Frequently Asked Questions About Our Return To School

Frequently Asked Questions About Our Return To School

Wondering what lunch hour will look like with COVID-19 precautions, or what the plan for school sports and performances is? We have answers!

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Are masks required?

As of Aug. 23, 2021, the state Department of Health (DOH) requires all individuals in indoor public settings to wear a cloth face covering. According to DOH, a cloth face covering is fabric that covers the nose and mouth. It can be:

  • A sewn mask secured with ties or straps around the head or behind the ears.
  • Multiple layers of fabric tied around a person’s head.
  • Made from a variety of materials, such as fleece, cotton, or linen.
  • Factory-made or made from household solid fabric

Parents will need to provide students with face coverings upon returning to school. A clear face shield with a drape is an accepted alternative to a cloth or surgical face mask in schools and on school buses.

Will students have to wear a mask during recess?

Masks are not required when outdoors on school grounds. This includes recess, outdoor physical education classes, marching band activities and athletic practices.

What happens if my child tests positive for COVID-19 or is showing symptoms?

If a student has tested positive for COVID-19, their parent/guardian must contact their school to notify them and keep the student home. They may return to school when they can meet the following:

  • 10 days since symptom onset, or since positive test date if no symptoms are present (up to 20 days for those for those who are severely ill or severely immunocompromised), AND
  • 24 hours after fever resolves without use of fever-reducing medications, AND
  • Symptoms have improved

If the student is showing symptoms of COVID-19 but tests negative for COVID-19, the student should stay home until 24 hours after their symptoms improve and fever resolves without the use of fever-reducing medications.

What happens if a student my child sits next to tests positive for COVID-19 or is showing symptoms? Will they have to quarantine even if they have no symptoms?

Students who were a minimum of three feet from a positive case and wearing a face covering OR are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 OR had confirmed COVID-19 in the past three months, have recovered and do not have symptoms will not have to quarantine unless they show symptoms.

Students who do not show symptoms and were within three feet of a positive case while not wearing a face mask and are unvaccinated will quarantine for a minimum of seven days beginning after the last close contact if no symptoms have developed and after receiving a negative test result. The test should occur no sooner than 48 hours (2 days) before ending quarantine. Those students and their families will need to continue monitoring for symptoms until day 14.

Will there be COVID-19 testing in schools?

Schools will have COVID-19 tests available for students. These will be the BinaxNOW rapid test, which provides results in 15 minutes, is self-administered and painless. Students will use a Q-tip-like swab and swirl it around the inside of each nostril. A school staff member will watch to ensure proper technique. The swab is then placed in a small tester, reagent applied, and results will be read in 15 minutes.

Testing is voluntary and tests will not be administered on students without prior parent/guardian notification and proper consent from the parent or legal guardians. To help facilitate the testing, families will receive a copy of the COVID-19 Testing Consent Form either sent home with their student in the first days of school or as part of parent connect conferences, so it can be returned to the school if the parents want their student to be tested if needed. Completed consent forms will be kept in the health room. Consent will be valid for the 2021-22 school year and can be revoked at any time.

If a student is feeling ill at school and has COVID-19-like symptoms, health staff will verify the student has written consent on file and make efforts to contact families before administering a rapid test. If a student does not have a written consent on file, a parent will be contacted to ask if they would still like to have their child tested. If yes, two school staff members must witness the verbal consent before the test is administered.

Participating in COVID-19 testing at school may allow a student to stay in school rather than go home. Students who are close contacts but show no symptoms or that have mild symptoms and feel well enough to stay at school will be allowed to stay if their test results are negative for COVID-19.

Regardless of test result, students who have a temperature greater than 100 degrees or severe COVID-like symptoms will need to go home and return according to current guidance.

School nurses and health aides are available to help families determine if their children are well enough to come to school. 

Will there be school open houses?

As of Sept. 7, all open house events are canceled due to elevated COVID-19 cases in the community. Schools will communicate with families in the future if they are able to reschedule their events.

What will morning routines at schools look like, such as line up at elementary schools?

Student supervision begins 15 minutes before the start of the school day and schools will use their own procedures while following COVID-19 safety protocols and state requirements.

Will middle and high school students have access to lockers?

Lockers will not be assigned at the start of the school year due to physical distancing requirements. A student may request a locker assignment from the school office if they need one and administrators will review how the student can access one safely during the school day. Locker rooms will not be used at middles as those students will not be changing into athletic clothing for physical education classes, though students who are at school in formal attire will be able to change their clothes as needed.

What will classrooms be like?

Schools will maximize spacing in classrooms to the highest extent possible to meet the recommended 3-foot physical distancing. Students will be able to share tables and face each other as long as they are wearing a face covering. Classroom materials, such as art supplies or lab equipment, may also be shared between students. Students will be required to wipe down their seating area when first arriving in the classroom.

What will lunch hour look like?

Partitions and spacing will be used in elementary school lunchrooms, while students in middle and high school lunchrooms will be required to sit six feet apart while eating. Indoor seating will all face the same direction and students will be directed to wipe down their space after eating. Outdoor seating will be used as much as possible to provide as much space for students to spread out. High schools will continue to have open campus during lunch periods.

What will physical distancing and capacity limits look like in common areas such as hallways and bathrooms?

Schools will implement procedures to encourage distancing, such as staff always walking to the right in hallways, as well as have staff supervision during passing periods. Capacity limits have been lifted for restrooms though middle and high schools will continue to use the SmartPass system to track their use for contact tracing purposes. Drinking fountains will be open for use though students are free to continue using their own water bottles while at school.

Will students be able to use the school library?

School libraries will be open and will follow COVID-19 safety protocols.

What will a music class look like? Will there be performances?

State health officials have specified how schools can conduct music classes and performances while following COVID-19 safety protocols. Students will maintain a minimum of three feet distancing and use required personal protective equipment such as special face masks when singing and instrument bell covers when using wind instruments. Students playing wind instruments will be required to replace their face covering when not playing. Protocols such as face masks and physical distancing between groups will be required for performances.

What about athletic practices and competitions?

Middle and high school sports will return to their traditional season format for the 2021-22 school year. State health officials have set what protocols and precautions must be in place when students are participating in athletic practices, conditioning or competitions. These protocols and precautions are dependent upon the specific sport, the space being used during the activity and whether the student is actively playing or on the sideline or bench. Regular COVID-19 testing will be required for student-athletes participating in wrestling or basketball. Spectators will be permitted at athletic competitions with no capacity limits though will be required to follow other COVID-19 protocols and precautions such as face coverings and physical distancing.

What about school-wide events, such as assemblies and social events?

Educational assemblies and back-to-school orientation events are permitted with physical distancing between attendees when indoors. School social events are also permitted with COVID-19 safety protocols in place.

Will students be able to go on field trips?

Field trips will be permitted. Students must wear face coverings while being transported and follow the masking requirements of the trip’s destination.

Will visitors and volunteers be allowed in schools?

Visitors and volunteers will be allowed in schools. They will be required to sign in and wear a face covering while inside any school building. Volunteers will be required to complete the district’s volunteer registration process and either provide documentation of their COVID-19 vaccination or file a vaccination exemption before volunteering in schools.

What if my student has a medical condition or physical, behavioral or cognitive disability that makes them unable to wear a face mask?

DOH has laid out limited exceptions to the face covering requirement for individuals with a medical condition or disability that prevents them from wearing a face-covering.

Any child wanting to be considered for a face mask waiver must submit a COVID-19 Face Mask/Cloth Face Covering Waiver Request to their child’s school. Students will be required to wear a cloth face covering or clear face shield with a drape in schools and on school buses until a requested waiver is granted.

If a parent/guardian believes their student’s disability impacts their ability to wear a face covering, they are encouraged to reach out to their current Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 team.

Precautions will be taken to ensure the safety of other students and staff if a student is identified as needing an accommodation related to COVID-19 face covering requirements. If certain medical conditions are severe enough that neither a cloth face covering nor a plastic face shield with a drape is not able to be worn, school and district staff will determine appropriate placement and programming options.

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