Schools: K-12 FAQs

School COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs

Click here to view the County of San Diego COVID-19 website and general FAQs regarding the vaccine. 

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  • Are school staff eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine?

    All individuals that live or work in San Diego and are 16 years of age or older are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Beginning Monday (4/19/21), all school staff that have not already received their first dose through SHARP/VEBA will need to schedule their appointments through MyTurn or other providers. If an educator received their first dose through SHARP/VEBA, they will be contacted regarding their second dose appointment.

    Vaccination Resources

  • How can health care professionals, such as school nurses, sign up to administer vaccines?

    Individuals interested in volunteering to administer the vaccine can complete the online application at 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 , 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 or (858) 569-3300.
  • If an educator has had COVID-19, does this impact their ability to get the vaccine?

    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.

  • 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 routine testing?

    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.

  • Do minors need to show proof of eligibility for a vaccine?

    Items required at the time of vaccination depend on a person’s age. For minors (12-17 years old), requirements will vary based on whether or not an adult (18 years and older) will be present when they receive the vaccine. Visit the County’s Vaccine Website for more details on the different scenarios for minors. 

Safe Schools for All Plan

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Schools and the State Tier System

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  • 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

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Cases and School Closures

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  • 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.

    1. 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.
    2. Isolate the case and exclude the individual(s) from school for 10 days from symptom onset or test date.
    3. 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.
    4. Recommend testing of contacts, prioritize symptomatic contacts (but will not shorten 10-day quarantine).
    5. Disinfect and clean the classroom and primary spaces where case spent significant time.
    6. The school remains open
    7. 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.  

  • 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. 
  • Is there a template schools can use to notify parents of a positive COVID-19 case?

    SDCOE template letters can be found here:

Screening and Testing

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Shared Items

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Physical Distancing

Add values in dialog

School Operations and Learning Environment

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  • 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

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School-Based Programs

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Cleaning and Hygiene II

Quarantine and Isolation

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PPE and Face Coverings

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  • 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). 

School Activities

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Air Filtration

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  • What are the recommendations for air filtration in classrooms?
    • Air flow and ventilation enhancements are recommended where practicable. 
      • 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 may include
      • 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. 
  • 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. 

Virus Transmission

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  • Could someone still be able to spread the virus after the isolation period?

    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 to adults?

    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 period begin?

    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.


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Distance Learning 

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For Parents

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  • 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.

    CDC One pager

    San Diego County Office of Education: Reassurance, Routines, and Regulation. Link here

    CDC FAQs

    My Hero is You, Storybook for Children on COVID-19


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Mental Health

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Physical Activity

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School Meals

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For additional questions and resources, please email: