Schools: K-12 FAQs
Schools and the State Tier System
What determines if a school is considered “reopened” for in-person learning?
- Schools that were operating only in the manner permitted under the Cohort Guidance are therefore not “open” under the July 17 framework. 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.
- 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 a county was back in the red tier for two weeks to open for in-person instruction.
- If a school had already started their in-person instruction phased reopening, while the county was in the Red Tier, the LHO can allow that school to continue phasing in later grades even if the county reverted back to the Purple Tier.
- Under the cohort guidance, “limited instruction” refers to the 14:2 ratio of students to teachers and can be done “in person”.
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) and/or open elementary schools pursuant to a waiver. The school reopening framework set 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” (i.e., red tier for 14+ days). This is in contrast to activities permitted under the Cohort Guidance even for schools that are not permitted to reopen under the July 17 school reopening framework.
If a school is currently implementing a phased reopening plan can they
continue bringing students back while in the purple Tier (Tier 1)?
If a school was implementing a phased reopening while the county was in the Red Tier, the school site may continue their phased reopening when the county reverts back to the Purple Tier, if authorized by the LHO. This is only applicable to individual school sites.
If a district had a phased reopening of their schools, the schools in that district that did not open for in-person instruction (i.e. had not started a phased reopening) may not reopen until the county is back in the Red Tier for 2 weeks.
Can athletics continue while the county is placed in Tier 1 (Purple)?
Physical conditioning, practice, skill-building, and training that can be conducted outdoors, with 6 feet of physical distancing, and within stable cohorts are authorized regardless of county tier status. Such activities may be conducted indoors consistent with restrictions by Tier in the Gym & Fitness Center Guidance Capacity.
In counties under the Regional Stay at Home Order, only activities consistent with the statement immediately above are permitted, regardless of the county's tier status. Please see the CDPH Youth Sports Guidance (PDF) and Youth Sports FAQs for further details.
Is authority form the Public Health Officer needed to continue phased
reopening in Tier 1 (Purple)?
If a school was implementing a phased re-opening while the county was in Tier 2 (Red), the school site may continue their phased re-opening when the county reverts back to Tier 1 (Purple) as designed. No additional approval from the local Public Health Authority is needed in this scenario. This is only applicable to individual school sites. If a district has a phased reopening of their schools, the schools in that district that did not open for in-person instruction may not re-open until the county is back in Tier 2 (Red) for 2 weeks.
Can schools continue to have offices open with classified staff
conducting administrative work under the Regional Stay at Home Order?
Yes, school and district offices may remain open for essential services. However, the telework option should be used for functions that can be performed remotely.
While in the State’s Tier 1 (Purple), can we continue to have limited
staff on campus?
Yes, staff can be on campus for activities that are fundamental for keeping the school operating. These staff members may be indoors or outdoors. Staff should continue to wear masks and practice physical distancing.
Guidance and Reopening Plans
What guidance documents for school reopening should we follow?
It is recommended that schools consult the CDPH Industry Guidance, SDCOE recommendations, and the local Public Health Order when creating reopening plans. The California Department of Education’s Stronger Together should be used for implementation strategies.
Do schools need to submit their reopening plans to the County or SDCOE
Schools do not need to submit their reopening plans to the County Health and Human Services Agency or San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE), but you may request that your plans be reviewed by those parties. School reopening plans must be easily accessible for viewing on the school’s website.
Are there repercussions for schools/districts that do not follow the
guidance set by CDPH & CDC?
Failure to comply with the County Public Health Order and guidance from CDPH and the CDC increases the risk of outbreaks within the school and the community, which could lead to schools and/or districts having to close. A school that fails to follow guidance from the CDPH and CDC would be considered noncompliant with the County Public Health Order. The school would receive education regarding their failure to comply. If noncompliance continues, repercussions could elevate to a citation with a fine or an order to close, which also may include a fine. If a site refuses to close, each day results in an additional citation with fees up to $1000 (per citation).
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 current Reopening Plans (following K-12 Industry Guidance) meet the
criteria of the Cal-OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Program Requirements or do
schools need to create a separate document?
Current COVID-19 Reopening Plans likely fall short of the Cal-OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Program Requirements in a few areas, including "exposed workplaces" and "increased testing in response to an exposed workplace." The COVID-19 Reopening/Prevention Plans need to be updated to ensure they align with Cal-OSHA. A new template will be sent out when available. For Cal-OSHA Emergency Regulations on COVID-19 and links to FAQ and templates, visit here. For a sample Prevention Plan document, visit here.
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
- 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 Learning Framework for K-12 Schools in California, 2020-2021 School Year
- 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?
- Schools should consult with a public health officer before closing (positive cases should already be reported to local health department)
- A classroom cohort goes home when there is a confirmed case (assuming that the entire cohort is considered a contact as defined above)
- A school is closed when multiple cohorts have cases or more than 5% of the school positive
- A district is closed if 25% or more of their schools are closed within a 14-day period. More information can be found in the COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Learning Framework for K-12 Schools in California, 2020-2021 School Year
Do schools have an obligation to track positive cases in students if we
have not yet returned to on-campus learning?
Tracking of cases is only required for students in contact with other students/staff at a school site. However, if you do hear about a case, please report it to the Epi line at 1(888)950-9905 or using the online reporting tool.
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.
Are schools required to report positive cases over breaks? If so, are
schools required to notify the school community?
Yes, schools should continue to report positive cases on campus during breaks, even if very few people are on campus during those times. Reporting a case takes only a few minutes, and the information is very valuable to the epidemiology team. Schools would be required to notify the community if the positive individual had been on campus during a communicable period (2 days before illness onset or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to test specimen collection, until the time the patient is isolated.)
When would a school share with an entire campus (parents and employees)
about a person testing positive at that campus? When would they just
send a notice to close contacts?
CPDH Guidance states, “notify local health officials, staff and families immediately of any exposure to a positive case of COVID-19 at school while maintaining confidentiality. The school community needs to be notified of a known case. We would recommend your school contact our Epi School Team to discuss messaging with parents and employees.
Does a school complete the Potential COVID-19 Follow Up Report for every
child who is considered a close contact or only for those who have
tested positive or have symptoms?
It is recommended to do the notification for all confirmed cases that have tested positive (either through the online reporting form or by phone). The Epidemiology department will then ask for close contacts when talking to the school.
Are schools responsible for interviewing students and asking them who
their close contacts are, or do teachers/school staff identify known
close contacts of students?
Close contacts are generally identified through teachers or the school system, not by asking the students. If there are close contracts, or contacts that are almost considered "close", the Epidemiology team would like to know about all of those. The Epidemiology team will interview the student who tested positive about which fellow students they are close with, as this team is aware that teachers may not be aware of all such interactions.
If a high school reaches the 5% case threshold for closure, and it
shares a campus (but different buildings) with an elementary school,
would the elementary school have to close as well?
This depends on how much interaction there is between the two entities. If students are generally separate, and have their own buildings, then the elementary school may not necessarily need to close.
Who counts towards the 5% threshold for positive tests? Do kids in
quarantine count towards that 5% if they test positive after being sent
into the 14-day quarantine?
The CDPH Reopening Framework from July 17th states that individual school closure is recommended when at least 5 percent of the total number of teachers/students/staff have been identified as COVID-19 cases over a 14-day period. All confirmed cases would be included in that count.
Because there is no Tier more restrictive than Tier 1 (Purple), is there
guidance for districts on when community spread is too high for
in-person learning (in elementary schools)?
At this time, there is no written guidance from the state on this matter. Current guidance on closures is based on what is happening within the district as outlines in the Reopening Framework from July 17. The CDC offers considerations for operating schools depending on the level of transmission in the community. The benefits of in-person learning should be weighed against the risk of transmission when making these decisions.
Does the 5% positive case count that would require a school to close
also apply to non-student locations in a District (i.e. Maintenance,
Transportation, District Office, etc.)?
Yes, non-student infections count towards the 5% positive case count that recommends schools to switch to distance learning. The case count includes students, teachers, and staff that are positive within a 14-day period.
Screening and Testing
Will employees be required to have a temperature check before coming
Per the San Diego County public health order (item 16b), employees are required to have a temperature screening and employers must prohibit entry to the workplace if an employee has a temperature of 100 degrees or more, if they are exhibiting signs of COVID-19 symptoms as described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or if they have recently been exposed to a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 (either directly or through a breach of Personal Protective Equipment in the case of healthcare workers/first responders).
Temperature and symptom screenings for employees may be done from home and reported to the school or schools may institute temperature checks with a no-touch thermometer before entry.
CDPH COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Schools and School-Based Programs has additional guidance regarding screening for students and staff.
Does the CDPH guidance encourage an active screening of students, staff,
and other individuals entering campus?
Since the original June 5th guidance, CDPH has recommended daily visual wellness and symptoms checks prior to individuals entering campus. In order to facilitate those checks, the California Office of Emergency Services has distributed multiple no-touch thermometers for each school throughout the state to local county offices of education. These checks can happen in a variety of ways, including: As the individuals enters the building or during morning homeroom. Students can be asked about their symptoms or can complete a short checklist of symptoms to be handed in. Follow-up to those checklists should occur whenever symptoms of COVID-19 are identified. Adults must have a temperature check, but this could be done at home, via an app, etc. Whichever method is chosen must be documented. There is no requirement for children to have a temperature check upon entering campus. CDPH School Guidance FAQs
If a child presents with fever and sore throat but is tested for strep,
can they return to campus without a negative COVID test? Or can the
school request COVID clearance?
The student must be out for 10 days if there is one or more symptom. If they are quarantined for exposure, they will be out of school for 10 days. If symptoms develop during this time, then the 10 days symptom free period begins again. While a COVID test is recommended it cannot be required for school return.
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 Learning Framework for K-12 Schools in California, 2020-2021 School Year.
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:
- COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Learning Framework for K-12 Schools in California, 2020-2021 School Year
- SDCOE Fever/COVID-19 Symptom Decision Tree (click here)
If a student is screened and they are sent home due to a fever, what is
the process for them returning to school?
If a student has a fever it is recommended that the family seek guidance from their medical provider. For those who are uninsured please call 2-1-1. COVID-19 testing is available at no cost. County-run testing facilities can test those in grades K-12.. The County is also partnering with Rady Children’s Hospital to provide testing to youth.
- San Diego County Order of the Health Officer: Isolation of people with or likely to have COVID-19
- CDC What to Do if You Are Sick
- CDC Symptom-Based Strategy to Discontinue Isolation for Persons with COVID-19
- Testing in San Diego County
- County, Rady Children’s to Test 2,000 Daily for COVID-19
- COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Learning Framework for K-12 Schools in California, 2020-2021 School Year
- SDCOE Fever/COVID-19 Symptom Decision Tree (click here)
If a family does a temperature screening and symptoms check at home,
does the student have to be screened a second time at school?
It is recommended that schools follow the CDPH guidance and the CDE guidance when feasible which recommends both active and passive screening. Passive screening may take place at home in which parents/guardians ensure their child is healthy and can attend school. Schools will need to determine how they will set up their screening procedures and it is recommended to have multiple entry points and screening stations. If the school determines that student temperature screenings are required upon arrival, then families will need to adhere to that schools’ policies.
What temperature should we consider a fever, 100 degrees Fahrenheit or
County Public Health can issue an order that is stricter than the state’s requirement. The County defines a temperature of 100 degrees or greater as a fever while the state’s threshold is 100.4 (because no-touch thermometers appear to give temperatures that are lower on average than traditional thermometers).
Are there forms required to track students’ temperatures when screened
There is no form required and nothing needs to be reported to the County or SDCOE. Schools may record information about temperature screenings, for example, to make sure every student is screened every day.
What is the CDPH guidance on temperature checks at schools for students?
There is no requirement to perform temperature checks on students. Thermometers can be used for initial screenings or can be used in response to symptoms. The FAQs provided by SDCOE provide methods for screening. Procedures have to be robust enough to keep people who have a fever or other symptoms out of the school.
What can schools do when pediatricians choose not to order tests when a
child presents with one to two symptoms?
Current guidance is that anyone with symptoms should be tested, regardless of age. There is a robust testing system for this. The County, in conjunction with the local chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the San Diego Academy of Family Physicians, distributed a health alert on October 7, 2020 through the CAHAN San Diego network to all enrolled healthcare providers in the community to provide guidance and resources to support management of children with COVID-19 symptoms who attend daycare and in-person school. People should be able to get tested by and receive consultation from their own doctors. However, if your provider will not test, children can get tested at any County-coordinated test site. For more information, please visit the County’s coronavirus testing page or call 2-1-1. If there are doctors not following the decision tree, please let our team know, so that we can reach out to those doctors and communicate with them directly.
Is the day of symptom onset Day 0 or Day 1 in the 10-day count?
Onset of symptoms is Hour 0. 24 hours after symptom is Day 1. For example, if a symptom starts at noon on Monday, at noon on Tuesday that is Day 1.
Can a student return to school based on a doctor's note?
The only way to come back early is with a negative test and resolution of symptoms for 72 hours. There is no way to know if other symptoms are not due to COVID019 without a negative test. Even if a symptom is from air quality and a doctor note says it is not COVID, then the child still has to stay home.
Is there any additional guidance on the SDCOE decision tree?
For questions on excluding people from work or school, see the decision tree, decision guide and training video at https://covid-19.sdcoe.net/Health-Practices/Guidelines-for-Schools.
Will there be testing sites specifically for school employees?
- A teacher with symptoms should contact their healthcare provider for testing information.
- For surveillance testing, the county has developed 4 testing sites exclusively for school staff.
- The testing sites will be located in Chula Vista, San Diego, Del Mar, and El Cajon.
- School personnel are encouraged to first contact their school/district for test site information.
- County and State testing sites, including the 4 exclusively for school staff, are free.
- Learn more about school employee testing here.
- School employees may also be tested at any of the county’s public testing sites.
Can children get tested at public testing sites?
Children 6 months and older can be tested at any County-coordinated test site. Tested at all county public testing sites.
- Will schools be notified by the county if a student’s household member tests positive for COVID-19?
Is it recommended that we test all staff before returning to in-person
learning, in addition to the rotational testing?
Testing of all staff before returning to in-person learning is not required. With the availability of free testing sites developing a testing protocol before beginning in-person learning would be considered a best practice.
Do school employees have to provide proof of their testing?
Employees will get a receipt when tested and this can be used as proof. For staff testing questions, SDCOE has provided the following Legal Advisory and FAQ.
Is there a requirement for all school staff to be tested on a regular basis?
Per the CDPH Reopening Framework , all school staff must be tested periodically. San Diego County has the capacity to test school staff at the frequency recommended by the CDPH. Please see this memo from the SDCOE Legal Services Department for more details. Testing intervals are recommended, not prescribed.
The recommended frequency of testing is as follows: testing all staff over 2 months, where 25% of staff are tested every 2 weeks, or 50% every month to rotate testing of all staff over time. In essence, all school employees should be tested once every two months.
Who should be tested? All employees who may have contact with students or staff. Essentially all employees who are not assigned to work exclusively from home. Schools may also include temporary employees, contracted before and after school providers, substitutes and volunteers.
School Staff Testing Sites: The San Diego County Office of Education is operating 4 testing sites exclusively available to individuals who work on school campuses. Please visit the SDCOE website for more information. Testing is also available at over 20 County-coordinated sites. All are open to school personnel and youth ages 5 and up. Most locations require appointments, but no appointment walk-in testing is offered at California State University San Marcos, Tubman-Chavez Community Center and the San Ysidro Border, and a drive-in site at Mar Vista High School in Imperial Beach. Specific testing information is available at 211SanDiego.org.
Does the school HR department need to track that staff have been tested?
There is no requirement to track that staff have been tested. However, it may be beneficial to maintain record of who has been tested, and when they were tested, in order to adhere to the CDPH recommendations for surveillance testing.
If a doctor indicates that symptoms are likely a result of an individual
receiving a flu shot, is that individual allowed to be on campus?
Flu shots are highly encouraged. When symptoms develop after receiving a flu shot, it is possible that the flu shot is the explanation for the symptoms. Common side effects can include injection site reactions, fever, muscle aches, headaches, and fatigue. The individual with symptoms should go home or remain at home until this can be determined. If the symptom is consistent with flu shot side effects and it appears and resolves within 24 hours after the flu shot, the student can return to school. Demonstrating proof of a flu shot is also helpful for these scenarios. If the symptom persists for more than 24 hours, then the individual should remain at home. In this case it may not be due to the flu shot, and the symptom should be treated like any symptom on the Decision Tree.
Can employees who use the school testing sites take a paycheck stub or
business card as ID if they don't have a school ID badge?
Anything indicating that an individual works or volunteers at the school, such as letterhead from the school, is acceptable.
Can testing of staff be mandated and the results required?
Testing of staff is mandated. If a staff member refuses to be tested, we advise consulting the school’s Human Resources department, the legal department, and the labor union. Schools may also work with the individual to explore the reason for refusal to determine if it can be addressed so that testing can proceed. Individual test results cannot be required. See the SDCOE Memo regarding legality of testing.
For staff and students that have binational insurance through SIMNSA,
can we accept PCR results if they are tested in Mexico at a SIMNSA facility?
Unlike the U.S., there is no requirement to license clinical laboratories in Mexico. While some laboratories may be performing quality work, we don't have the ability to verify this. We would recommend testing be performed in a U.S. licensed lab. Children and adults 6-months and older with SIMNSA can access free testing at the County's testing sites.
Is an antigen or antibody test for COVID-19 sufficient proof of a
negative COVID-19 diagnosis?
Antigen testing is not preferred; PCR testing is recommended. The reasoning behind this is that antigen testing is not always accurate or specific per the County of San Diego’s Epidemiology and Immunization Services Branch. Antigen testing is not as sensitive as PCR tests, and it is prone to false positives.
In a symptomatic individual (a person who is experiencing symptoms), if that person received a positive antigen test, then that individual would be considered positive for COVID-19 and the antigen test would be sufficient proof of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.
However, in an asymptomatic individual (a person who is not experiencing symptoms), if that person received a positive antigen test, they would be considered a presumptive positive case but would need to follow up with a PCR test to make sure of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.
PCR testing is preferred, but if an antigen test is performed and is positive in an asymptomatic individual, it should always be followed up quickly with a PCR test to determine whether the individual is truly infected. If an antigen test is positive in a symptomatic individual, it’s highly likely that they are truly infected.
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.
What can parents and schools do about runny noses that result from being
out in the cold air and that resolve once the kids have been inside for
If the child did not have a runny nose inside at home, and the runny nose is only the result of exposure to cold air and ceases after coming indoors then the school should be notified by the family that this is a common occurrence for that student.
Is a rapid PCR test an acceptable form of testing?
There are 5 types of rapid tests that perform comparably to the longer PCR tests. Rapid PCR is accurate and better than rapid antigen testing.
Does HR have to have documentation that staff symptoms are due to a
HR needs to determine the standard, which could include documentation of a chronic condition that produces concerning symptoms.
When is the best time for someone to get tested if they have been
exposed to someone who may be positive for COVID-19?
If the potentially exposed individual is symptomatic, they should test as soon as possible. If they are not symptomatic, they may wait until 5-7 days after exposure as by that time, an infected person is likely to have a positive test.
Are there testing sites specifically for school employees?
- A teacher with symptoms should contact their healthcare provider for testing information.
- For surveillance testing, the county has developed testing sites exclusively for school staff.
- School personnel are encouraged to first contact their school/district for test site information.
- County and State testing sites, including the sites exclusively for school staff, are free.
- Learn more about school employee testing here.
- School employees may also be tested at any of the county’s public testing sites.
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.
If our school is requiring testing before returning, but someone has
already tested positive, can that person re-test?
An individual that has been COVID positive and has no new COVID symptoms does not need a screening test for 3 months, per the latest CDC guidance. Retesting is not recommended within three months of their initial COVID-19 infection.
If a student is a close contact of a COVID-19 positive individual from
someone outside of school, can we require them to get a test?
There is no County or State health requirement for a close contact to be tested. They may test if they wish, but it is not required. A close contact should quarantine following the Order of the Health Officer for Quarantine of Persons Exposed to COVID-19.
Are there guidelines on what students should be allowed to bring to
school (i.e. water bottles, lunches)?
The COVID-19 Industry Guidance for Schools and School-Based Programs does not specify requirements for water bottles, lunches or other items brought from home. If students bring items from home (water bottles, lunches, etc.) ensure that there is not sharing of items and that students take their personal items home each day to be cleaned and sanitized (pg. 14 “Keep each child’s belongings separated and in individually labeled storage containers, cubbies or areas. Ensure belongings are taken home each day to be cleaned.") If the school is serving meals, then those meals should be individually plated or bagged meals to avoid buffet or family-style meals.
Are students allowed to play games with shared equipment or use of
Games for a single child can be used by another child after disinfecting. However, board games that require children to touch the same items or surfaces during the game should not be provided. It is recommended to limit sharing items whenever possible. Playground equipment may be used in the context of childcare and it is recommended to sanitize equipment before and after use and to keep children in separate and small cohorts.
Are students required to be 6ft apart from each other?
6-foot physical distancing between students is recommended where practicable. In instances where 6-feet of physical distancing would be impossible, such as within a school bus or entering and exiting school, face coverings must be worn. Districts must place teacher and other staff desks at least six feet away from student desks. Consider spacing students’ desks/chairs as widely apart as practicable, using markings on classroom floors to promote distancing. When a 6-foot distance cannot be maintained between desks, consider the use partitions or shields between desks.
Are there specific guidelines as to how the use of plexiglass shields at
student desks may allow for increased density?
Plexiglass shields are not required but may be considered for use when physical distancing is not possible. Plexiglass shields should not take the place of physical distancing and the use face coverings.
In an exterior setting, may students be seated closer than 6’ if
separated by a Plexiglas partition?
Plexiglass should be used when you cannot maintain 6ft of physical distance.
School Operations and Learning Environment
Are there any health orders related to employees that are 65 years or
older? Are there waivers for those that need or want to report to work?
Please refer to the CDPH COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Schools and School-Based Programs
(p.9) “Support staff and students who are at higher risk for severe illness or who cannot safely distance from household contacts at higher risk, by providing options such as telework, virtual learning or independent study”.
According to the San Diego County Public Health Order “18. All essential businesses and reopened businesses that remain in operation in accordance with the Order shall make every effort to use telecommuting for their workforces. 19. A strong recommendation is made that all persons who are 65 years old or older, have a chronic underlying condition, or have a compromised immune system self-quarantine themselves at home or other suitable location”.
Should schools limit nonessential visitors to campus?
Each district will need to determine their policies regarding nonessential visitors. It is recommended to limit nonessential visitors in order to decrease potential exposure.
CDPH COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Schools and School-Based Programs (pg. 9: Non-Classroom Spaces)
Is 6 feet of physical distancing required in eating areas?
Serve meals outdoors or in classrooms instead of cafeterias or group dining rooms where practicable. Where cafeterias or group dining rooms must be used, keep students together in their cohort groups, ensure physical distancing, and consider assigned seating. Serve individually plated or bagged meals. Avoid sharing of foods and utensils and buffet or family-style meals
See the California’s Industry Guidance for Schools and School-based Programs pg.13 for more information
Will there be an exemption from the 6-foot distance requirement between
teacher and student for special Ed students?
Teachers desks are required to be six feet or more from student desks, however there will be times when teachers need to be closer to a student. If closer interaction is necessary teachers should limit their time in proximity, wear a face covering, and it is recommended for students to wear face coverings if they can safely do so. Guidance on working with medically fragile and other special education students is forthcoming and will be sharing with all schools.
Can a cohort contain mixed ages (e.g. middle and high school students)?
Follow industry guidance for school programs. Use stable cohorts if you can in middle school and high school. Try to create class schedules that minimize movement, such as block schedules, and have teachers move instead of students if possible. Avoid students moving around and mixing to the greatest extent possible.
Do high schoolers need to stay in one class along with the teachers?
Follow industry guidance for schools and school-based programs and use stable groups as practicable. With high schools, there may be some movement. Ideally, schools could create block schedules to prevent movement or use the option of having the teacher moving rather than students moving and mixing with other students. Keeping groups of students together for most of the day, with the fewest changes, would be a good model. If a school can maintain these conditions while still allowing students to attend elective classes, that would be ideal.
Can a teacher work with a cohort of six students Mon/Tues and then
another group of 6 students on Wed/Thurs or does this violate the cohort
When working with children under the Cohort Guidance, you can work with 16 individuals total in a cohort. In this case, if all students are part of one cohort but broken into two groups, and there is one teacher (13 individuals total), this would meet that requirement of no more than 16 total individuals. This cohort should remain stable and not mix with other cohorts.
Local and International Travel
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 CDPH the 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.
If a student travels, can we ask them to get tested or quarantine prior
to returning to school?
If a student/staff 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 the risk for COVID-19 remains high both within the US and abroad. 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 CDPH the guidelines to check for signs and symptoms (pg. 15 – 16) . You are welcome to share CDC resources regarding travel with families and staff. If a school chooses to be stricter than the guidelines laid out by the state, they may choose to do so and enforce a more stringent policy.
Should schools require any staff/students who travel to states with high
or rising case rates to quarantine for 10 days when they return, as the
Schools may request this, but it is not required. The CDC has softened their stance on this. CDC recommends avoiding contact with others for 10 days after engaging in "higher risk activity" which could include traveling to areas with higher rates of spread but does not mandate quarantine.
Our school is requiring a COVID test upon return from another country.
Does it matter if the test is rapid antigen or PCR and should it be done
as soon as they return or a few days later?
Testing after international travel is not required by the CDC or state industry guidance but because our county has the testing capacity, this would be a best practice. 5-7 days after returning is a good time to get tested because this is the average time it takes the virus to be detectable after infection. However, an individual could also be tested as soon as they return. A PCR test is recommended over antigen tests at the present time for asymptomatic individuals.
Can families who travel outside of CA be tested for COVID instead of
self-quarantining for 10 days?
COVID-19 transmission is widespread both within California and most of the rest of the state and country. In a November 13, 2020 travel advisory, CDPH 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.
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.
Does the cohorting guidance apply to afterschool programs??
Do organizations based on school campuses need to have their own
- This would depend on the school and your organization. Because your organization operates on the school’s campus, you should follow the school’s Safe Reopening Plan.
- If your program activities warrant having your own plan for public safety reasons and in order to ensure that your staff and volunteers clearly understand their duties and responsibilities to adhere to the public health order and the CDPH Industry Guidance for Schools and School-Based Programs then you may decide to develop your own safe reopening plan that is nested or aligned with the school’s plan.
Cleaning and Hygiene II
Where are the best locations for hand sanitizers?
It is recommended that schools provide hand washing stations or hand sanitizer around restrooms, eating areas, classroom entrances and other high touch frequency areas. Sanitizing stations should be located 6 feet apart from one another to maintain physical distancing.
Students and staff should use fragrance-free hand sanitizer when handwashing is not practicable. Sanitizer must be rubbed into hands until completely dry. Note: frequent handwashing is more effective than the use of hand sanitizers.
Ethyl alcohol-based hand sanitizers are preferred and should be used when there is the potential of unsupervised use by children.
Isopropyl hand sanitizers are more toxic when ingested or absorbed in skin.
Do not use hand sanitizers that may contain methanol which can be hazardous when ingested or absorbed.
Children under age 9 should only use hand sanitizer under adult supervision. Call Poison Control if consumed: 1-800-222-1222.
Can students use sanitation wipes to clean their desks?
Under the California Healthy Schools Act (HSA), disinfectants are considered to be pesticides so their application in schools is regulated by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR). San Diego County Office of Education recommended limiting classroom staff to using soap and water because of the application of disinfectants requires special training and precautions. Students can clean with soap and water, but not with disinfectants.
Almost all disinfecting products carry a "Keep Out of Reach of Children" warning and an EPA registration number or pesticidal claim that would require HSA training for use in schools. The COVID-19 INDUSTRY GUIDANCE: Schools and School Based Programs (revised 7/17/2020) directs schools to choose disinfecting products from those “approved for use against COVID-19 on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)- approved list “N” and follow product instructions.” We’re not aware of any products on this list that can be used by children.
One of the greatest challenges to using any disinfectant during the school day is “contact time.” The directions for each product include the length of time the product must remain in contact with the surface to be effective. The surface should remain wet throughout the contact time to ensure it is effective. In many cases this can be up to 10 minutes. Children shouldn’t be allowed to come into contact with wet disinfectants, employees must be trained to apply them, and the products must be secured out of the reach of children when not in use. The combination of these factors makes it very hard to use them safely in classrooms during the day.
Quarantine and Isolation
If a student tests positive for COVID, and masks and social distancing
have been in place at the school, will the cohort need to quarantine?
Refer to the SDCOE decision tree. Anyone who was exposed to the student within 6 feet with or without a mask for at least 15 minutes would need to quarantine. For specific situations where a child, staff or facility contact has tested positive for COVID-19, please contact the Epidemiology Unit by phone at 1(888) 950-9905.
If a student becomes ill midday but used public transportation to arrive
at school, how should they be transported home?
Schools should plan in advance for this possibility, as it is likely to occur. Keep the child isolated and work with the parent on alternatives for getting the child home that do not involve public transportation. We know families do not always have transportation. Try to think through the safest possibility and the steps you can take to implement it. Consider other individuals close to the student that could assist in transporting the child. Consult your district office regarding alternative means of transporting the child home.
If a classroom maintains six feet of physical distancing and masks are
worn, would the entire classroom need to be quarantined?
If these conditions were maintained, then students in the classroom with the positive case would not be considered close contacts and would not need to quarantine (unless there are other symptoms, etc.). Please consult with the Epidemiology team for individual scenarios.
Does the definition of close contact for a total of 15 minutes include
when wearing a mask?
Whether or not an individual was wearing a mask does not change their status as a close contact. If someone had a total of 15 minutes of contact within 6 feet of a positive case – mask or no mask – they will be considered a close contact.
Do we have to send home classmates of students who are sent home for
COVID-19 symptoms, even without a confirmed test?
The student with symptoms must be isolated and it is strongly encouraged that they get a test. Non-symptomatic classmates do not need to quarantine unless their classmate tests positive. It is important to get a test done quickly if symptoms arise because the average delay in getting a test is 3 days and during that time the virus can be spread.
Who is required to quarantine if there is a positive case at a secondary
school in which cohorts were not established and physical distancing was
This would be determined by the epidemiology team in collaboration with the school. This would entail assessing who the positive case was in contact with for more than 15 minutes within 6 feet of distance within a 24-hour period.
When student cohorts are quarantined, are family members still allowed
to pick up school meals?
Yes, family members of the quarantined students would still be able to pick up meals. These family members would be considered “secondary” contacts, not close contacts, so they would not have to quarantine. Only close contacts must quarantine. However, if the close contacts (the students) develop symptoms while in quarantine, then they begin an isolation period in which their close contacts (such as family members) would then have to quarantine.
With asymptomatic positive individuals who need to isolate, is Day #1 of
the isolation period the day the test was taken, or the day the positive
result was communicated to the individual?
Day one is 24 hours after the positive test was taken. The day of the test itself is considered day zero.
If an individual is waiting for their COVID test results, should their
close contacts quarantine as a precaution during the waiting period?
If someone is awaiting a test result, their close contacts are not required to be quarantined unless a physician or Public Health expert decides that the person awaiting test results is a presumed positive (or a presumptive case), or the test returns positive. If you were exposed to someone who is waiting for test results you should be more careful and watch for symptoms. Please call the school epi line with questions specific to your scenario.
Will the county update their Quarantine Orders to reflect the updated
San Diego County quarantine guidance has not officially changed but is expected to soon. CDPH released their updated COVID-19 Quarantine Guidance on December 14, 2020. The updated CDC guidance is available here. The updated guidance offers options to shorten quarantine as a means of increasing compliance, bringing people back to work, and resuming in-person learning. View the latest local orders for Quarantine of Persons Exposed to COVID-19 here.
Does case investigation of COVID positive individuals and their close
contacts extend outside the classroom to extracurriculars and clubs?
Yes, San Diego County COVID-19 case investigators and contact tracers try to follow up on all contacts both inside and outside of the classroom to determine if quarantine for contacts is warranted.
PPE and Face Coverings
Is there any guidance on length of time that staff must wear facial
All staff must use face coverings in accordance with CDPH guidelines unless Cal/OSHA standards require respiratory protection.
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.
The recommendation is that staff wear face coverings at all times, especially while indoors or within 6 feet of another person.
Is there any specific guidance on facial coverings for meal service
Per the COVID-19 Industry Guidance for Schools and School-Based Programs: pg. 8 – 9
All staff must use face coverings in accordance with CDPH guidelines unless Cal/OSHA standards require respiratory protection.
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.
Is the County Office of Education going to help facilitate the purchase
of PPE products for schools/districts?
Yes, SDCOE can help facilitate purchasing of PPE products. Contact Mark Cavassa (firstname.lastname@example.org), Senior Director of Maintenance and Operations.
Do face shields count as facial coverings?
When necessary for instructional purposes a teacher/staff can wear a face shield such as when needed for lip reading. If a student is unable to wear a cloth face covering, they should be encouraged to wear a face shield if able. Ideally the face shield should include a drape to reduce the distribution of airborne droplets from the wearer’s mouth and nose. A cloth face covering is more protective than a face shield and should be worn whenever a shield is not needed for instructional purposes.
- CDPH COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Schools and School-Based Programs (pg. 7 - 9)
- Here is a guide to best practices while wearing a face shield. Information and recommendations on facial coverings can be found on the CDC website.
- CDPH Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings
Are face shields ok for students in grades 3 and above if they are in
their seat, socially distanced, and have plexiglass dividers?
The guidance states that a cloth face covering is required for 3rd grade and above when indoors and when 6 feet distance is not possible. Ideally the students should wear a face covering AND be 6 feet apart. Dividers and face shields are not as effective and should only be used in specific situations when required for special needs students or instructional reasons (i.e., speech therapy). Outdoor time should be maximized as this is an opportunity where masks can be removed.
If a school implements clear barriers between desks, would face
coverings still be required?
Barriers may reduce droplet transmission but may not be as effective as facial coverings, as smaller aerosols may pass over them. As a result, barriers are not a replacement for face coverings. Six feet of distance should be maintained between the teacher and students. Space between students should be maximized to the greatest extent practicable.
Are students required to wear face masks if they are less than 6 feet
away but facing away from each other?
It is recommended that students and teachers and everyone else over age 2 not living in the same household should wear facial coverings in situations where the 6-foot distance cannot be maintained, regardless of which way they are facing. It is recommended to distance desks in classrooms as much as is feasible. Face coverings must be used in accordance with CDPH guidelines unless a person is exempt as explained in the guidelines, particularly in indoor environments, on school buses, and areas where physical distancing alone is not sufficient to prevent disease transmission.
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 Industry Guidance for Schools and School-Based Programs (pg. 10) “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.
What is the current face shield guidance for students and staff?
CDPH guidelines from June are still in place. Face shields are not an acceptable substitute for face coverings unless there is a special circumstance that is defined by the CDPH in the guidance on face covers or the industry guidance for schools. 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 students need to wear a face covering during in-person PE (e.g.
running laps, etc.)?
If students are outside for PE and maintaining 6 feet of distance, masks are not required. For indoor PE or when distancing is not possible, masks should be worn to the extent possible and less vigorous physical activities should be done. Masks should be placed in labeled paper bags and put back on before going back inside.
Is it okay for students to come back to school in classrooms where it is
not possible to have six feet distance between students as longs as
everyone is wearing a mask?
Yes, students should be a far apart as possible, in some cases 6 feet of separation is not possible. The industry guidance does require that there be 6 feet of space between adults and students.
How should a school proceed with a family that does not agree with the
mask policy and chooses to wear masks that do not properly cover one’s
face? Are there resources on how to communicate with families about this
CDPH describes face coverings here. This guidance is also updated here. If a face cover clearly does not meet the spirit and intent of this guidance (that the face cover block exhaled particles) you could assert that the school does not consider it to a be face cover and exclude the student from in-person instruction until they are willing wear a face cover that is consistent with state guidance. There are some campaigns on the County’s Coronavirus website to educate about the importance of masks, best types and how to use them properly.
Can a school require a student to learn virtually if they have a
doctor's note to not wear a mask?
That may be something that has to be addressed through a school rule. You cannot legally exclude a student from school if they are medically exempt from wearing a face cover. They might need an IEP or 504 plan. Talk with the parent to see if they can wear a face shield and provide more space and/or partitions around that child.
What are the face covering guidelines for singing outdoors?
While singing outdoors, individuals can remove masks. However, if they are without masks, separate individuals as much as possible, ideally more than 6 feet.
What is the most recent guidance regarding the use of N95 respirators?
Cal/OSHA does not specify the kinds of work that require an N95 respirator. Employers are required to assess respiratory risks and identify and provide PPE appropriate to the risk. Respirators use can be dangerous for people with certain health issues. Medical clearance, training, and proper fit (fit testing) are required. Even voluntary use has specific requirements. For more information see the Requirements for the Safe Use of N-95 Respirators and visit the Cal/OSHA website.
If a parent states that their student is exempt from wearing a face
covering, but does not provide details or documentation, how should the
If a parent asserts that a child qualifies for exemption from the state requirement on face covers, the school should consider the request as notice that a disability exists that may require a written accommodation plan. Assessment of the disabling condition and its impacts is a part of this process. Work with your school’s 504 Coordinator to develop a policy for responding to requests for exemption that complies with your district or school’s 504 procedures. If your 504 coordinator is uncertain of the best course of action, consult with your attorney for guidance
Can kids remove masks and drink in classrooms with appropriate distancing?
As long as the children are 6 feet apart, face coverings can be removed temporarily for meals, snacks, nap time and then put back on. Ideally, they should be stored in a paper bag with the child's name on it. Best case scenario is to have meals and snacks outside where possible, especially if 6-foot distance isn't possible in the classroom.
Does the new face covering guidance apply to outdoor youth sports
associated with schools run by the Boys and Girls Club?
The guidelines in the youth sports document still pertain regardless of whether it's at a school or in another venue. The new guidance is more streamlined and clearer. It states that "Persons who are outdoors and maintaining 6 feet distance from others can remove face covering but must have one available to put on if they come within 6 feet of someone not in their household." However, it is often difficult to maintain 6-foot distance when engaged in sports. For example, when kids "huddle" with a coach, face coverings would need to go back on. The American Academy of Pediatrics updated their guidance encouraging athletes to wear face coverings at all times, except for certain activities in which the face covering may be a hazard (e.g. swimming, diving, wresting, cheerleading, and gymnastics). View the updated guidance here.
Can students work with each other in the classroom (such as science
labs) if they wear face coverings and gloves?
It is not recommended that children work in close proximity. However, if it is a required activity, then the students should wear face coverings, disposable gloves, and the space and equipment should be sanitized before and after use. Non-essential activities that require close contact are not recommended. Research has shown that the longer time people spend together indoors the higher the risk of COVID-19 transmission (CDC).
Are there any updates on band & choir?
The California Department of Public Health updated their School Guidance FAQs on October 14, 2020 to clarify 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.
Is there a COVID protocol for school emergency drills?
It is recommended to incorporate all the same protocols as before, have students wear PPE, and have them exit the building as soon as possible. When congregating, try to make sure distance is maintained.
Do we need approval for drive up distribution events?
You do not need approval for a socially distanced drive up event. Please reference to the guidance on events. If an entity is holding an event, they should have a safety plan and make sure staff, volunteers and attendees understand how safety is to be maintained.
If bell covers on instruments are implemented and students wear masks
while in a linear line, is it safe to practice band and wind instruments
There is some evidence that putting a bell cloth over an instrument can reduce aerosolization, but it is still possible for droplets to come out of the musician’s mouth. There is less potential spread if students are far apart and standing in a line, but CDPH still recommends against wind instruments, even in outdoor settings.
Are after school programs allow to transport youth in a 15-passenger van?
There is no prohibition to transporting youth in a van versus a bus but know that face coverings are required just as they are on a bus. Please review the guidance. The purpose for the van or bus is important, too. Field trips are not permissible at this time, so make sure that it is for essential travel. On a bus, windows are supposed to be open, so make sure that the van has the same capabilities, too. If the van only has a roof that can be opened, that is not adequate ventilation.
Are there any updates on youth sports?
On December 14th the CDPH released Updated Sports Guidance. For San Diego County, given that we are under the Regional Stay at Home Order, the extent to which we can conduct youth and adult sporting activities is as follows:
- Physical conditioning, practice, skill-building, and training that can be conducted outdoors, with 6 feet of physical distancing, and within stable cohorts are authorized regardless of county tier status. Such activities may be conducted indoors consistent with restrictions by Tier in the Gym & Fitness Center Guidance Capacity.
- In counties under the Regional Stay at Home Order, only activities consistent with the bullet immediately above are permitted, regardless of the county's tier status.
Are drive-thru and drive-in events still allowed under the Regional Stay
at Home order?
Yes, drive-thru, drive-in, and reverse parade activities are still permitted. These activities still require a safe reopening plan that describes how they will follow all proper procedures.
Are playgrounds at schools allowed to be open during the Regional Stay
at Home Order?
According to CDPH, playgrounds may remain open to facilitate physically distanced personal health and wellness through outdoor exercise. Playgrounds located on schools that remain open for in-person instruction, and not accessible by the general public, may remain open and must follow guidance for schools and school-based programs.
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.
Is there a timeline for when educators will receive the vaccine?
There is no date in terms of when educators will be eligible for the vaccine, but we know the order in which individuals will receive the vaccine. Phase 1a is all hospital staff, clinic staff, and assisted living staff and residents. Phase 1b would be for "essential workers," which includes teachers and school staff.
For additional questions and resources, please email: COVID-Education@sdcounty.ca.gov