EXPLAINER: What are current COVID-19 guidelines for schools?

Sep 16, 2021, 10:40 AM | Updated: 10:46 am

ATLANTA (AP) — It’s a back to school season like no other for students, teachers and parents across the U.S. Schools have opened nationwide this fall only to find thousands of students and their teachers sickened by the coronavirus.

That wasn’t the long-awaited return to normality many had hoped for in resuming in-person instruction. Along with the surge in cases, districts have contended with angry parents, school board members and the public on the questions of mandated vaccines. Quarantine rules have changed. So have mask requirements. Confusion and distress abound.

So, what is going on in U.S. schools? The details differ from district to district, but here are some answers:

WHAT DOES THE CDC RECOMMEND ABOUT MASKS IN SCHOOLS?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone wear a mask in schools, regardless of vaccination status or local case levels.

WHAT ABOUT LUNCH? HOW ARE STUDENTS SUPPOSED TO PLAY THE SAXOPHONE?

Schools should have distancing plans for when people need to remove their masks indoors, the CDC says, such as while eating or during band practice.

I HAD CLOSE CONTACT WITH SOMEONE WHO HAD COVID-19. DO I HAVE TO STAY AWAY FROM SCHOOL?

If you’re unvaccinated, the CDC wants you to get tested immediately and quarantine for up to 14 days. In some places, you can return to school sooner if you test negative. If you’ve recovered from COVID-19 in the last three months and have no symptoms, you don’t have to quarantine. Same if you’re fully vaccinated, but monitor for symptoms.

IF I TEST POSITIVE BUT AM FULLY VACCINATED AND NOT SHOWING SYMPTOMS, CAN I GO TO SCHOOL?

No. The CDC says that anyone with a positive test needs to isolate for at least 10 days, even if they’re not showing symptoms. Students and staff should only return to school at least 10 days after developing symptoms or receiving a positive test, and at least 24 hours since any fever has subsided without the use of medication and other symptoms have improved.

WHAT ABOUT FOOTBALL PRACTICE? THE SCHOOL PLAY?

Federal officials emphasize that people in quarantine or who are ill shouldn’t participate in sports practices or other extracurriculars.

OK, BUT WHAT COUNTS AS A CLOSE CONTACT? HOW FAR APART DO STUDENTS HAVE TO BE?

The CDC says generally that being within 6 feet (2 meters) of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period counts as close contact. But, over the summer, the agency made a special exception for K-12 students in classrooms. Encountering infected students within 3 feet (1 meter) and 6 feet (2 meters) doesn’t count, as long as everyone was masked up correctly. Teachers and other adults are not granted the same exemption.

WHAT DIFFERENCE DO MASK POLICIES MAKE FOR QUARANTINES?

A big one, potentially. Schools that mandate masks are now less likely to have to quarantine whole classrooms or large numbers of students when one person becomes ill — although some still are.

WHAT DO FEDERAL OFFICIALS SAY ABOUT REMOTE LEARNING PLANS?

Some districts have made few or no provisions to teach exposed or sick students remotely, but federal officials do advise them to provide remote learning options — even if that means sending home paper packets. Federal officials say they want districts to focus on maximizing in-person learning, but also make sure sure students have access to remote technology and good online instruction when that isn’t possible.

ARE DISTRICTS INTERPRETING THESE RECOMMENDATIONS DIFFERENTLY? IS THIS ALL JUST A SUGGESTION?

States and individual school districts aren’t bound by CDC guidelines. Some states have standard policies they have imposed on all school districts, while others are allowing districts to make their own policies on everything from mask requirements to quarantine rules to remote learning policies.

CAN SCHOOLS REQUIRE COVID-19 VACCINES FOR KIDS WHO ARE OLD ENOUGH?

Again, depends where you live! At least nine states have explicitly said schools can’t require vaccination, including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.

A number of states and individual districts are requiring teachers to get vaccinated, in some cases allowing them to opt out with regular testing for the virus. Earlier this month, the Los Angeles public school system became the first big district — it’s the nation’s second largest — to require all its students 12 and up to get vaccinated, while some other big districts are requiring students participating in sports and extracurriculars to get inoculated.

WHAT’S GOING ON WITH THE BUS DRIVER SHORTAGES? HOW DO KIDS GET TO SCHOOL?

Districts nationwide are suddenly short on bus drivers, on account of the tight labor market and fear of coronavirus infections. In Massachusetts, the state has even called out the National Guard to keep buses running.

___

AP writer Collin Binkley contributed from Boston.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Miss America 2018 Cara Mund poses for photographers on the 86th Floor Observation Deck of th...
Associated Press

Former Miss America Cara Mund plans to run for Congress

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Cara Mund, a former Miss America who gained attention by criticizing the organization near the end of her reign in 2018, plans to run for Congress in North Dakota as an independent. Mund announced her candidacy Saturday and said she would start gathering the 1,000 signatures she needs to get on […]
13 hours ago
Jan Longone, Curator of American Culinary History, holds up a book from the exhibit titled "The Old...
Associated Press

Janice Longone, chronicler of US culinary history, dies

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Janice Bluestein Longone, who is credited with collecting thousands of items chronicling the culinary history of the United States, including cookbooks, menus, advertisements and diaries, has died at age 89. Longone died Wednesday, according to Nie Family Funeral Home in Ann Arbor. The cause and location of death weren’t announced. […]
13 hours ago
Associated Press

Coroner: Smoke inhalation killed at least 5 of 10 in fire

NESCOPECK, Pa. (AP) — Authorities say at least half of the 10 people found dead after an early morning fire in northeastern Pennsylvania died of smoke inhalation. The Luzerne County coroner’s office said autopsies on the victims of the early Friday blaze in Nescopeck began Saturday. Examinations by Dr. Gary Ross were completed on three […]
13 hours ago
Associated Press

Negotiators optimistic about progress on Iran nuclear deal

VIENNA (AP) — Top negotiators in renewed talks to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal indicated Sunday that they are optimistic about the possibility of reaching an agreement to impose limits on Tehran’s uranium enrichment. “We stand 5 minutes or 5 seconds from the finish line,” Russian Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov told reporters outside Vienna’s Palais […]
13 hours ago
This combination of Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022 photos shows Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, and Hillsb...
Associated Press

Florida prosecutor vows to fight Gov. DeSantis suspension

ST. PETERSURG, Fla. (AP) — A Florida prosecutor vowed Sunday to fight his suspension from office by Gov. Ron DeSantis over his promise not to enforce the state’s 15-week abortion ban and support for gender transition treatments for minors. Andrew Warren, a Democrat suspended last week from his twice-elected post as state attorney in Hillsborough […]
13 hours ago
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, center, talks with residents that have been displaced by floodwater...
Associated Press

More storms forecasted for flood-ravaged eastern Kentucky

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The National Weather Service extended a flood watch through Sunday evening for areas of eastern Kentucky ravaged by high water more than a week ago and said there’s a threat of thunderstorms in the region for much of the coming week. There’s a “persistent threat of thunderstorms” through Thursday that could […]
13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
EXPLAINER: What are current COVID-19 guidelines for schools?