2021-2022 Reopening COVID-19 Mitigation Strategies
Will the District Require Masks?
Yes. The District will require all students, staff, and visitors to wear masks regardless of vaccination status inside buildings and on school buses for the start of the 2021-2022 school year based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), and in consultation with Columbus Public Health (CPH).
What is the Proper Way to Wear a Mask?
What Are the Current Public Health Reopening Guidance?
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all people, vaccinated or not, wear masks indoors. The agency also recommended children wear masks in schools this fall.
- Ohio Department of Health (ODH) strongly recommends that schools implement masking for students layered with other prevention strategies to protect people who are not fully vaccinated.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends universal masking in schools for everyone over the age of 2, regardless of vaccination status (unless an exemption is received for medical or developmental conditions).
- The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has issued a federal regulation that requires masking on all public transportation vehicles, which includes school buses.
Why Are Vaccinated Individuals Required to Wear Masks?
- The AAP recommends universal masking because a significant portion of the student population is not yet eligible for vaccines, and masking is proven to reduce transmission of the virus and to protect those who are not vaccinated.
- The CDC recommends that all people, regardless of vaccination status, should wear masks indoors because vaccinated individuals are able to spread the COVID-19 virus.
- Combining layers of protection that include vaccinations, masking, and clean hands hygiene will make in-person learning safe and possible for everyone.
- Research has shown that opening schools generally does not significantly increase community transmission with maskingand other safety measures in place.
- It is important to use every tool in our toolkit to safeguard children from COVID-19. Universal masking is one of those tools and has been proven effective in protecting people against other respiratory diseases, as well.
- Masking is also the most effective strategy to create consistent messages and expectations among students without the added burden of needing to monitor everyone’s vaccination status.
What Are the Health and Safety Guidelines the District Will Follow?
Health and safety protocols implemented last school year are recommended to continue to the greatest extent possible for the 2021-2022 school year, including ventilation filtration and outdoor air exchange and flow.
- Masks required for all students on the bus and in school buildings with or without vaccination;
- Masks required for all staff in school buildings and administrative sites with or without vaccination;
- At least 3 feet social distancing when practical;
- Handwashing and hand sanitizing regularly (hand sanitizer will be available in all buildings and classrooms);
- Water fountains will not be used; bottled water will be provided; the use of refillable water bottles is encouraged;
- School visitors will be restricted to parents/guardians and the District’s student support partners; visitors will be required to wear masks;
- Masks are NOT required outside of the building; this includes outdoor recess, outdoor field trips, or other activities outside;
- Any student or staff member can wear a mask during outdoor activities if they choose to do so.
How Often Will the District Update its COVID-19 Mitigation Plan?
The District will continue to monitor public health guidance and update its health and safety protocols accordingly as new information becomes available.
Are Dividers/Sneeze Guards For Student And Teacher Desks Recommended?
No. The CDC does not recommend desk dividers or sneeze guards in the classroom.
What Are the Protocols Regarding Shared Community Spaces?
Masks are required for students, staff, and visitors.
Student lockers will be used; at least 3 feet social distancing when practical.
Restrooms: at least 3 feet social distancing when practical.
What If My Child Needs A Mask Exemption For Health Reasons?
Unless an exemption applies that would allow a student, staff, or visitor to attend in-person without a mask, wearing appropriate masks is mandatory in all school buildings. Parents who believe that these exemptions apply to their children can access the Mask Exemption Form by viewing or downloading the form below. As with all mask exemption requests, a doctor’s recommendation/order will be required.
Prior to approval of the exemption request, the individual in question must wear a mask when in a school building.
Those who receive an exemption may be more susceptible to both COVID-19 spread and potential quarantine as that student will not have the same level of protection as those who wear face masks.
Guidance for families seeking information regarding face mask exemptions can visit the Columbus City Schools Mask Exemption Guidelines.
Are Students and Staff Required to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?
No. The District strongly encourages anyone eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, including staff, students, and community, to get vaccinated.
What is Proper Respiratory Hygiene/Cough Etiquette?
- In your elbow when coughing or sneezing;
- In a tissue and throw away immediately after use;
- In your mask;
- Wash/sanitize hands after any of the above.
How Do I Determine When to Keep My Child at Home?
Check your child for these symptoms before they go to school each day. You should keep your child at home if they have:
- Temperature greater than 100 degrees;
- Loss of taste or smell;
- New or worsening:
- Sore throat;
- Cough or difficulty breathing;
- Runny or stuffy nose;
- Diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting;
- Headache, especially with a fever;
- Body aches;
What Are the COVID-19 Isolation and Quarantine Protocols?
The District will continue to follow CPH, ODH, and CDC requirements for quarantine of close contacts of COVID-19 cases:
- Quarantine for ten (10) days from the date of most recent exposure and monitor for symptoms.
- It is also important to note that according to the CDC, all close contacts should continue to monitor for symptoms for 14 days after close contact with a person with COVID-19, even though the quarantine period has been reduced to 10 days.
- All school buildings must identify a health separation room where a student or staff member who exhibits COVID-19 symptoms can wait until they are able to leave the building. The school should also include a plan on how the health separation room will operate.
- Quarantine may be waived if a student or employee is two weeks past completion of the vaccine series (two shots for Pfizer and Moderna; one shot for Johnson and Johnson) AND without COVID-19 symptoms.
- Per ODH guidance, unvaccinated students who are exposed to the virus do not need to quarantine if both parties were wearing a mask, were at least 3 feet apart, and were in a classroom setting. All three conditions must be met.
- For additional, detailed information, as well as a flow chart for guidance, click here.
Is Hand Washing Required?
Yes. The second layer of protection after masks is hand washing. We will ensure that all students and staff wash their hands and sanitize many times during the school day. All schools and District administrative buildings will have hand sanitizer available.
What are the Health and Safety Protocols for Sports Activities and Extracurricular Activities?
Sports activities, practices, and extracurricular activities, including the marching band and drill team, will resume in accordance with all health and safety guidelines.
Indoor spectators will be required to wear masks; this includes students who are not actively participating in the activity; 6 feet of social distancing for spectators is recommended.
Students participating in outdoor activities are NOT required to wear masks; this includes spectators; 6 feet of social distancing for spectators is recommended.
Will the District Continue to Track Reported COVID-19 Cases Within The District?
Yes. Columbus City Schools is committed to transparency and providing accurate information regarding positive COVID-19 cases while maintaining privacy and confidentiality for our students and staff.
Our partners at Columbus Public Health continue to share updated information and data with district leaders regularly. This data is available for families and the general public to view online at www.columbus.gov/publichealth/Coronavirus-Portal.
Columbus City Schools has also created, in collaboration with The Ohio State University, a CATS COVID-19 Dashboard with data on the number of positive COVID-19 cases reported to the District. Click here to view the CCS CATS COVID-19 Dashboard.
Where Can I Find Information About COVID-19 Testing for Students?
If your child becomes sick with possible COVID-19 symptoms at school, they may be offered a COVID-19 test in partnership with Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Please download and return the consent form. It must be completed for your child to get a COVID-19 test. A negative COVID-19 test OR 10 days of quarantine at home is required for your child to return to school.
COVID-19 Test for Children Who Become Sick at School
When would my child be tested at school? Children may be tested if they show COVID-19-like symptoms: fever, cough, shortness of breath AND have a signed consent completed by a parent or guardian. View information on COVID-19 symptoms and when to stay at home.
Will I be called before a test happens? Children who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms will need to be picked up from school AND also meet the criteria for a COVID-19 test. If you have completed a consent form before this event, the School Nurse will call your current phone number in our records and attempt to speak with you before performing the test. However, with a completed consent form, the test can be done even if the parent/guardian cannot be reached. If you have not completed a consent form before picking up your child, you can complete one upon arrival at the school.
What if my child won’t sit still for the test? COVID-19 tests will not be done if a student refuses the test or cannot sit still for the test. In those cases, the School Nurse will refer the student to Nationwide Children’s Hospital or the student’s primary care provider for a COVID-19 test.
What is the COVID-19 test like? The COVID-19 test is a swab (like a long Q-tip) that goes up the nose for a count of 10. Again, if students are unable or unwilling to cooperate with the test, in that case, the School Nurse will refer the student to Nationwide Children’s Hospital or the student’s primary care provider for a COVID-19 test.
What happens after a POSITIVE test? You will be called with results by the school nurse and the Nationwide Children’s School Health nurse practitioner. Guidance will be given over the phone regarding quarantine and if further services are needed.
What happens if my child’s test is NEGATIVE? You will be called by the school nurse with the results and given guidance on when your child can return to school. If your child is showing COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath) outside of school, they should stay at home and not go to school.
What to do if your child is showing COVID-19 symptoms outside of school:
To schedule them for a COVID-19 test:
- Call your primary care provider first or
- Call the Nationwide Children’s Nurse COVID-19 Testing Line, available 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. during the week and 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on weekends at (614) 722-2787 to schedule an appointment to get tested at the drive-thru testing site. You must have an appointment to receive a test, and your child must be showing symptoms.
Will the District Allow Community Use of CCS Buildings and Grounds?
Community use of Columbus City Schools’ buildings by outside organizations and entities is suspended until further notice.
Community use of Columbus City Schools’ outdoor grounds by outside organizations and entities is permitted. Requests should be submitted via Facilitron.
School visitors will be restricted to parents/guardians and the District’s student support partners will be required to wear masks.
What Can I Do to Practice Mitigation Processes at Home with My Child?
- Explain why we are wearing masks;
- Wear a mask yourself;
- Put a mask on stuffed animals;
- Start with the student wearing a mask for a few seconds to a few minutes to more time;
- Social Distancing;
- Mark 3 feet distance on floors at home and play a game.
- Practice hand washing and singing the ABC song for 20 seconds or Twinkle, Twinkle or the Birthday song twice.
What Will CCS do for the Buildings that do not Currently have Air Conditioning?
Columbus City Schools wants to ensure that all school and classroom environments are conducive to learning. CCS will use many of the strategies that we have in previous years for increasing airflow and mitigating the heat in schools that do not have building-wide air conditioning. This includes:
We try to keep the air moving in the halls and classrooms. We make every effort to have as many fans as possible in these buildings, and we have deployed additional industrial-sized fans and box fans to our buildings.
Custodians will open windows and turn on fans early, so the air is circulating even before the entire staff and students arrive.
Ventilation systems will bring fresh air into the building.
All CCS buildings have ventilation systems in place even if there is no building-wide air conditioning.
CCS will use MERV-13 air filters, which are efficient at capturing airborne viruses, in its buildings where possible.
Creative Learning Spaces
Schools have the autonomy to be creative with their learning spaces, taking advantage of outdoor learning opportunities, during the warmer weather.
We also encourage staff and students to take regular “mask breaks” outdoors when possible.
In some schools, while each classroom does not have A/C, there are common areas (such as the computer lab or library) that do. Schools are able to plan additional learning time in those locations.
We will ensure each school building has an ample supply of bottled water on hand for students and staff.
CCS will continue to monitor the weather as it relates to the heat. We will make decisions for our schools without building-wide air conditioning that balance the health and safety of students and staff with the need to serve our students and families.
What is the plan for breakfast and lunch in the cafeteria?
The process for breakfast and lunch in the cafeteria is determined on a building-by-building basis. Check with your student’s principal for information specific to their school.
How will student absences be handled if they add up due to illness and/or quarantine?
Absences for illness and/or quarantine are considered "excused." While excused absences still count towards a student's limit per Ohio law, a school's attendance team would review the situation if the limit is exceeded and make an exception upon seeing the reasons for absences. A comparable example pre-pandemic is excessive absences for contracting the measles, which would exceed the legal limit but not require an attendance plan.
I have multiple students in my household. What should I do if one child is exposed and must quarantine but the other is not exposed/quarantined?
Per quarantine procedures from the Ohio Department of Health, only individuals who were directly exposed to a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19 must quarantine.
What steps will be taken to keep students on track with the curriculum when they are quarantining at home, due to exposure?
Students that are absent for extended periods of time will be able to access the curricular resources both digitally and hardcopy. Teachers can modify the daily lesson for the students at home utilizing digital resources to assign lessons. Teachers will have the option to live stream or record lessons that can be shared with their students as well. Secondary students will be able to utilize Paper Tutoring for additional support, and schools will be able to design tutoring programs to support students in attendance and those who have had extended absences.
What happens when a teacher has to quarantine and there is no substitute available?
CCS has aggressively recruited and hired substitute teachers, including dedicated building substitutes. We continually hire substitute teachers throughout the school year as well. We are confident that we have sufficient substitutes in place to cover teacher absences.
If a teacher is absent and a substitute is not available, the school can utilize available instructional staff for coverage or combine classes following CPH health guidance to ensure students wear masks and the class potentially moves to a larger space in the building.
What are the expectations and consequences for students who do not comply with correct masking?
CCS will require all students, staff, and visitors to wear masks regardless of vaccination status inside CCS buildings and on school buses. We will continue to follow our Student Guide to Success which outlines our universal code of conduct. Our students and staff certainly have had plenty of practice with mask-wearing since this has been the expectation in our classrooms and buildings since February and through the Summer Experience program.
Will CCS provide appropriate air filters and ventilation in its school buildings?
Yes, CCS will provide a safe work environment in all of its buildings. All CCS buildings have ventilation systems to bring fresh air into the building, even if there is no building-wide air conditioning.
The CDC recommends MERV-13 or higher filters. Columbus City Schools uses MERV-14 filters in Facility Masterplan Buildings. We utilize mechanical forced air systems to supply fresh air to every classroom. Our classrooms are designed to receive fresh air through a centralized air handling system or room-specific ventilation. Also, each K-12 music room is provided with a commercial Austin Air HealthMate Air Filter unit.
Where Can I Find Updates on the District’s Reopening Plan for 2021-2022?
Updates regarding the District’s back-to-school reopening plans can be found at www.ccsoh.us/BacktoSchool.