CDC FAQs: K-12 Schools and Childcare Programs (COVID-19)
Planning and Preparedness
What actions should school and childcare program administrators take to plan for an outbreak?
Administrators of childcare programs and K-12 schools should take the following actions to plan and prepare for COVID-19:
- Review, update, and implement school emergency operation plans, particularly for infectious disease outbreaks.
- Emphasize actions for students and staff to take such as staying home when sick; appropriately covering coughs and sneezes; and washing hands often.
- Cleaning frequently touched surfaces.
- Monitor and plan for absenteeism.
- Review the usual absenteeism patterns at your school among both students and staff.
- Review attendance and sick leave policies. Encourage students and staff to stay home when sick. Use flexibility, when possible, to allow staff to stay home to care for sick family members.
- Alert local health officials about increases in absences, particularly those that appear due to respiratory illnesses.
- Monitor and plan for addressing fear and bullying related to COVID-19.
- Communicate early and repeatedly with parents directly what the policies and procedures will be to allow parents to assure proper guardianship and care of children.
What actions can staff and students take to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in my school/childcare program?
Encourage students and staff to take everyday preventive actions to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses, such as staying home when sick; appropriately covering coughs and sneezes; cleaning frequently touched surfaces; and washing hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty. Remember to supervise young children when they use hand sanitizer to prevent swallowing alcohol, especially in childcare facilities.
What steps should my school take if a student or staff member shows symptoms of COVID-19?
You should establish procedures to ensure students and staff who become sick at school or who arrive at school sick are sent home as soon as possible. Keep sick students and staff separate from well students and staff until sick students and staff can be sent home.
Should my school screen students for cases of COVID-19?
Schools and childcare programs are not expected to screen children, students, or staff to identify cases of COVID-19. The majority of respiratory illnesses are not COVID-19. If a community or school has cases of COVID-19, local health officials will help identify those individuals and will follow up on next steps.
What environmental cleaning procedures should my school take to keep staff and students healthy?
Perform routine environmental cleaning. Routinely clean frequently touched surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, light switches, countertops) with cleaners that you typically use. Use all cleaning products according to the directions on the label. Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (e.g., keyboards, desks, remote controls) can be wiped down by students and staff before each use.
What resources does CDC have available to share with staff, students, and parents?
Share resources with the school community to help them understand COVID-19 and steps they can take to protect themselves:
- CDC’s health communication resources
- CDC information on stigma and COVID-19
- CDC information on COVID-19 and children
- CDC offers several free handwashing resources that include health promotion materials, information on proper handwashing technique, and tips for families to help children develop good handwashing habits.
- Other health and education professional organizations may also have helpful resources your school can use or share, such as the American Academy of Pediatricsexternal icon
- CDC’s information on helping children cope with emergencies
- Stigma prevention and facts about COVID-19
Responding to confirmed COVID-19 cases
What actions should my school take if a sick student or staff member attended school before being confirmed as a COVID-19 case?
- Local health officials may recommend temporary school dismissals. Local health officials’ recommendations for the scope (e.g., a single school, a full district) and duration of school dismissals will be made on a case-by-case basis based on the most up-to-date information about COVID-19 and the specific cases in the impacted community. Dismissals may be 14 days or longer, depending on the situation in your community.
- Schools should work with the local health department and other relevant leadership to communicate the possible COVID-19 exposure to the school community. This communication to the school community should align with the communication plan in the school’s emergency operations plan. In such a circumstance, it is critical to maintain confidentiality of the student or staff member as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.
- If a child or staff member has been identified with COVID-19, school and program administrators should seek guidance from local health officials to determine when students and staff should return to schools and what additional steps are needed for the school community. In addition, students and staff who are well but are taking care of or share a home with someone with a case of COVID-19 should follow instructions from local health officials to determine when to return to school.
What should I do if my school experiences increased rates of absenteeism?
If your school notices a substantial increase in the number of students or staff missing school due to illness, report this to your local health officials.
Should I close our school/childcare program if there’s been COVID-19 cases in my school?
You may need to use temporary school dismissals of 14 days, or possibly longer, if a student or staff member attended school before being confirmed as having COVID-19. Any decision about school dismissal or cancellation of school events should be made in coordination with your local health officials. Schools are not expected to make decisions about dismissal and event cancellation independent of their local health officials. Dismissal and event cancellation decisions should be considered on a case-by-case basis using information from health officials about the local conditions.
If our school is dismissed, how long should we dismiss school for?
The length (duration), geographic scope, and public health objective of school dismissals may be reassessed and changed as the local outbreak situation evolves. At this time, the recommendation is for at least 14 days. This recommendation may be updated as the situation evolves.
Are there ways for students to keep learning if we decide to dismiss schools?
Yes, many schools may use e-learning plans and distance learning options for continuity of education, if available. Your school or district’s emergency operations plan should have recommended strategies for ensuring continuity of education and may provide guidance on how to proceed during a school dismissal. In addition, you may be able to use and/or scale up approaches used in other situations when students have not been able to attend school (e.g. inclement weather, facility damage, power outages).
If I make the decision for a school dismissal, what else should I consider?
In the event of a school dismissal, extracurricular group activities and large events, such as performances, field trips, and sporting events should also be cancelled. This may require close coordination with other partners and organizations (e.g., high school athletics associations, music associations). In addition, discourage students and staff from gathering or socializing anywhere, like at a friend’s house, a favorite restaurant, or the local shopping mall.
Ensure continuity of meal programs for your students. Consider ways to distribute food to students who receive free or reduced cost meals. Check with the US Department of Agriculture – Food and Nutrition Service for additional information: https://www.fns.usda.gov/disaster/USDAfoodsPandemicSchools.external icon If there is community spread of COVID-19, design strategies to avoid distribution in settings where people might gather in a group or crowd. Consider options such as “grab-and-go” bagged lunches or meal delivery.
Consider alternatives for providing essential medical and social services for students. Continue providing necessary services for children with special healthcare needs, or work with the state Title V Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs (CYSHCN) Program.
If we dismiss school, what do we need to consider when re-opening the building to students?
CDC is currently working on additional guidance to help schools determine when and how to re-open their buildings to students. If you need immediate assistance with this, consult local health officials for guidance.
What should we do if a child, student, or staff member has recently traveled to an area with COVID-19 or has a family member who has traveled to an area with COVID-19?
Review updated CDC information for travelers, including FAQ for travelers, and consult with state and local health officials. Health officials may use CDC’s Interim US Guidance for Risk Assessment and Public Health Management of Persons with Potential Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Exposure in Travel-associated or Community Settings to make recommendations. Individuals returning from travel to areas with community spread of COVID-19 must follow guidance they have received from health officials.
SOURCE: “COVID-19: K-12 Schools and Childcare Programs.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4 Mar. 2020, www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/schools-faq.html