Reopen header
  •  

    Updated May 14, 2021

     

    GCS School Re-Entry FAQs 

     

    Q. When will GCS reopen for students whose parents/guardians want them to attend class in-person?

    A. GCS began the reopening process on September 29, 2020. More than 47,800 students are currently learning in person. The district updated its re-entry schedule on April 7, 2021, moving middle and high school students from two days of in-person instruction to five days of in-person instruction.Click here for more details.

     

    Health and Safety Precautions

     

    Q. Why can more middle and high school students now learn in person?

    A. When the Centers for Disease Control and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reduced social distancing requirements in classrooms and on school buses, GCS was able to respond accordingly.

     

    Q. Why did GCS change its health protocols (e.g. stop taking student temperatures and collecting health attestations?)

    A. The NCDHHS no longer recommends that schools take student temperatures and health attestations.


    The StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit states: “NCDHHS does not recommend daily COVID-19 symptom screening for all students at school entry; Schools should follow their typical procedures for exclusion as they would for any type of illness if a child is symptomatic at school.”

     Please note that pre-kindergarten classes will continue the daily attestation questions but will discontinue the temperature screenings, in keeping with childcare guidance from NCDHHS and the Guilford County Public Health Department.

     The NCDHHS says that schools/school districts may consider continuing the practice for adults.

     The StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit advises districts to “consider conducting daily COVID-19 symptom and temperature screening and exclusion of any adults entering the building, including teachers, staff, and other visitors.”

     

    Q. What other steps are being taken to keep students and staff healthy and safe?

    A. We emphasize the importance of the 3 W’s: wear, wait and wash. That means wear a cloth face covering or mask, wait six feet apart to maintain social distance when not in class and avoid close contact with others, and wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Of these requirements, numerous studies have found that masking and handwashing are the most important.

    • With masking requirements in place, the CDC and the NCDHHS now say that schools can place students three feet apart when desks are facing in the same direction. GCS has spaced desks accordingly as middle and high school students who have been learning in person this semester start attending school five days per week on April 19.
    • The StrongSchools NC Public Health Toolkit states: “The CDC recommends a minimum of three feet of distance between K-12 students in communities with low, moderate, and substantial levels of transmission. In areas of high community transmission, the CDC recommends a minimum of three feet physical distance for elementary school students and middle and high school students, if cohorting is possible. In areas of high community transmission, the CDC recommends that middle and high school students be six feet apart, if cohorting is not possible.”
    • All buildings are cleaned and disinfected for in-person instruction each day. Health protocols and procedures were implemented for food prep and meal distribution as well as for bus drivers regarding student and staff masking requirements, vehicle cleaning, revised social distancing protocols, and other procedures.  
    • Students are encouraged to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds throughout the day, including specified hand washing breaks during the school day. Classrooms without a handwashing sink have hand sanitizer available.
    • Where possible, hallways are designated as one-way, with directional reminders posted on walls and/or floors. Signs also remind individuals to wear their face coverings/masks, practice good hygiene and respiratory etiquette and maintain three to six feet from other individuals, where appropriate.
    • In addition, class transitions are staggered when possible to limit density in hallways. Students stay in groups/grade levels when possible, particularly at the elementary and middle school levels.

     

    Transportation and School Nutrition

     

    Q. What protocols are in place for bus riders?

    A. Students on school buses are asked to practice appropriate health protocols, including wearing face coverings/masks, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette. Parents should remind all students to practice social distancing of six feet or more at school bus stops. Face coverings/masks should be worn at bus stops and on the bus. Drivers have masks available for students who need one. In keeping with the updated guidance from the CDC and the state public health department, all students can now be seated two to a bench seat on school buses. For more details, click here.

    While transportation will be provided for all students who need it, we ask parents to consider bringing their children to school or having their children walk or ride their bikes when possible.

     

    Q. Why did school schedules change earlier this school year?

    A. Bell schedules were adjusted slightly earlier this school year at all three levels to allow time for bus travel. The elementary school day is from 7:35 a.m. to 2:05 p.m.; the middle school day is from 8:35 a.m. to 3:25 p.m., and the high school day is from 9:35 a.m. to 4:25 p.m. Click here for a full schedule.  

     

    Q. How will mealtimes be handled? 

    A. Students will eat in classrooms to limit student movement and enforce masking and other health protocols. All meals prepared by the cafeteria staff will be packaged in single-serving containers and “no sharing” rules will be reinforced. Students will be allowed to remove their face coverings while eating and drinking but may be asked to do so in shifts to limit possible exposure.

     

    Face Coverings/Masks

     

    Q. What kind of face-covering or mask is acceptable? 

    A. Face coverings/face masks help limit the spread of COVID-19 and are mandatory in GCS schools. GCS will provide face coverings/masks for all students and staff. Personal face coverings/masks should: 

    • Be made of washable and breathable fabric that is tightly woven. Lace, bandanas, old T-shirts and stretchy knits do not provide sufficient protection. 
    • Have at least two layers of material. Please note: GCS has provided all schools with three- and four-ply masks in child and adult sizes. As these do a better job of protecting students and staff, we encourage everyone to wear them and to place their personal mask on the outside of the GCS-provided mask, which are considered medical grade or like medical grade.
    • Fit snugly to the child’s face and covers the nose and mouth.  
    • Should be cleaned every day. Please note: GCS has provided all schools with three- and four-ply masks in child and adult sizes. As these do a better job of protecting students and staff, we encourage everyone to wear them and to place their personal masks on the outside of the GCS-provided masks.
    • Handled by the ear loops or ties only. 
    • Student and staff face coverings/masks must comply with all GCS policies and the Student Code of Conduct, as well as school dress codes. Non-compliance may result in student/personnel disciplinary action.  
    • If a student or staff member does not have a face covering, the school principal/teacher or supervisor will provide one. Supplies are available at every school and in every facility; principals/supervisors can order additional supplies from the district. 

     

    Q. My child’s/my student’s face covering/mask keeps falling down. What should I do?

    A. If the face-covering/face mask keeps falling down, it is either too loose or too large for the person wearing it. If it’s loose, try tightening the ear loops or ties. If it’s too large, make sure to get a child-sized face-covering/mask from your school’s supply.  

     Please note: GCS has provided all schools with three- and four-ply masks in child and adult sizes. As these do a better job of protecting students and staff, we encourage everyone to wear them and to place their personal masks on the outside of the GCS-provided masks.

     

    Q. Are there any students who should not wear a face covering or mask? 

    A. Most students can wear a face covering or face mask without any problem. Students with disabilities may apply for a waiver. The determination is made on a case-by-case basis. There are no blanket exceptions or waivers. For more information, contact your child’s school. 

     Face coverings/masks should NOT be worn by children younger than two.  

    • Students with disabilities or documented medical concerns who have trouble breathing or who cannot remove the face covering/mask without assistance may qualify for an exemption, which will be determined on an individual basis in keeping with federal laws. 
    • Face coverings/masks should NOT be worn by pre-kindergarten children while napping. 

     

    Q. Can students or staff wear valve masks? Are there any concerns?

    A. No. Valve masks let air particles in, thus defeating the purpose of wearing a face-covering/mask. 

     

    Q. What about N95 respirators? 

    A. N95 respirators are designed for use by trained medical professionals in healthcare settings. Public health officials at the local, state and federal levels do not recommend using N95 respirators routinely in schools.  

     

    Q. What about teachers and staff who must be in close contact with a student, or with a student who cannot wear a face-covering/mask due to a disability or medical exemption?

    A. GCS is providing additional personal protective equipment (PPE) for these teachers and staff members, including face shields, masks, gowns and gloves. (See also p. 3 of theNCDHHS Strong Schools NC FAQs.) 

     

    Q. When can face coverings/masks be removed? Can students take breaks?

    A. No. Students and staff cannot take mask breaks. Public health officials advise students and staff to wear face coverings/masks at all times, whether indoors or outdoors, including when socially distanced or engaging in strenuous exercise. They do not advise scheduling breaks, although students won’t be penalized by teachers for taking a quick break from time to time.

    •  Face coverings/masks may be removed only when students are eating or drinking. Teachers should stagger when students remove their masks so everyone is not unmasked at the same time.
    • Employees who are working by themselves in a classroom or office, or outdoors, do not have to wear a face-covering/mask. However, they should keep one with them at all times in case someone enters the room.
    • Face coverings/masks must be worn in the presence of other students or staff, when accessing other areas of the building, including hallways, restrooms, workrooms and other shared spaces. 

     

    Q. Can students remove face coverings/masks when playing sports, during strenuous exercise or while playing outside/on playgrounds or using exercise equipment?

    A. As we have throughout the pandemic, GCS will continue to follow the guidance of the CDC and North Carolina health officials regarding the safety of our students and staff. On April 28, Executive Order 209 eased the masking requirement for individuals outdoors. The Strong Schools NC Public Schools Toolkit was updated accordingly and states that schools must: 

    • "Ensure that face coverings are worn by all workers, teachers, guests, other adults and children age five (5) or older. In all public and nonpublic schools, all workers, teachers, guests, other adults and children five (5) years or older must wear face coverings when indoors, at all times, unless an exception applies.
      • Examples of where and when masks are required include: Students over age 5 and a teacher are together inside a classroom whether or not they are 6 feet apart; Students over age 5 are in P.E. class indoors whether or not they are 6 feet apart; A student is 5 years-old and enrolled in preschool; Students over age 5 are playing basketball in the gym as a part of an after-school program; These examples are not an exhaustive list.
      • Examples of where and when masks are not required include: Students are outside for recess; A teacher holds class outdoors; Students are participating in an outdoor P.E. class; A student is 4 years-old and enrolled in preschool; A teacher is alone in their classroom with the door closed. These examples are not an exhaustive list. 
    • "Have individuals who are not fully vaccinated wear face coverings outdoors when they cannot maintain at least 6ft social distancing from others. It is strongly recommended that all individuals (both vaccinated and unvaccinated) wear face coverings in crowded, dense outdoor areas and in outdoor situations in which social distancing is difficult or not possible.”

    We recognize that some staff and students will prefer to continue wearing their face covering while outdoors, as is their right. 

     

    Q. Will teachers show my child how to wear a face-covering/mask?

    A. Yes. Teachers will show students how to wear and care for cloth face coverings/masks. GCS also has prepared a video that shows students and staff how to properly wear face coverings/masks.  

    Tutorials may be found here: 

    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLeWK-i1Sw-XneW1Nx12Ml7iTkf8k2x1Im 

     

    Q. If students or staff wear a face shield, do they need to wear a cloth face-covering or mask?

    A. Yes. Face shields offer more limited protection and are used primarily to avoid any eye splatter. Face coverings/masks are essential and mandatory with or without a face shield. 

     

    Health Protocols and Notifications

     

    In keeping with the March 24 update to state public health protocols, GCS schools will stop requiring student health attestations prior to boarding a school bus, entering a school or classroom. Students temperatures will no longer be taken prior to school entry. This change will go into effect on April 19.

    The StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit states: “NCDHHS does not recommend daily COVID-19 symptom screening for all students at school entry; Schools should follow their typical procedures for exclusion as they would for any type of illness if a child is symptomatic at school.”

    Please note that pre-kindergarten classes will continue the daily attestation questions but will discontinue the temperature screenings, in keeping with childcare guidance from NCDHHS and the Guilford County Public Health Department.

    Parents/guardians are encouraged to monitor their children’s symptoms and keep them home if they have a fever, are ill, have COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID-19 within the last 14 days. Students should remain home until they are symptom- and fever-free for at least 24 hours without the aid of fever-reducing medicine.

    Daily temperature checks and health screening attestations prior to building entry will continue for employees and other adults through the end of the school year. Staff meetings also will remain virtual. District schools and buildings remain closed to visitors and volunteers.

    The StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit advises districts to “consider conducting daily COVID-19 symptom and temperature screening and exclusion of any adults entering the building, including teachers, staff, and other visitors.”

     

    Q. What will GCS do if a student/staff member is ill?

    A. GCS has a clear and thorough protocol with defined steps for handling situations in which a student has been exposed to COVID-19 or has symptoms. The protocol is aligned with guidance from the CDC and NCDHHS.

    If a student has a fever or is exhibiting symptoms during the school day, the student will be evaluated by a nurse who will assess the symptoms, ask about recent history and exposure, and isolate that student. From there, the nurse will notify the principal, health services, and in the case of a student, the student’s family. The CDC and NCDHHS requires staff to clean and disinfect any areas visited by the infected person for 15 minutes or more.

    For helpful information on children and COVID-19, visit the NCDHHS website.  

     

    Q. Have the quarantine rules changed for fully vaccinated individuals?

    A. Yes. Asymptomatic individuals who are fully vaccinated (currently 14 days past a final shot) do not have to quarantine if exposed to someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

     

    Q. Are the health attestation questions different for fully vaccinated employees?

    A. Yes. Fully vaccinated employees who are asymptomatic do not have to answer questions about possible exposure.

     

    Q. What is the notification process if there's a COVID-19 case at my child’s school? 

    A. Principals/supervisors will notify all parents/guardians whose children have been identified by public health officials as a “close contact” of the person with the positive case. Public health/school officials will also contact those individuals to outline next steps the student’s family or employee should take. 

    It’s important to note that families and employees will not be directly notified of every case related to a school community in order to protect student and staff privacy.

    If the impact is widespread or if a cluster (five or more epidemiologically linked cases) is identified by public health officials, parents and staff members at the affected school will be notified by the principal, typically via the district's mass notification system. 

    Contact tracing is a confidential and private public health process. GCS and public health employees cannot and will not release the name or other private information about a student or staff member with individuals who may have come in contact with someone at school with a verified/confirmed case of COVID-19. 

    Read more about the notification process here.  

     

    Q. What information will be available about COVID cases at schools and buildings? 

    A. While contact tracingis a private process conducted by public health, the district publishes coronavirus data dashboards that show staff, student and athletics-related cases. Only cases that affect a GCS school or facility AND have been confirmed by public health are posted. These dashboards are updated daily during the workweek. Click here to access the dashboards.  This information is also available in a simpler format by clicking on the links below.

     

    Q. Will I be informed every time a positive case of COVID-19 has been confirmed by public health at my child’s school or my workplace?

    A. No. Contact tracingis a private process. Public health representatives contact each person individually who may have been exposed by someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and is listed as a close contact. Data per school will be posted as it becomes available from public health on the district’s coronavirus data dashboards, however. This information also is available in a simpler format in the links below.

     In keeping with our COVID-19 contact tracing and communication protocols, you will be notified if there is a cluster at your school or worksite, or if the impact is otherwise potentially widespread. A cluster is defined by public health as five or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 that are epidemiologically linked.  

     

    Q. How will my student receive lessons/schoolwork if s/he is required to quarantine?

    A. When an individual student is required to quarantine, makeup work will be provided in the same way it is when a student is out for any other illness. When an entire class is required to quarantine, the class will transition to remote instruction delivered by the classroom teacher.  If you have any questions about how to access makeup work or remote learning, please contact the school directly.

     

    Q. Will students who travel internationally during break have to quarantine prior to coming to school?

    A. Possibly, depending on the location of travel. Please click here for CDC travel advisories, and here for advisories pertaining to COVID-19.  

     

    Q. My child doesn’t feel well. I think it’s just a cold or allergies. Can he or she come to school?

    A. No. Please contact your healthcare provider or public health and keep your child at home until he or she is cleared by a negative COVID-19 test or is symptom-free for at least 24 hours. COVID-19 mimics common cold and flu symptoms. To keep everyone safe, please keep your child at home.

     

    Q. I am a parent/guardian and I have tested positive for COVID-19, or someone in my household has tested positive, and my child lives with me. Can my child come to school?

    A. No. Your child should remain at home. Please inform your principal and contact your healthcare provider or public health for additional guidance.

     

    Q. I am an employee and I am awaiting a COVID-19 test result, what should I do?

    A. If you are experiencing symptoms or are not fully vaccinated, notify your supervisor and stay home until you receive notice that the test is negative. If you receive notice that it is positive, contact your supervisor and your healthcare provider for guidance. You will also be contacted by public health. If you are 14 days past your final vaccination, provide the information you received from public health or Cone Health to your supervisor or to Human Resources. Employees who are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine following possible exposure to COVID-19.

     

    Q. I am an employee and someone in my household has tested positive for COVID-19. Should I come to work?

    A. It depends on whether you are fully vaccinated or are experiencing symptoms. If you are fully vaccinated and do not have any symptoms, come to work. If you are not vaccinated or have symptoms or feel ill, stay home. Notify your supervisor and stay home until you are cleared to return to work by your healthcare professional or public health. The Guilford County Public Health Department has adjusted its quarantine guidance to match that of the CDC, which states that for those with no symptoms, quarantine may end after Day 10 without testing or after Day 7 when receiving a negative test result (test must occur on Day 5 or later). If you are 14 days past your final vaccination, provide the information you received from public health or Cone Health to your supervisor or to Human Resources. Employees who are fully vaccinated do not to quarantine following possible exposure to COVID-19.

     

    Q. How long are quarantine periods in Guilford County?

    A. The Guilford County Public Health Department has adjusted its quarantine guidance to match that of the CDC, which states that for those with no symptoms, quarantine may end after Day 10 without testing or after Day 7 when receiving a negative test result (test must occur on Day 5 or later).

     

    Q. I have more questions. Where can I go to find out more?

    A. For more information on reopening schools, visit www.gcsnc.com/reopening. The reopening website serves as our communications hub for COVID-19 related information and the most current protocols and procedures.

     

    Information available on the reopening website includes everything parents and staff need to know, from face-covering/masking requirements to procedures for entering and exiting school buildings, preparing and distributing meals, and more.