Updated Jan. 12, 2021
GCS School Re-Entry FAQs
- When will GCS reopen for students whose parents/guardians want them to attend class in-person?
- The district updated its re-entry schedule on Jan. 12, 2021, delaying the return of middle and high school students.
Revised Start Dates for In-Person Learning
Re-entry Date for In-Person Learning (From)
New Re-entry Date for In-Person Learning (To)
Students in grades PreK-2
Nov. 12, 2020
Resumes January 5, 2021
Students in grades 3-12 served in self-contained EC classrooms and public separate schools, self-contained specialized programs, regional behavior support classrooms, CNA clinical practicum
Nov. 16, 2020
Resumes January 5, 2021
Students in grades 3, 4 5 (Five days per week)
Jan. 5, 2021
January 5, 2021
Students in grade 6 (50% on Mondays and Tuesdays; 50% on Thursdays and Fridays)
Jan. 21, 2021
Students in grades 7 & 8 (50% on Mondays and Tuesdays; 50% on Thursdays and Fridays)
Jan. 25, 2021
Students in grades 9, 10, 11 and 12 (50% on Mondays and Tuesdays; 50% on Thursdays and Fridays)
Jan. 21, 2021
Schools are already open for in-person learning for students with disabilities served in adapted curriculum classes, regional behavior support classrooms and the district’s four public separate schools. Students enrolled in Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) clinical practicums also returned to in-person learning.
Parents/guardians of students in middle and high schools may choose between in-person learning or online learning through their home schools. Parents/guardians should contact their children’s schools to indicate their choice for the remainder of the school year and/or for more details. Deadlines vary by school.
What metrics did the school board use when it approved the revised re-entry schedule in November?
Since the district’s reopening plan was first approved by the school board in August, it has used the following metrics/indicators for determining the timing of school re-entry:
- Case incidence (the number of new cases during a period-of-time).
- Positivity rate (percentage of positive tests to the total number of tests.)
- Ability to implement public health mitigation strategies.
- Hospital capacity
On November 10, the school board reaffirmed the existing metrics/indicators and added the following:
- Academic outcomes for students
- Social and emotional well-being, mental health of students
- Emerging science and data regarding school re-entry
Will the school schedule be the same as last year?
A. Bell schedules will be adjusted slightly at all three levels to allow time for bus travel. The elementary school day will be from 7:35 a.m. to 2:05 p.m.; the middle school day will be from 8:35 a.m. to 3:25 p.m., and the high school day will be from 9:35 a.m. to 4:25 p.m.
Health and Safety Precautions
When schools reopen, what steps are being taken to keep students and staff safe and healthy?
Once students are back in classrooms, we emphasize the importance of the 3 W’s: wear, wait, wash. That means wear a cloth face covering, wait six feet apart to maintain social distance and avoid close contact, and wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
All buildings are cleaned and disinfected for in-person instruction each day. New procedures have been implemented for food prep and meal distribution as well as for bus drivers regarding cleaning of vehicles and social distancing protocols.
- In classrooms/hallways desks are spaced six feet apart to avoid close contact from student to student.
- Students will also be encouraged to wash his/her hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds throughout the day, including specified hand washing breaks during the school day. Any classrooms without a handwashing sink will be provided hand sanitizer.
- Where possible, hallways are designated as one-way, with directional reminders posted on walls and/or floors. Signs also remind individuals to maintain six feet from other individuals.
- In addition, class transitions are staggered when possible to limit density in hallways and students would stay in cohorts when possible.
What precautions are being taken regarding school buses?
When we return to in-person instruction, we implement daily bus screening protocols, as well as daily cleaning and attention to social distancing at all times. To learn more, view School Bus FAQs and School Bus Rider Protocols.
What are the three health questions I must answer daily about my child?
What about car riders and student drivers?
There are designated pick-up and drop-off areas that allow for optimal social distancing. Parents/guardians must complete a health attestation (see below and/or Student Symptom Screening Checklist) daily. Students will be reminded to wear a face covering, and their temperatures will be checked prior to entering the building.
In addition to a face covering, what else does my child need before he or she comes to school?
Each parent must fill out an attestation form daily that asks three questions about their child’s health before the child can come to school/go to class. The form can be filled out electronically or on paper.
Parents of students who are bus riders must complete an attestation form, either online or in print, answering those questions before their child enters the bus each day. The print form must be given to the bus driver daily when the child enters the bus. These forms are available on your school websites through a link called Daily Parent/Guardian Attestation.
GCS is piloting a program that will allow parents to complete this form through an app and receive email reminders daily.
What other health screenings will take place?
A. In addition to the attestation form, students will receive a temperature check upon entering the building each day. Students whose temperature is above 100.4 degrees will be isolated until they can be picked up by a parent or guardian.
Q. What if someone doesn’t tell the truth on the health attestation form?
A. Containing the spread of COVID-19 and keeping students and staff safe is a shared responsibility. Employees who are not truthful about health symptoms, test results or potential exposures may be subject to disciplinary action. GCS administrators have a legal responsibility to report any suspected cases of communicable diseases, including COVID-19, to public health. Public health is notified each time someone tests positive and notifies GCS if that person is a student or staff member.
What kind of face-covering 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 for all students and staff. If students or staff prefer to wear their own face coverings/face masks, they 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.
- Fit snugly to the child’s face and covers the nose and mouth.
- While allowable, Gaiter-style face coverings are not recommended by the CDC because they are more likely to fall below the nose or mouth.
- Should be cleaned every day.
- 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.
My child’s/my student’s face covering/mask keeps falling down. What should I do?
If the face-covering/facemask 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.
Are there any students who should not wear a face covering or mask?
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 prekindergarten children while napping.
Can students or staff wear valve masks? Are there any concerns?
No. Valve masks let air particles in, thus defeating the purpose of wearing a face-covering/mask.
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.
However, GCS is partnering with public health officials to supply n95 respirators, along with the required fitting and training, for teachers, assistants and therapists who work with children who cannot wear face coverings due to their disabilities, and/or students with disabilities who need personal care and close physical proximity.
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 medical-grade face coverings/masks, gowns and gloves. (See also p. 5 of the NCDHHS Strong Schools NC FAQs.)
GCS also is partnering with public health officials to supply them, along with the required fitting and training, for teachers, assistants and therapists who work with children who cannot wear face coverings due to their disabilities, and who need personal care and close physical proximity.
When can face coverings/masks be removed? Can students take breaks?
Public health officials now 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 for taking a quick break from time to time.
- Face coverings/masks may be removed only when students are eating or drinking.
- 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 or comes in contact with them.
- 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.
Can students remove face coverings/masks when playing sports, during strenuous exercise or while playing outside/on playgrounds or using exercise equipment?
No. When students are participating in physical activity, whether indoors or outdoors, they should be socially distanced at least six feet apart and face coverings/masks should be worn. Coaches must wear face coverings/masks at all times.
Will teachers show my child how to wear a face-covering/mask?
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:
If students or staff wear a face shield, do they need to wear a cloth face-covering/mask?
Yes. Face shields offer more limited protection. Face coverings/masks are essential and mandatory with or without a face shield.
What options do parents have if they don’t want their children to wear face coverings/masks at school?
Their children may participate in online learning through their schools (available at most schools) or through the district’s virtual academies.
Transportation and School Nutrition
Will there be enough room to socially distance on buses?
Following Guilford County Schools’ Board of Education's vote to return students to school buildings through a gradual re-entry plan, the district is asking all parents to fill out this transportation form.
The form must be completed for any student requiring transportation. This information will help GCS determine bus routes and schedules for the reopening of schools.
While transportation will be provided for all students who need it, social distancing is more limited on buses. Social distancing also will limit the number of students on a bus. For this reason, we ask parents to consider bringing their children to school or having their children walk or ride their bikes when possible.
How will mealtimes be handled?
A. Students will eat in classrooms to enforce social distancing regulations throughout the day. 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.
Health Protocols and Notifications
What will GCS do if a student/staff member is exposed or has symptoms?
GCS has a clear and thorough protocol with defined steps for handling situations in which a student or staff member has been exposed to COVID-19 or has symptoms. The protocol is aligned with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS).
In the case of exposure, we plan to work closely with the Guilford County Health Department in order to protect and inform our students and staff. Staff will be trained to recognize symptoms and respond appropriately.
If a student/staff member is exposed or is exhibiting symptoms during the school day, that individual will be evaluated by a nurse who will assess the symptoms, ask about recent history and exposure, and isolate that person. From there, the nurse will notify the principal, health services, and in the case of a student, the student’s family. The CDC requires that all areas visited by an infected person be closed, cleaned and disinfected after 24 hours of allowing space to properly ventilate.
We will use the following resources as guides during the 2020-21 school year:
For helpful information on children and COVID-19, visit the NCDHHS website.
What is the notification process if there's a COVID-19 case at my child’s school?
Principals/supervisors will notify parents/guardians whose students have been identified by public health as a “close contact” of the person with the positive case. Public health 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 will not be directly notified of every case related to a school community, only those that directly affect their child as a close contact of the person with the positive test result or if the impact of the case or cases is more extensive.
Contact tracing is a confidential and private 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.
If the impact is widespread or if a cluster 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.
What information will be available about COVID cases at schools and buildings?
While contact tracing is a private process conducted by public health, the district publishes data dashboards that show staff and student cases that affect a GCS school or facility AND have been confirmed by public health. These dashboards are updated daily during the workweek. As cases increase, public health is focusing on contact tracing, testing and vaccination. As a result, data confirmations may lag behind. Click here to access the dashboards.
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?
No. Contact tracing is a private process. Public health contacts 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 data dashboards, however.
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 considered potentially widespread. A cluster is defined by public health as five or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 that are epidemiologically linked.
How will my student receive lessons/schoolwork if s/he is required to quarantine for 14 days?
A. When an individual student is required to quarantine for 14 days, 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 for 14 days, 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, contact the school directly.
Will students who travel internationally during winter break have to quarantine prior to coming to school?
What about the three middle schools that also serve elementary students?
All students at Allen Jay Middle, Academy at Lincoln and Johnson Street Global Studies will be attending school five days a week. However, we are still following the state’s Plan B, which means that social distancing and health protocols will be followed. Children will be spaced accordingly throughout the buildings. We also require face coverings, frequent handwashing and sanitizing, social distancing while on school grounds, have lunch in classrooms where possible and adhere to CDC guidelines regarding cleaning and disinfecting of rooms and materials.
My child doesn’t feel well. I think it’s just a cold or allergies. Can he or she come to school?
A. 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.
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?
No. Your child should remain at home for 14 days. Please inform your principal and contact your healthcare provider or public health for additional guidance.
I am an employee and I am awaiting a COVID-19 test result, what should I do?
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.
I am an employee and someone in my household has tested positive for COVID-19. Should I come to work?
No. 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 is maintaining a 14-day quarantine period.
I have more questions. Where can I go to find out more?
For more information on reopening schools, visit www.gcsnc.com/reopening.
Information available on the reopening website includes everything parents and staff need to know, from face-covering requirements and daily health screenings to procedures for entering and exiting school buildings, preparing socially distanced classrooms and more.