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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  • 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?

    Review the CDPH Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings, which applies to all settings, including schools. For more information, visit the CDPH Face Covering Q&A Page

  • 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. 

  • Do you recommend requiring volunteers to be vaccinated?

    The CDPH Guidance states that “Schools should limit nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving external groups or organizations with people who are not fully vaccinated, particularly in areas where there is moderate-to-high COVID-19 community transmission.” It is recommended that all eligible individuals get vaccinated. Anyone involved with K-12 schools (volunteers, contract workers, etc.) should consider being vaccinated. Cal/OSHA Emergency Temporary Standards do not specifically address volunteers. It is recommended that a school contact their HR department. 

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.

  • 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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School-Based Programs

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Cleaning and Hygiene II

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Quarantine and Isolation

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PPE and Face Coverings

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School-Based Operations

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  • Do students need to remain in cohorts?

    They do not. However, maintaining cohorts and/or stable groups is a best practice and a strong component of a layered mitigation approach. Stable groups help minimize spread and facilitate contact tracing. This also reduces the number of students that may be required to quarantine. 

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. 


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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: