FAQs for Teachers and School Admins
The frequently asked questions below pertain to common concerns for teachers and school administrators about how to handle COVID-19 related issues for students and staff. These were compiled by the Kent County Health Department using Centers for Disease Control guidelines which are linked where appropriate.
1. What is the difference between isolation and quarantine?
Isolation is for people who are COVID positive. It separates people who are infected with the virus from people who are not infected. It usually lasts 10 days.
Quarantine is for people who are well but are exposed to someone who is COVID positive. It keeps someone who might have be infected with the virus away from others. It lasts 14 days since the last possible exposure.
2. How long must a teacher or staff person be out of school if they test positive for COVID-19?
A teacher or staff person that tests positive for COVID-19 should isolate at home. The teacher or staff person may return to school after 3 days with no fever and respiratory symptoms have improved (e.g. cough, shortness of breath) and 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.
CDC Guidelines - When You Can be Around Others After You Had or Likely Had COVID-19
3. How long must a student, teacher or staff person be out of school if they have a family member in the same house as them that tests positive for COVID-19?
A student, teacher or staff person that lives in the same house as someone who tests positive for COVID-19 must remain out of school the entire time the family member is in isolation (typically 10 days) plus 14 additional days of quarantine. The total time out of school would be at least 24 days.
CDC Guidlines - Quarantine if you might be sick
4. If a person tests positive but does not have symptoms, can they work from home?
Yes, if the school has a system in place for working from home this is encouraged. An employee with mild symptoms should be able to work from home as well.
5. If a teacher or staff member has a household member that tests positive but does not have symptoms, can the teacher or staff member come to work anyway and monitor for symptoms?
No, asymptomatic people who test positive can still spread the virus. A teacher or staff member that has a household member that tests positive and is considered a close contact must quarantine during the household member's isolation period and 14 days after the isolation period ends.
6. Must we close a classroom if a person with COVID-19 attended class in that classroom? If so, for how long?
Yes, the classroom should be closed, cleaned and disinfected. It is recommended to close off the area for at least 24 hours. If that is not feasible, wait as long as possible and then clean and disinfect the classroom following CDC guidance.
CDC Guidelines - Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility
7. If a teacher or staff person was in a classroom full of children, and that teacher later finds out that they have COVID-19 while they were in the classroom, must all the class be quarantined, or only those children who were within 6 feet of the teacher for 15 minutes or more?
The entire class must be quarantined and monitor for COVID-19-related symptoms.
8. If the teacher was wearing a cloth mask in the classroom, and that teacher later finds out that they have COVID-19 while they were in the classroom, do the children still have to be quarantined?
Yes, the children who were in the classroom are still considered close contacts and must quarantine for 14 days and monitor for symptoms.
9. Does a sibling of a child in quarantine have to be quarantined?
No, if the sibling was not a direct contact of a person who tested positive for COVID-19, then they should monitor for symptoms and can continue attending school.
10. If a student has an illness that is not COVID-19, like a cold, does that child still have to be out of school until they are 72 hours fever free?
If the student is experiencing any COVID-19-related symptoms, they might have COVID-19 and they should not attend school. They should contact their regular medical provider and get tested for COVID-19.
If they test negative for COVID-19, then they can return after 24 hours.
CDC Guidelines - What to Do If You Are Sick
11. Does the school have to inform the families of students when a child is excluded from school because of COVID-19, or does the Health Department do that?
The school is responsible for communication to families of students. However, the Health Department can provide guidance as needed.
12. How many children have to be sick with COVID-19 before a school closes?
The Health Department will work closely with School Administration recognizing there are many factors to be considered when closing a school.
13. Does a teacher, staff person, or student have to retest for COVID-19 after testing positive before they are allowed back to school?
No, the teacher, staff person or student who tested positive can return to school after 3 days with no fever and respiratory symptoms have improved (e.g. cough, shortness of breath) and 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.
The health department does not recommend a retest. Sometimes a person will continue to test positive even though they are no longer infectious.
14. How can we know when a person is no longer infectious?
The general timeline is 10 days since symptoms first appeared.
15. If a student changes classes and is with many different students during the day rather than just one classroom of students, and that student tests positive, do all those students have to quarantine?
Yes, this is one reason it is wise to keep students in small cohorts.
16. Should all students get tested for COVID-19 prior to starting school?
No, the COVID-19 test only indicates the presence of the virus the moment the test is taken.
17. If a student teacher or staff are told they are a close contact of a positive case and they get a COVID-19 test that is negative are they released from quarantine?
No, a person can become COVID-19 positive any time during quarantine (the 14 days after the exposure).
18. Should students get an anti-body test to prove that they have already had COVID-19 and thus do not need to quarantine if they are exposed again?
No, students who have already tested positive for COVID-19 will need to quarantine again. We are still learning about the virus and there is a possibility of reinfection.
CDC Guidelines - Quarantine If You Might Be Sick
19. If a student or teacher already had a proven case of COVID-19 and then has an exposure in school, do they have to quarantine anyway?
Yes, students or teachers with proven cases of COVID-19 will still need to quarantine. We are still learning about the virus and there is a possibility of reinfection.
20. Does the school have to tell families which child tested positive for COVID-19? Isn’t that a violation of HIPAA?
The identity of the child or teacher should be protected as much as possible. Close contacts will be contacted and only given information related to their exposure. The name of the COVID-19 student or teacher will be shared on a need to know basis only.
21. Will children who are at the highest risk for complications, such as children with severe respiratory problems, be required to stay out of the school classroom until this pandemic is over?
The decision to send a child to school or not will be made jointly by the parent and school with guidance from the child’s medical provider.
22. What if a staff member/student goes out of state?
There are no current restrictions for staff members or students who travel out of state. However, everyone should assume COVID-19 exposure and monitor for symptoms.
23. Are face shields acceptable alternatives to masks?
No, the CDC does not recommend the use of face shields as a substitute for clothing face coverings. However, a face shield that covers the eyes, nose and mouth can be worn in addition to a cloth mask if desired. Moreover, a face shield may be worn by younger children who are not required to wear a cloth face mask.
24. If a building is K-8 or 5-6, or otherwise serves students in grades PK-5 and 6 and higher, can the school choose to do strict cohorting and therefore not require facial coverings for student?
25. Does the Governor’s Executive Order No. 2020-153 apply to schools?
No, schools are not considered public spaces.
26. How should masks be stored when they are not in use?
For children in preK-5th can remove their masks once they are settled into their classroom per the Michigan 2020-21 Return to School Roadmap. It is recommended that children be give a brown paper lunch bag with their name written boldly across the front. Children should take off their mask and place it in the lunch bag when it is not in use. It is not recommended to use plastic bags as the masks may be moist from the child’s breath and the plastic promotes bacterial/viral growth.
27. What does the Health Department recommend for the cleaning of desks in between class periods?
As required in the Michigan 2020-21 Return to School Roadmap, student desks must be wiped down after each class period (page 27 of Michigan 2020-21 Return to School Roadmap).
If the students are older (middle school and up) we recommend that the students themselves wipe down their desk using an EPA-approved agent and follow the labeled instructions. If the instructions do not require the use of gloves, then no gloves should be required. Each student can have one towel or wipe, do the wipe down, and throw the wipe or towel out on their way out of the room. With smaller children, an adult would have to rapidly do the cleaning in between classes.
28. Are there special considerations for center-based students regarding mask requirements?
Yes, the decision of whether a student at a center-based school will be required to wear a mask will be made by the students’ physician, family and school personnel.
29. What should bus drivers do if wearing a mask causes their glasses to fog up?
Bus drivers should wear a mask anytime a student is getting on or off the bus. Once the students are seated and the driver begins to drive the bus driver may lower the mask to prevent their glasses from becoming foggy. Bus drivers must not wear a face shield because it alters their ability to see. Bus companies should consider placing a plexiglass barrier between the driver and the students.
30. If children ride a bus together and one is found to be COVID positive will every child on the bus have to quarantine?
No, not necessarily. The KCHD recommends that students be given assigned seats on buses. should a student become COVID positive, only the other students that sat close to this student would need to quarantine. The best way to know who is contact is through assigned seating. An additional safety measure is that students should be spread out on the bus as much as possible.
31. What special precautions should be taken for music and band classes?
Special precautions should be taken including social distancing and smaller cohorts. For more guidance see page 20 of the Toolkit.