- New! SY21-22
- Health & Safety
COVID-19 Response Protocol FAQ
Through the DCPS COVID-19 Response Protocol, every staff member will be trained to confidentially report potential exposure in a school building. If there are any confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported to DCPS by a student, family, or staff member — DCPS will follow DC Health’s COVID reporting criteria — for contact tracing purposes.
Please use this list of frequently asked questions to help you better understand what happens when there is a positive reported case of COVID-19 at school.
Notices of reported positive cases will be shared with a school community if a person has been in the building during their infectious period. Note that DCPS will always maintain confidentiality of positive persons.
View sample messages alerting a school community of a reported positive case and close contact instructions for students and staff.
- Sample community notice of a reported case at school
- Sample staff close contact quarantine instructions
- Sample student close contact quarantine instructions
COVID-19 Response Town Halls
The next tele-town hall is on Wednesday, October 20 at 5:00 p.m.
Frequently Asked Questions
If a student or staff member who was in the building during their infectious period and reports a positive test for COVID-19, schools will follow the health and safety guidance released by DC Health.
The positive individual will immediately begin working or learning from home and consult their healthcare provider, and DCPS will begin a contact tracing investigation. We will provide self-quarantine instructions to close contacts, notify the school community about the reported positive case if the person was in the building during their infectious period, and follow steps outlined by DC Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing of school spaces.
Based on the updated guidance from DC Health, a person in a school setting is considered a close contact if they are within 6 feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes within a 24-hour window within 2 days prior to illness onset or positive test result.
Please note that students who are within 3 to 6 feet of another student for longer than 15 minutes are not considered a close contact if all students are consistently wearing well-fitting masks and other mitigating factors that part of DCPS’ health and safety measures are in place (physical distancing, increased ventilation, etc.). Assigned seating will be utilized in classrooms where students may be seated within 3 feet of each other to assist with contact tracing.
As of August 27, students will now be automatically enrolled in the testing program which supports asymptomatic testing, symptomatic testing and testing for close contacts. Testing programs that screen for COVID-19, alongside other prevention strategies, can detect new positive cases of COVID-19 and work to prevent potential outbreaks. This not only protects the health and wellness of our school communities but supports schools to remain open for in-person instruction safely.
The test will be a non-invasive, saliva-based PCR test. Instead of a nasal swab, students will hold a small vial with a funnel attached and produce a saliva sample.
1. Asymptomatic Testing — DCPS will test 10 percent of students each week to screen for COVID-19 as part of our health and safety protocols, targeting unvaccinated students. Families will receive more information from their school and DC Health on how to receive their asymptomatic test results and how to keep their household safe if a student tests positive. Asymptomatic testing will begin on a rolling basis at schools starting September 2, 2021.
2. Symptomatic Testing — Will take place in a school’s Health Isolation Room is intended for students displaying any red flag symptoms or at least two other COVID-19 symptoms while at school. This service is available daily.
This transition from an opt-in COVID-19 testing model to an opt-out model does not affect a parent’s rights concerning their student’s participation. To opt-out, parents/guardians or students over the age of 18 will now need to email or provide their schools with a signed opt-out form available at osse.dc.gov/page/school-based-covid-19-testing. On the form, the District is providing detailed information on the testing program so that parents can make an informed decision whether to affirmatively opt out of the program.
Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 should not attend school and should isolate for at least 10 days and show improvement of symptoms, including no fever for 24 hours. Please report the positive result to your school, so the school can work with contact tracers begin their investigation and determine next steps for notifying close contacts for this case.
A contact tracer will interview the individual who reported a positive test to identify other close contacts outside of the school; reach out to all quarantined contacts to provide information on the precautions to follow while in quarantine; and assist individuals in obtaining resources they may need during their quarantine period.
After the quarantine period is concluded, DCPS requires students meet symptom-based criteria to return, have documentation from a healthcare provider or contact tracing force confirming that the student has met criteria to return after illness.
If symptomatic, a student may return only after:
1. At least 24 hours after the fever has resolved without the use of fever-reducing medication (e.g., Motrin, Tylenol) and respiratory symptoms have improved; AND
2. At least 10 days* after symptoms first appeared, whichever is later
*Note: Some individuals, including those with severe illness, may have longer quarantine periods per DC Health or their healthcare provider.
If asymptomatic, a student may return only after 10 days from the date of a positive test.
If your student is identified as a close contact for a reported positive case at school, your principal will provide instructions to quarantine.
If an unvaccinated student or staff member is a close contact to someone who tests positive for COVID-19, they will be required to quarantine for at least 7 days. Students or staff may return to the classroom after 7 days if they take a COVID-19 test on or after day 5 and receive a negative result. Unvaccinated students or staff who do not take a test must quarantine for 10 days.
Vaccinated students and staff who are in close contact to someone who tests positive for COVID-19 do not need to quarantine if they are not showing symptoms but are recommended to take a test between 3 and 5 days after they are exposed.
If a teacher is unable to provide in-person instruction, DCPS will first employ substitutes to continue in-person learning for the class.
Students who are required to quarantine will be provided with a DCPS device for learning at home. Course content will be available via Canvas for students learning at home. Instruction may be fully virtual, a mix of simultaneous in-person and virtual instruction, or self-guided, depending upon the number of students quarantining and the availability of the teacher. Families will be informed by their school about when and how virtual instruction will be provided.
For students who are required to quarantine but not at the direction of DCPS (e.g., because a family member tested positive for COVID-19 and they were contacted by a contact tracer), the parent/guardian must provide written documentation of the quarantine. The written note must include the date of COVID-19 exposure; the length of time the student has been directed to quarantine by a medical professional or contact tracer; and the name, organization, and contact information of the medical professional or contract tracer.
Please note, students required to quarantine at the direction of DCPS (e.g., because a teacher tested positive for COVID-19) do not need to provide documentation.
Per Mayor’s Order 2021-099, DCPS staff and school contractors are required to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination by September 19, 2021. Any individual staff person who has a religious or medical exemption to the vaccine will be required to take a weekly COVID-19 test.
All students 12 and older are also highly encouraged to get vaccinated, but it is not a requirement to attend school. DC residents can visit vaccinate.dc.gov to find a free school clinic or public vaccination site near them.
A Patient Care Technician at the school will escort the student to the Health Isolation Room (HIR). This is a safe identified space within the school building that will keep symptomatic individuals with potential COVID-19 symptoms separate from other people while they receive medical support, including COVID-19 testing, and await pick-up. Once a parent or guardian arrives, the student will be escorted to the entrance to go home or to a health care facility, depending on the severity of symptoms.
DC Health recommends that students should get tested for COVID-19 if anyone in their household has symptoms of COVID-19, even if the student does not have symptoms. All members of the household should be tested at the same time.
Page updated: October 8, 2021