Schools: K-12 FAQs
School COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs
When will school staff be eligible for the vaccine?
The County of San Diego, San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE), and California Schools Voluntary Employees Benefits Association (VEBA) began vaccination of the county’s education staff (Phase 1B) on Saturday, February 27th. The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) will be coordinating vaccinations for all TK-12 staff in private, charter, and public schools. School leaders will be contacted by SDCOE when their school employees are eligible to make appointments through the VEBA portal. Do not schedule an appointment through the County website, these appointments will not be honored at the vaccination site. Visit the SDCOE website and FAQs for more information. To stay up to date, please visit the State Vaccine website, the County of San Diego Vaccine website, and sign up for our K-12 email updates.
Who is included in the Education Sector for Phase 1B?
The TK-12 Education Sector (public, private, and charter schools) includes staff, volunteers, and contractors in the following areas:
- Staff in educational support services and administration
- Staff in Pre-Kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high schools
- Other workers involved in child and/or student care, including school bus drivers and monitors, crosswalk guards, etc.
- Third-party contractors and volunteers regularly engaged in work with students on a school campus
For more information, visit the County of San Diego Vaccine website.
How can health care professionals, such as school nurses, sign up to
Individuals interested in volunteering to administer the vaccine can complete the online application at https://www.healthcarevolunteers.ca.gov. They are committed to processing applications as quickly as possible and will acknowledge applications within 24-48 hours. They will contact you directly with volunteer assignments. Please do not self-deploy to a site. Interested volunteers can also sign up via the San Diego Medical Reserve Corps here.
How can a school district become a vaccine distribution site?
Sites interested in administering the COVID-19 vaccine, that have equipment such as a temperature monitored refrigerator, must be enrolled in the federal COVID-19 Vaccination Program. Vaccines and ancillary supplies will be procured and distributed by the federal government at no cost to enrolled, approved COVID-19 vaccination providers. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is coordinating enrollment for the region.
- Potential vaccination sites will need to meet all requirements before enrolling. This includes being actively listed in the San Diego Immunization Registry (SDIR).
- If you are not already enrolled in SDIR, please email SDIR.HHSA@sdcounty.ca.gov , or call the SDIR Help Desk at (619) 692-5656 for assistance.
- For additional information, please visit the California COVID-19 Vaccination Program website.
- If you have questions about this enrollment process or need technical assistance, please contact the County of San Diego’s COVID-19 Vaccine Branch at COVIDVaxEnrollment.HHSA@sdcounty.ca.gov or (858) 569-3300.
If an educator has had COVID-19, does this impact their ability to get
Persons who have been infected with COVID-19 may wait up to 90 days after infection to get vaccinated. Current evidence suggests that reinfection is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection. Thus, persons with a history of COVID-19 infection in the preceding 90 days may delay vaccination until near the end of this period, if desired. Persons who received monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma should wait 90 days before vaccination.
Data from clinical trials indicate that mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are safe in persons with a history of COVID-19 infection. Vaccinations should be offered to persons regardless of history of prior symptomatic or asymptomatic infection. Vaccination of persons with known current COVID-19 infection should be deferred until the person has recovered from the acute illness (if the person had symptoms) and criteria have been met for them to discontinue isolation. This recommendation applies to persons who develop COVID-19 before receiving any vaccine doses as well as those who develop COVID-19 after the first dose but before the second dose. For more information, visit the CDC’s Considerations for Use of COVID-19 Vaccines.
What documentation will staff need to provide once eligible for vaccines?
Individuals must be able to show they live OR work in San Diego County AND meet the current eligibility requirements (see below) at the time of their appointment to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or their appointment will not be honored. You will need to bring a photo ID (school or work ID, membership card, etc.) AND at least one of the documents listed below for proof of eligibility.
- If you live in San Diego County, you must provide a document that shows your local address and a document that shows proof of your employment in an eligible sector.
- If you do not live in San Diego County but work here, you must provide a document that shows your employer’s local address.
Proof of Employment in Eligible Sector includes:
- A childcare provider, district, or school employee ID card; OR
- A paycheck stub issued within the last 90 days; OR
- A letter stating that the named individual is a permanent, probationary or temporary employee; volunteer childcare worker; OR
- A letter on district or school letterhead stating that the named individual is a volunteer or employed by a third-party contractor and regularly engaged in work with students on a school campus; OR
- Childcare Vaccine Eligibility Verification Form from the Child Development Associates (CDA) for childcare providers who do not have the other options available to them
*All documents should have employer/company name and address
Proof of San Diego County Residency includes:
- Photo ID with your local address
- Mortgage bill or home utility bill (including cellular phone)
- Car registration
- Bank or credit card statement, insurance policy or bill
For more information, see proof of eligibility for Education Sector here.
Are vaccinated individuals required to quarantine after travel or if
they are a close contact of someone who is positive for COVID-19?
Vaccinated persons with an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they meet all of the following criteria: 1. They are fully vaccinated (i.e., ≥2 weeks following receipt of the second dose in a 2-dose series, or ≥2 weeks following receipt of one dose of a single-dose vaccine), 2. They are within 3 months following receipt of the last dose in the series, 3. They have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure. Persons who do not meet all three of the above criteria should continue to follow current quarantine guidance after exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. View the updated Quarantine order here. Quarantine after travel is advised, but not required, for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals (unless required by your organization).
If someone experiences symptoms after receiving the vaccine, how is it
determined if it is a reaction to the vaccine, or symptoms of a COVID-19 infection?
It is not uncommon to have mild to moderate reactions following any immunization. Common side effects after COVID-19 vaccinations include local soreness, itching and/or swelling at the injection site, fever, fatigue, headache nausea, chills, muscle and joint aches. Most of these post-vaccination symptoms are mild to moderate in severity, occur within the first three days of vaccination (the day of vaccination and following two days, with most occurring the day after vaccination), resolve within 1-2 days of onset, can be treated with acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen, and are more frequent and severe following the second dose and among younger persons compared to those who are older (>55 years). However, cough, shortness of breath, rhinorrhea, sore throat, or loss of taste or smell are not consistent with post-vaccination symptoms, and instead may be symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 or another infection. Those experiencing these symptoms should be medically evaluated and tested for COVID-19 and/or other infections. SDCOE has posted a letter with more information on this topic available here.
If an individual has been vaccinated, do they still need to isolate if
they are symptomatic?
Someone who is symptomatic should not be at school. They should isolate themselves and follow the COVID-19 Decision Tree and be tested. Your immune system is most prepared to fight COVID-19 about two weeks after two doses of the vaccine. No vaccine is 100% effective at preventing infection. MRNA vaccines do reduce the risk of illness, but we still do not know yet how well they reduce transmission.
If an individual has been vaccinated, should they still participate in
Vaccinated individuals should still participate in routine staff screening and testing for COVID-19. While we know that current COVID-19 vaccines are effective in reducing illness and hospitalizations from this virus, we do not yet know how well they prevent those immunized from becoming infected or transmitting the virus, if they do become infected. Until that is understood, immunized individuals should participate in school screening programs and should also get tested if they develop symptoms suggestive of COVID-19.
Do I have to wear a mask or socially distance if I'm vaccinated?
While vaccines authorized by the FDA significantly reduce the possibility of illness and death from coronavirus, as well as reducing the transmission of the virus, they do not totally eliminate the risk. In addition, the emergence of certain variants of the virus may reduce vaccine effectiveness. For these reasons, if you’ve been fully vaccinated, you should still take steps to protect yourself and others in many situations, like wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. Additionally, schools must still follow the requirements in the CDPH COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Instruction Framework & Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California, 2020-2021 School Year.
Safe Schools for All Plan
Do schools that opened in the Red Tier (without a waiver) or in the
Purple Tier (with a waiver) still need to go through the new Safe
Schools for All Plan approval process to receive funds?
If a school is already open for in-person instruction, they will still need to complete the new checklist and post the safe reopening plan and Cal-OSHA plan, but no approval process is needed. If a school seeks and receives funding then they will need to comply with state requirements, such as on-site testing.
Is any of the funding from the Safe Schools for All Plan available for
Based on the information that is available, the funding proposed for the Safe Schools for All Plan is limited to public schools.
Under the new Safe Schools for All Plan, do schools that are already
open need to submit their COVID-19 Safety Plan (CSP) for approval, or
simply post the documentation to their website?
For schools already reopened there is no requirement to submit the CSP to the County and State. The only requirement is to publicly post the CSP by February 1st.
When will middle and high schools be able to reopen?
Schools have a three-week period to open, starting the day the county meets the criterion for re-opening, even if the county stops meeting the criterion during that window. The window will be determined as follows: The first day a county is considered in the Red Tier is the Wednesday following the weekly county tier assignments are announced and posted on the Blueprint website (Tuesdays). The school’s COVID-19 Safety Plan (CSP) must be posted publicly for K-12th grades 5 days prior to in-person instruction.
Are schools required to follow the model for the Cal/OSHA COVID-19
Prevention Plan (CPP) or may schools use re-opening plans they may have
previously submitted under the School Waiver process (or can they create
their own template?)
The Cal/OSHA template included in the K12 School Guidance is intended to provide a model for a CPP. Schools may create their own program or use another template. They can also create a written CPP by incorporating elements of this program into their existing Injury and Illness Prevention Program.
Schools and the State Tier System
What determines if a school is considered “reopened” for in-person learning?
- According to the COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Instruction Framework & Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California, 2020-2021 School Year, the school must have given all students in at least one grade the option to return for in-person instruction for at least part of the school week to be considered to “open” or “reopen.” This includes a school that has offered all students in at least one grade the option of receiving in-person instruction for only certain days during the week (commonly referred to as a “hybrid” model).
- Schools that were operating only in the manner permitted under the Cohorting Guidance are therefore not “open” or “reopened.” For example, a school serving 10 students for in-person instruction under the cohort guidance is not “open” for in-person instruction, since such operations are permitted regardless of the school reopening framework. Under the cohort guidance, “limited instruction” refers to the 14:2 ratio of students to teachers and can be done “in person.”
- If a middle or high school only had specialized groups of students back on campus, then according the cohort guidance, the school was not considered to be “open.” That school(s) will need to wait until the county has been in the Red Tier for 5 consecutive days before the school may reopen.
What is the difference between a cohort and being open?
Regardless of a county’s tier status, schools may serve small groups of students pursuant to the CDPH cohort guidance (e.g. serve small groups of students with disabilities). The COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Instruction Framework & Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California, 2020-2021 School Year sets the rules for when “school[s] and school districts may reopen for in-person instruction.” The term “open” or “reopen,” as used in the framework, refers to operations that are permitted only if the county satisfies the eligibility requirements for schools to “open” or “reopen”. This is in contrast to activities permitted under the Cohort Guidance for schools that are not permitted to reopen.
Guidance and Reopening Plans
What guidance documents for school reopening should we follow?
It is recommended that schools consult the COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Instruction Framework & Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California, the State of California Safe Schools For All Hub, SDCOE recommendations, and the local Public Health Order when creating reopening plans.
How does the Yavneh-Stipulated order Impact San Diego County Schools?
- The Yavneh stipulated settlement merely confirmed the state’s Cohort Guidance and Places of Worship Guidance are applicable to private schools.
- The settlement agreement restated that the Cohort Guidance does not put a cap on the number of cohorts at a given school, public or private.
- The settlement also confirms that religious schools may follow the Places of Worship Guidance for in-person religious services and cultural ceremonies.
- Finally, it confirms that a county, when acting under its own authority, can choose to be more restrictive than state guidance.
Do schools need to update and post their Safe Reopening Plans on their
website, in addition to posting the COVID-19 Safety Plan (CSP)?
Schools are encouraged to post their Reopening Plans, but it is not required.
Does the COVID-19 Safety Plan (CSP) have to be site-specific, or can it
be consolidated for the district?
If there is anything unique to an individual school site, then that school site must have its own plan. If there are no differences across schools in a district, then a district can post a consolidated plan.
Cases and School Closures
What steps will a school need to take if there is a confirmed positive
case at a school of a staff or student? Will the entire school be
required to close for a period?
Schools are required to report to the local health office the presence or suspected presence of any communicable diseases. If a child, staff or facility contact has tested positive for COVID-19 please contact the Epidemiology Unit by phone at 1(888) 950-9905 or via the online report form. Schools should develop a plan for when a staff member, child, or visitor becomes sick. Schools can review this document for the process of reporting a case.
- Notify the local public health department using the online report form. Please be ready
to provide the following information:
- Caller’s name and contact number,
- Name of business or entity, and
- Individual’s name, date of birth, and contact number.
- Isolate the case and exclude the individual(s) from school for 10 days from symptom onset or test date.
- Identify contacts (†), quarantine, and exclude exposed contacts (likely the entire cohort (††)) for 10 days after the last date the case was present at school while infectious.
- Recommend testing of contacts, prioritize symptomatic contacts (but will not shorten 10-day quarantine).
- Disinfect and clean the classroom and primary spaces where case spent significant time.
- The school remains open
- The school community must be notified of a known case
(†) A close contact is defined as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated. In some school situations, it may be difficult to determine whether individuals have met this criterion and an entire cohort, classroom, or other group may need to be considered exposed, particularly if people have spent time together indoors.(††) A cohort is a stable group with fixed membership that stays together for all courses and activities (e.g., lunch, recess, etc.) and avoids contact with other persons or cohorts.
More information can be found in the COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Instruction Framework & Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California.
- Notify the local public health department using the online report form. Please be ready to provide the following information:
When should in-person learning close?
- Closure should be done in consultation with the LHO. Situations
that may indicate the need for school closure include:
- Within a 14-day period, an outbreak has occurred in 25% or more stable groups in the school.
- Within a 14-day period, at least three outbreaks have occurred in the school AND more than 5% of the school population is infected.
- A school district should close if 25% or more of schools in a district have closed due to COVID-19 within a 14-day period and in consultation with the LHD.
- The LHO may also determine school closure is warranted for other reasons, including results from public health investigation or other local epidemiological data.
- See the COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Instruction Framework & Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California for details.
- Closure should be done in consultation with the LHO. Situations that may indicate the need for school closure include:
Is there a template schools can use to notify parents of a positive
SDCOE template letters can be found here: https://covid-19.sdcoe.net/District-Resources.
Screening and Testing
Can children get tested at public testing sites?
Children 6 months and older can be tested at any of the County-coordinated public testing sites.
Can we require students to be tested before coming back on campus?
The Public Health Order allows return to school under certain circumstances and testing is not one of those requirements. Public schools cannot require testing. Private schools may be able to but should consult with their legal team.
How long after a positive test should a staff member refrain from
routine surveillance testing?
A staff member who tests positive should be taken out of the rotation for surveillance testing for 90 days. Retesting is not recommended within three months of their initial COVID-19 infection because highly sensitive PCR tests can remain positive many weeks after the person is no longer infectious. After 90 days, they can resume surveillance testing.
However, they are not exempt from symptomatic testing during this period and if COVID-19 symptoms develop they should work with their healthcare provider to rule out other possible sources as well as potentially test for COVID-19.
Should students and teachers be screened before entering campus?
Daily screening for COVID-19 symptoms and for exposure to someone with COVID-19 prior to leaving for school can prevent some people with COVID-19 from coming to school while infectious, thus preventing in-school transmission. Screening does not prevent asymptomatic cases from being at school and spreading SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19. CDPH recommends that:
- Pharents be provided with the list of COVID-19 symptoms and instructed to keep their child at home if the child is feeling ill or has symptoms of COVID-19, even if symptoms are very mild, and to get their ill child tested for SARS-CoV2.
- Staff members be provided with the list of COVID-19 symptoms and be instructed to call in sick and stay home if having symptoms of COVID-19 and to get tested for SARS-CoV2.
The COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Instruction Framework & Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California has additional guidance regarding screening for students and staff.
Are teachers required to be tested on a regular basis?
Any school currently open is subject to the minimum testing requirement standards established by Cal/OSHA. These standards include response testing for exposed cases and outbreak testing for everyone weekly until no longer considered an outbreak. Please refer to Cal/OSHA guidance for complete details. See the COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Instruction Framework & Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California for more details.
Who should be tested and how often?
As explained in the K-12 Schools Guidance, when used in conjunction with other mitigation strategies, testing provides an additional tool to support safe and successful K-12 in-person instruction. There are several circumstances under which a student or staff might undergo testing. The Testing Considerations for LEAs and School Communities outlines the circumstances and considerations for testing implementation in K-12 schools.
In addition, any school currently open is subject to the minimum testing requirement standards established by Cal/OSHA. These standards include response testing for exposed cases and outbreak testing for everyone weekly until no longer considered an outbreak. Please refer to Cal/OSHA guidance for complete details.
- What is the process to receive the BinaxNOW antigen test?
Are daily symptom checks before work necessary for employees if they
have previously tested positive and/or been vaccinated with both doses?
Yes, daily symptom checks are recommended for everyone. Even previously positive or vaccinated individuals can get COVID-19 and spread it, so any symptoms should be referred to a medical provider.
Can schools exclude students from in-person learning if they choose not
to participate in asymptomatic testing?
A public school can only exclude students from campus for the reasons described in law, which includes complying with public health orders. There is no part of the Public Health Order that requires students to participate in asymptomatic testing and there are no laws that authorize excluding children from in person attendance because their parents will not authorize their participation in COVID testing.
Are temperature checks required?
The guidance no longer requires temperature checks for students or staff. The guidance emphasizes working with parents and staff to perform symptom checks at home, but schools no longer have to monitor the screening. Schools should actively encourage anyone that is sick to stay home. Staff should monitor students throughout the day and be ready to respond if a student develop symptoms.
Are students allowed to play games with shared objects and equipment?
If used, outdoor playgrounds/natural play areas only need routine maintenance. Make sure that children wash or sanitize their hands before and after using these spaces. When hand hygiene is emphasized, cleaning of outdoor structures play is not required between cohorts. See the COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Instruction Framework & Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California.
School Operations and Learning Environment
Are stable groups required in middle and high schools?
CDPH does not require schools to create stable groups. Instead, CDPH provides a number of potential approaches to stable groups for middle and high schools and expects schools to follow the intent of why stable groups are important to reduce the risk of in-school transmission and to aim to develop the best stable group system possible within their school with their students that will limit exposure to the greatest extent possible. The purpose of a stable group is to decrease opportunities for exposure to or transmission of the virus. The stable group reduces the numbers of exposed individuals if someone with COVID-19 is present on campus, facilitates more efficient contact tracing in the event of a positive case, and allows for targeted testing and quarantine of a single group of students/staff instead of potential schoolwide closures in the event of a positive case or cluster of cases. Recommendations on how to maintain stable groups in middle and high schools can be found beginning on page 18 of the Framework. CDPH also recommends that schools consider working with their county's Office of Education for guidance regarding possible stable group scenarios that would work with each school's specific student population academic and service needs. Technical assistance for school administrators with additional questions is also available through the Safe Schools for All Hub.
Are stable groups for in-person learning the same as cohorts for sports?
State guidance for sports says that a team can be an athletic cohort, but no specific number is provided. For stable groups, there is no number specified either. There is guidance on how to keep the stable group as small as possible beginning on page 18 of the Framework. The athletic cohorting does allow for mixing of students that had been in stable groups during the school day.
Local and International Travel
If a student or staff member travels, do they have to quarantine before
returning to schools?
COVID-19 transmission is widespread both within California and most of the rest of the state and country. The CDPH travel advisory recommends (but does not require) that persons arriving in California from other states or countries other than for essential travel, including returning California residents, should practice self-quarantine for 10 days after arrival. A negative test does not replace quarantine.
How do schools accommodate students who travel internationally, or who
cross the border daily to come to school?
For students/staff who cross the US/Mexico border daily to come to school, they do not need to quarantine. If a student or staff member has recently come back from a trip, it is recommended they follow the CDC Guidelines for After Your Travel. You can also recommend they consult the CDC COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Destination. Generally, travel is not recommended because within the US and abroad, the risk remains high. There is not a requirement by the state or our local public health order for schools to exclude students/staff based on their recent travel history. Schools must follow the CDPH guidelines to check for signs and symptoms (pg. 15 – 16) . You are welcome to share CDC Guidelines for After Your Travel with families and staff.
What are the recommendations for after-school groups?
Cohorts should be maintained to the best of a program's ability. For example, students who are together in a classroom during the day could be kept together in the after-school program. Those who are not together in a classroom during the day could be put into a cohort that remains stable each day in the afterschool program. View the COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Instruction Framework & Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California for more information.
Cleaning and Hygiene II
Where are the recommendations for cleaning and sanitation in schools?
See the “Cleaning and Disinfection” section (page 25) of the COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Instruction Framework & Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California for more information.
Quarantine and Isolation
- What are the guidelines for quarantine and isolation?
If an employee has been in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, how
long do they have to wait before returning to work?
If an employee has been in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, they must go home and quarantine for 10 days from last exposure. Testing is recommended but will not shorten 10-day quarantine. The school/classroom remains open. If the contact is a person on the campus follow the directions outlined in the COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Instruction Framework & Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California. Additionally: “A close contact is someone who spent 15 minutes or more within 6 feet of an individual with COVID-19 infection during their infectious period, which includes, at a minimum, the 48 hours before the individual developed symptoms.” For additional information, view the COVID-19 Symptom Decision Tree (click here).
How should a school determine when a 10-day quarantine is appropriate,
versus the full 14 days?
Quarantine is required for at least 10 days and up to 14 days since the date of contact. Asymptomatic people may exit quarantine after day 10 if they carefully monitor symptoms and strictly adhere to PPE, social distancing, etc. If they experience any symptoms, then they must isolate immediately. If it cannot be guaranteed that students/employees can stay 6 feet apart, then schools need to consider whether they will allow students to return before the 14 days. Please review the latest version of the Decision Tree (specifically Page 2) which explains this in further detail.
Are students and staff who have recovered from COVID-19 exempt from
close contact quarantining?
Currently, the CDC advises that for those who have been infected with COVID-19, quarantine after an exposure to a known COVID-19 case is not needed within 90 days after symptom onset (or since date of testing if asymptomatic). If a person has a new exposure to a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and develops new symptoms consistent with COVID-19 within 14 days of the new exposure, consultation with a health care provider is recommended. View the updated Quarantine order here.
PPE and Face Coverings
What is the face covering guidance for staff?
All staff must use face coverings in accordance with CDPH Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings unless Cal/OSHA standards require respiratory protection. For staff who come into routine contact with others, CDPH recommends the use of disposable 3-ply surgical masks, which are more effective than cloth face coverings. In limited situations where a face covering cannot be used for pedagogical or developmental reasons, (e.g., communicating or assisting young children or those with special needs) a face shield with a drape (per CDPH guidelines) can be used instead of a face covering while in the classroom as long as the wearer maintains physical distance from others. Staff must return to wearing a face covering outside of the classroom. Workers or other persons handling or serving food must use gloves in addition to face coverings. Employers should consider where disposable glove use may be helpful to supplement frequent handwashing or use of hand sanitizer; examples are for workers who are screening others for symptoms or handling commonly touched items.
Who determines if a student is exempt from wearing a face covering?
There is no governing body or medical body that approves exemptions. However, the student’s family can speak with their healthcare provider to determine the best option. We recommend that schools work with the family to further understand why they cannot wear one and see if perhaps experimenting with types of masks can assist (such as a face shield with a drape on the bottom).
People are exempted from the requirement if they are under age 2, have a medical or mental health condition or disability that would make impede them from properly wearing or handling a mask, or when it would inhibit communication with a person who is hearing impaired. The CDPH Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings has more information about qualifications for exemption.
According to the COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Instruction Framework & Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California, in order to comply with this guidance, schools must exclude students from campus if they are not exempt from wearing a face covering under CDPH guidelines and refuse to wear one provided by the school. Schools should develop protocols to provide a face covering to students who inadvertently fail to bring a face covering to school to prevent unnecessary exclusions. Schools should offer alternative educational opportunities for students who are excluded from campus.
What are the mask requirements for special needs students?
If a student is exempt from wearing a cloth face covering, work with the parents to discuss an alternative such as a face shield with a drape. Plexiglass may also be used as a barrier between students and teachers. If a student cannot wear any type of facial covering, and a barrier is not possible, the teacher should wear a face shield and a face covering as an extra precaution. Teachers should only wear an N95 mask if the school has a plan in place for proper use, including fit testing and medical clearance. Regarding exemptions, the school health team (or IEP team) needs to determine if there is a valid medical exemption. If the child has an exemption then the team makes the decision on how to protect other people (e.g., shield & drape, more distancing, more ventilation, outdoor instruction, and keeping sub-optimally masked individuals in separate classrooms). An individualized plan needs to be created. Schools should also use 504 process for this. See the following resource for more information: CDE COVID–19: Students with Disabilities and Face Coverings
What is the current face shield guidance for students and staff?
Face shields are not an acceptable substitute for face coverings unless there is a special circumstance that is defined by the CDPH in the CDPH Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings or the COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Instruction Framework & Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California. The face shields are most effective if also using a face covering. A face shield provides additional protection to a face covering or mask but should not typically be a substitute. Face shields should be in conjunction with a face covering, except for situations where coverings are not appropriate for pedagogical reasons. The Industry Guidance states, “In limited situations where a face coverings cannot be used for pedagogical or developmental reasons, (i.e. communicating or assisting young children or those with special needs) a face shield can be used instead of a cloth face covering while in the classroom as long as the wearer maintains physical distance from others, to the extent practicable. Staff must return to wearing a face covering outside of the classroom and those specific situations.
Do children who are outside and physically distanced in cohorts have to
wear facial coverings?
Students are required to wear a face covering at all times, even during outdoor sports/physical education. This is clarified in the new Consolidated Reopening Framework & Guidance from the State here.
The new Framework states that students may only remove facial coverings
for eating and drinking. Are students expected to wear facial coverings
during outdoor recess, P.E., and sports activities?
Yes, facial coverings need to be worn at all times when not eating/drinking or napping. The Framework mentions indoor and outdoor sporting activities (activities NOT during school hours) and says that facial coverings should be worn as tolerable (page. 16).
What are the guidelines for band & choir?
The COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Instruction Framework & Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California states that that outdoor singing and band practice are permitted provided that precautions such as physical distancing and mask wearing are implemented to the maximum extent possible. Playing of wind instruments (any instrument played by the mouth, such as a trumpet or clarinet) is strongly discouraged. School officials, staff, parents, and students should be aware of the increased likelihood for transmission from exhaled droplets during singing and band practice, and physical distancing beyond 6 feet is strongly recommended for any of these activities.
Do student athletes need medical clearance before participating in
There is a strong recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics that “youths who have recovered from COVID-19 should be cleared for a return to sports by their physician and undergo evaluation for cardiac symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, palpitations or syncope.” If there is a positive screen or other findings, then an EKG and potential cardiology referral is recommended. More information can be found here.
What is the current guidance for commencement/graduation ceremonies?
Guidance for commencement/graduation ceremonies. All commencement ceremonies shall adhere to attendance limitations as defined within the current CDPH Outdoor Seated Live Events and Performances Guidance. Outdoor, in-person ceremonies are permissible, consistent with this guidance.
What is the current guidance for outdoor events and performances?
View the CDPH Outdoor Seated Live Events and Performances Guidance for more information.
What are the recommendations for air filtration in classrooms?
- Air flow and ventilation enhancements are recommended where
- Keep windows and doors open for cross ventilation. If this is not possible, make sure that Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems are operating to clear the air of small airborne particles.
- The CDC has information about air filtration and ventilation, including considerations for operating schools during COVID-19, and indoor environmental quality.
- Have a Heating Ventilation and
Air Conditioning (HVAC) specialist review your school’s system so
that particulate matter (2.5 microns) is in acceptable range. This
- Changing ventilation settings so that "air changes per hour" is set to a minimum of 5 changes per hour and/or
- Use of MERV 13 filters if your HVAC system has the capacity for these filters or placement of one or more HEPA filter/air purifiers per room to filter the air of small particles.
- Turn off classroom ceiling fans,
and do not use desk or floor fans.
- Even if a classroom has air filters, fans should only be used to exhaust room air out a window. Fans that merely circulate the air in a closed space are not recommended.
- Use either carbon dioxide monitors or particle counters (2.5 microns) to measure the quality of the classroom's ventilation when it is occupied. If your system has MERV 13 filters or HEPA room air purifiers, then use particle counters, as carbon dioxide monitors are no longer a good proxy for the quality of the air, in terms of COVID-19.
- Air flow and ventilation enhancements are recommended where practicable.
What is the guidance for central heaters and space heaters?
There is neither evidence of, nor any reason to believe that portable space heaters directly create any increased risk of COVID19. ASHRAE recommends that you continue to keep occupied spaces heated to normal levels, because spending time under thermal stress such as excessively cold spaces can lower resistance to infection. There are, however, other issues to consider when selecting and operating a space heater. Be aware that unvented combustion space heaters (e.g. using kerosene, propane, natural gas, etc.) release products of combustion into the indoor air. Without adequate ventilation, these contaminants can build up to unacceptable or even hazardous levels. Unvented combustion emits NO2 which is a reactive oxygen species (i.e. a known breathing irritant,) and could increase susceptibility to respiratory infections, such as COVID-19. Unvented combustion-based heaters are banned in some jurisdictions. Electric space heaters do not pose those risks, but the placement of any portable heater requires some thought and care, to avoid overheating any nearby materials. See the resources from ASHRAE here.
We have purchased air purifiers for use in our classrooms. The purifiers
are more effective with doors/windows closed but health guidance
suggests we keep doors/windows open. Is there any guidance as to whether
doors/windows should still stay open if air purifiers are in use in classrooms?
In-room/portable air cleaners should be used in rooms where adequate ventilation with outdoor air cannot be maintained. Purifiers work better when the fan is constantly running. Their noise may affect where they are placed in the classroom. EPA’s Technical Summary of Residential Air Cleaners states on page 37 that “the air cleaner should not be situated where walls, furniture, curtains, and other obstructions will block the intake and outlet. Manufacturer instructions may indicate that the air cleaner be placed a certain distance from any objects that might obstruct airflow. Additionally, a portable air cleaner will be much more effective for a specific room when any exterior doors and windows in a room are closed.” if you are concerned about your air filtration system, keep windows open. You can also test the air quality with a particle counter.
Could someone still be able to spread the virus after the isolation
The guidance has changed from a test-based to time-and-symptom-based guidance. A diagnosed or symptomatic person needs to be isolated for 10 days (unless someone is severely ill or immunosuppressed and then it is 20 days). Close contacts, who may be asymptomatic, must be quarantined for 14 days and it doesn't matter if someone gets a negative test. The virus’ ability to spread plummets after 10 days in those with mild-moderate illness and after 20 days for those with severe illness and/or immunosuppression. So even if some virus is present, there is a low risk for spread. In most cases, isolating for 10 days and ensuring that 24 hours have passed without a fever are sufficient for ending the isolation period.
Is there strong evidence that school-age children can transmit the virus
There is increasing evidence that adolescents could spread the virus even if they are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms (CDC MMR). In a recent MMWR article that looked at household contacts in Utah and another state, the proportion of spread due to children was similar to that of adults. Particularly 10-12-year-olds and beyond are most similar to adults, while younger children seem to have less (but not zero) ability to spread the virus.
If someone received a positive COVID-19 test, when did their contagious
If symptomatic, the contagious period would have begun 2 days prior to symptoms starting; if asymptomatic. When identifying contacts of an asymptomatic individual with a positive test, case investigators typically consider close contacts at highest risk if they had been exposed within 2 days prior to the positive test result.
What activities can I do with my child at home?
The County launched the Live Well @ Home initiative, which provides free resources to help community residents find tips and strategies to stay healthy in both mind and body while staying at home. Visit livewellsd.org to learn more! You can pledge to stay home to keep residents safe and save lives.
Are there resources available for students without computers?
Computers2Kids San Diego is offering refurbished desktops and laptops with Microsoft Office software for $80 to $100 for qualified applicants. You can find out more information at: https://www.c2sdk.org/
The San Diego Futures Foundation is offering low cost computers. The process is by appointment only and you can apply at: https://sdfutures.org/
Are there resources for students without access to the internet?
Cox Connect2Compete is offering free internet for three months for students who qualify for free lunch and/or are low income: https://www.cox.com/residential/internet/connect2compete.html
Spectrum is offering COVID-19 Remote Education Credit: https://www.spectrum.net/support/internet/covid-19-internet-offer-students/
Visit the California Department of Education for information on Telecom and Data Companies Extending Services and available plans: https://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/he/hn/availableinternetplans.asp
The San Diego County Office of Education has connectivity resources to get students connected to the internet & plans have special promotional rates as part of COVID-19 response. Find out more information at their website here.
What resources are available for distance learning/online learning?
SDCOE offers Distance Learning Resources on their website: https://covid-19.sdcoe.net/educators
How can students without printers at home make copies needed for school?
Each district is taking a unique approach to providing resources to students. Reach out to your district for more specific information. Students attending Juvenile Court and Community Schools are provided with any materials they need. You may also email COVID-Education@sdcounty.ca.gov for more specific information
How can I rent a library book or audio book now that libraries are closed?
Visit San Diego County Library online at SDCL.org and click on eLibrary, and follow the steps indicated when checking out a digital title. All you need is a mobile number to start borrowing free digital titles.
Where can I find tutoring help?
UC San Diego is offering free K-12 Virtual Tutoring. It is open to all K-12 students, with priority going to students attending a Title I school. Virtual Tutoring sessions are offered every Tuesday and Friday from 5 - 7pm PST From April 14 to May 22.
What should I be telling my children about COVID-19?
CDC has a one-sheet on speaking to children about COVID-19. Be calm and reassuring. Make yourself available to listen. Avoid language that might blame others and lead to stigma. Take breaks from news or social media. Provide information that is honest and accurate and appropriate for the age of the child. Address any rumors or misinformation they child brings up. It’s important to teach children about the importance of proper hand washing and to cover their coughs and sneezes.
San Diego County Office of Education: Reassurance, Routines, and Regulation. Link here
If schools return as 100% distance learning, do children still need to
be up to date on their immunizations?
Yes. Children must be current on vaccinations by the first day of enrollment.
Pediatricians are ready to provide these immunizations. It is recommended that families work with their pediatrician, family doctor, or medical home, to obtain their immunizations. Medical offices are making accommodations for children who need appointments. This may be the safest time to go because medical offices are taking extra precautions. Pediatric populations are also at lower risk for COVID-19.
It is critically important from a public health perspective that children receive these immunizations. Preventative services are still critical during this time, and immunizations are one of the most important public health interventions. Read more about the #CallYourPediatrician campaign.
There is widespread concern that kids have fallen behind in their
routine immunizations during COVID-19. Do the Office of Education's
plans address providing "catch-up" immunizations at school,
even at sites without school-based health centers?
No, that is not the role of the County Office of Education. Immunization guidelines are state guidelines from the California Department of Public Health. Visit the CDPH Immunizations page for more information.
What mental health and stress management resources are available for
families during this time?
Visit the County’s COVID-19 website for information on how to manage your mental health and cope during COVID-19: https://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/hhsa/programs/bhs/covid19_resources.html
- Maintaining mental health and wellness during the COVID-19 outbreak: Tips for maintaining mental health
- Call the Access & Crisis Line (888-724-7240) for assistance finding mental health resources or for help during a mental health crisis. Available 24/7, answered by trained clinicians, and available in multiple languages
- Coping with a Disaster or Traumatic Event: Coping with a disaster tip sheet
- Mental Health America: COVID-19 Resources and Information: https://mhanational.org/covid19
- Greater Good’s Guide to Well-being During Coronavirus: including resources for parents & educators (published by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley): Visit here.
How can the Crisis line be accessed?
Text TALK to 741741, where you can text with a trained counselor for free.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-8255 or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Besides school lunches, what resources are available for nutrition assistance?
- Call 2-1-1 for help locating nutrition program and resources in your community
- Visit the CalFresh website to learn more or to apply: https://www.getcalfresh.org/?source=sandiegoweb
- San Diego Food Bank Neighborhood Distribution Program: https://sandiegofoodbank.org/programs/neighborhood-distribution-program/
- Food Distribution Locator: https://feedingsandiego.org/get-help/
- COVID-19 and Hunger Relief: San Diego Hunger Coalition: https://www.sandiegohungercoalition.org/covid19
- SDCOE website: www.sdcoe.net/news/Pages/20-03-13-student-food-service-during-district-closures.aspx
How can we keep kids active during this time?
Action for Healthy Kids has activities to do with kids at home: Activities for kids during COVID19
The YMCA is currently offering virtual memberships for families: Virtual memberships
The American Heart Association has ideas for Physical Activity Breaks: AHA resources for kids
Are there any websites, webinars or resources to help us prepare for recovery?
Please San Diego County Office of Education has developed a Pandemic Response Planning tool.
How do we help ensure our students are safe from abuse while distance learning?
Domestic Violence Prevention Amid COVID-19
View the new website and read the recent announcement from the San Diego District Attorney’s Office.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 / TTY 1−800−787−3224
- Child Abuse Hotline: 858-560-2191 or https://www.preventdv1.org/
- Message from the District Attorney’s Office: Read the message here
- San Diego County Child Welfare Services: Visit their website here
- Abuse reporting during COVID-19
What resources are available for homeless youth?
Resources for homeless youth include:
- The Disaster Distress Hotline – call 1-800-985-5990, or text TalkWithUs to 66-746
- The Trevor Project (for LGBTQ youth) – call 1-866-488-7386, or text START to 678-678
- 2-1-1 (shelter and basic needs) & Access & Crisis Line: 888-724-7240
- SDCOE Foster and Homeless Youth Resources
Who is eligible to receive school food?
Any children 18 and under. If students have IEP/special needs, then 22 and under. https://www.sdcoe.net/news/Pages/20-03-13-student-food-service-during-district-closures.aspx
Do children have to be present when picking up meals?
Children do not have to be present for parents to pick up meals for their kids. No verification, ID, or registration needed.
For additional questions and resources, please email: COVID-Education@sdcounty.ca.gov