Illness & Outbreaks

How Schools will Handle Illness and Outbreaks

On January 13, the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment released new guidance for schools that helps determine how parents, staff members and school systems should handle individual symptoms and potential outbreaks of COVID-19. This guidance includes when students and staff should stay home and for how long, when students or staff should be sent home and who should isolate and quarantine based on potential exposure.

Can I go to school/work today?

There are four main reasons to keep children and adults at home:
  1. Someone who the child or staff lives with (or has had close contact with) has been diagnosed with COVID-19, or has symptoms of COVID-19.
  2. The child or staff member does not feel well enough to take part in usual activities. For example, a child is overly tired, fussy or will not stop crying.
  3. A child needs more care than the teachers and staff can give while still caring for other children.
  4. The symptom or illness is on the linked document, and staying home is required.
The new guidance includes a questionnaire for parents and staff members to determine if students are well enough to go to school and if staff members are well enough to report to work. As a reminder, we are in the “Safer at Home” phase, which is sustained community transmission. The guidance says if any of the below symptoms are present, the staff member or student should not report to work/school and should inform the school of the symptoms. Then they should seek COVID-19 testing and next steps for medical care.
  • Feeling feverish, having chills, or temperature of 100.4F or higher
  • New or unexplained persistent cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Runny nose or congestion

What if I feel unwell after arriving at school?

This decision tree will help school staff determine who needs to be sent home if they begin to feel/appear unwell during the school day. The tool looks for major and minor symptoms of COVID-19. If the person has one or more of the symptoms that are not explained by a chronic condition, the student/staff member will be sent home.

If I’m ill, how long do I need to stay home?

When a student or staff member is out of school because of symptoms, this tool helps determine when they are able to return to school
Generally, if symptoms resolve within 24 hours, the student or staff member may return to school/work when deemed safe based on current school illness policies. If not, a COVID-19 test should be administered. Students and staff should isolate until results are available. If positive, continue isolation for 10 days following symptom onset and 24 hours fever free. If negative, only return to school according to school illness policies as long as the test was a PCR test.

Do close contacts of the sick person also need to stay home?

New guidance suggests that if certain safeguards are in place (high vaccination rate of the school or county, personal protection in the form of a vaccine or a recent COVID diagnosis or mask wearing) then quarantines for routine classroom/school exposures are not required.

Please note, though we do not require quarantine for routine classroom exposures, students are still required to quarantine if they are exposed outside of school.

Why? Due to the precautionary measures we have in place at our schools, the spread of COVID-19 is much lower than in other settings. We want students to be able to have as much in-person learning time as possible, and therefore do not require all close contacts at school to quarantine unless we have a suspected or confirmed outbreak or students were exposed in a higher-risk setting.

However, being exposed outside of school, especially if it is a close contact the student lives with, means they are much more likely to come down with COVID-19. In order to keep our staff and students safe, we require that these students stay home from school for 7 days (with a negative test) or 10 days AFTER their last exposure. We also require that students with symptoms of COVID-19 stay home and await instructions from a district nurse or school health assistant before returning to school. Our weekly school COVID testing should be for students who do NOT have symptoms prior to testing.

FAQ on who needs to isolate/quarantine.