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Schools And COVID-19 Procedures

Each school (public and private) was required to submit a COVID-19 prevention plan that Public Health reviewed. Schools also have a COVID-19 response team or staff member trained to coordinate with public health in the event of a positive case or an outbreak at the school.

Currently, Public Health officials are asking the community to work with them to slow the spread of COVID-19 by wearing your mask, washing your hands, minimize mixing, and keeping 6 feet of distance between yourself and those outside of your household. In November there has been an uptick in cases with several cases identified in staff members and students. On November 17 Public health officials stated “Many of the cases we have had here in Tuolumne County can be traced back to gatherings such as parties.” Clarke Broadcasting continues to provide daily updates from public health.

What Schools are doing:

School administrators continue to maintain communications with public health to receive updates on the situation in the community and be prepared with their school closing and reopening plans. Tuolumne County has 11 individual school districts with boards, in addition to the Superintendent of Schools Office, and each jurisdiction made its own decisions and plans within the State’s guidance with consideration of each site’s students’ needs, infrastructure (space, air handling systems, for example) and ability to control/monitor outbreaks. Students are wearing face coverings, practicing physical distancing including staying at least 6 feet apart, and are encouraged to stay home when they have symptoms. Specific questions regarding schools can be directed to each school district.

The state of California’s most recent guidance for schools details the criteria for closing a school. “Individual school closure is recommended based on the number of cases, the percentage of the teacher/students/staff that are positive for COVID-19, and following consultation with the Local Health Officer. Individual school closure may be appropriate when there are multiple cases in multiple cohorts at a school or when at least 5 percent of the total number of teachers/student/staff are cases within a 14-day period, depending on the size and physical layout of the school.

The Framework for K-12 Schools in California (PDF) outlines standards for when schools should open and close for in-person instruction. Within those standards as listed below, local public health and school officials should collaborate to make decisions tailored to the circumstances and needs of the community.

Student or Staff with: Action Communication
COVID-19 Symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, loss of taste or smell, difficulty breathing)
Symptom Screening:
Per CA School Sector Specific Guidelines
  • Send home
  • Recommend testing (If positive, see #3, if negative, see #4)
  • School/classroom remain open
No Action needed
Close contact (†) with a confirmed COVID19 case
  • Send home
  • Quarantine for 14 days from last exposure
  • Recommend testing (but will not shorten 14-
    day quarantine)
  • School/classroom remain open
Consider school community notification of a known contact
Confirmed COVID-19 case infection
  • Notify the local public health department
  • Isolate case and exclude from school for 10
    days from symptom onset or test date
  • Identify contacts (†), quarantine & exclude exposed contacts (likely entire cohort (††)) for 14 days after the last date the case was present at school while infectious
  • Recommend testing of contacts, prioritize symptomatic contacts (but will not shorten 14-day quarantine)
  • Disinfection and cleaning of classroom and primary spaces where case spent significant time
  • School remains open
School community notification of a known case
Tests negative after symptoms
  • May return to school 3 days after symptoms resolve
  • School/classroom remain open
Consider school community notification if prior awareness of testing

(†) A contact is defined as a person who is <6 feet from a case for >15 minutes.
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
(††) 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.

The California Department of Public Health says the Local Health Officer may also determine school closure is warranted for other reasons, including results from public health investigation or other local epidemiological data.

If a school is closed for in-person learning, when may it reopen?

Schools may typically reopen after 14 days and the following have occurred:

  • Cleaning and disinfection
  • Public health investigation
  • Consultation with the local public health department

Teachers, support staff, and administrators are allowed to return to work physically without students on-site while counties are on the monitoring list.

The adults on-site should engage in physical distancing and wear face coverings. School administrators should also consider the precautions outlined in the guidance on office workspaces (PDF).

Tuolumne County’s guidance for reopening schools was also detailed here.