your Work
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