Questions about Health & Safety
This section describes how MPCSD intends to implement the health and safety protocols required by the following anchor guidance:
- San Mateo County Pandemic Recovery Framework;
- California Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 Industry Guidance for Schools and School-Based Programs;
- San Mateo County Health Orders; and,
- Centers for Disease Control.
Other research, recommendation documents, and negotiated terms also impact the District's implementation plans to the extent that they do not conflict with requirements of the anchor guidance. NPR has published a list of what to look for in a school's reopening plan that you may find useful. MPCSD is proud that its plan is robust and thorough.
Q: Do schools that are open need to close if the county moves to a more restrictive tier?
A: No, once a school or distsrict has reopened with a county and state approved waiver in the Purple Tier, or reopened with county-approved plans in the Red Tier, they do not need to close if the county moves back to the Purple Tier. MPCSD has opened both under an approved waiver, for vulnerable learners and kindergarten and first grade, and under an approved plan for grades 2-8. Read more in this press release dated November 30, 2020 from San Mateo County Office of Education.
Q: How does poor air quality affect COVID protocols?
A: The COVID health and safety protocols that are affected by air quality guidelines are primarily around air ventilation. During periods of local poor air quality (up to 149 as determined by AirNow) we will follow the air quality protocols: doors and windows should be closed, HVAC systems should be off or run on recircluation (only if MERV 13 filters are in place), and outdoor activities may be modified. Please see this Air Quality FAQ for details. The CDC offers information about COVID and smoky air here. San Mateo County Office of Education has provided information here. During any period of in-person instruction, if local air quality as determined by AirNow is "Unhealthy" (150 or above) we will temporarily return to at-home learning until the air quality is below 150.
Q: What temperature checks and health screenings will be implemented?
A: Temperature checks and health screening for students and staff will be required daily. Temperature screenings will be conducted every morning prior to entering classrooms (staff and students). Every child will be required to have their temperature checked at the carline, at a walking/biking entrance, and/or at the classroom.
It is highly recommended and requested by MPCSD that parents check their child(ren)’s temperature each morning prior to leaving the home for school. Parents should use the temperature guidelines listed below. Additionally, if a child is suspected to have had contact with someone who is suspected of or diagnosed with COVID-19, the parent should contact the school’s front office prior to bringing their child to school. Teachers and staff will regularly conduct visual evaluations of student health and wellness and send students who are exhibiting symptoms of unwellness to the office for assessment by a nurse or office personnel.
The following temperature and symptom guidelines will be followed:
- A temperature of 97 - 99.0°F (36.1 - 37.2°C) is considered normal.
- A temperature of 99.1 - 100.3°F (37.3 - 37.9°C) is considered low-grade.
- A person with a low-grade temperature without accompanying COVID-19 symptoms (“feels fine” and had had no contact with anyone suspected to have or diagnosed with COVID-19), the district/site’s Health Professional should be notified. S/he will follow up with additional health checks while at school.
- A person with a low-grade temperature with accompanying COVID-19 symptoms (such as sore throat, cough, malaise, etc. and/or has had contact with someone suspected to have or diagnosed with COVID-19), the district/site’s Health Professional must be notified. The individual will be isolated from others. The student/staff member will be sent home and must follow CDC guidelines for return to school.
- A temperature of 100.4 °F (38 °C) or higher is considered a “fever.” district/site’s Health Professional must be notified. The individual will be isolated from others. The student/staff will be sent home and must follow CDC guidelines for return to school.
- Each school site will have an isolation area used to care for students and staff exhibiting COVID-like symptoms.
- The following flow chart is the guidance we will follow (read it more clearly in our One Pagers).
Q: When should students stay at home?
A: Students who exhibit even mild cold/flu-like symptoms such as a fever, cough, sore throat and/or respiratory symptoms (such as shortness of breath, sneezing, etc.) should stay home. Fever need not be present to stay at home. See the CDC guidelines for more COVID-19 symptoms.
Q: What if a student/staff member becomes sick at school?
A: Each school will have an isolation area set up for students/staff who feel sick at school or who have an elevated temperature during a routine screening. Students/staff will be kept isolated from other students until the ill student/staff can go home. Siblings of a student presenting with illness will be identified, given a health screening, and sent home with the symptomatic student.
Students/staff will go to an isolation area if they are experiencing the following COVID-19 symptoms, such as:
- Fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell
- For serious injury or illness, 9-1-1 will be called immediately. Serious illness symptoms include persistent pain or pressure in the chest, confusion, or bluish lips or face.
- More information on COVID-19 symptoms may be found at the CDC webpage.
MPCSD recommends testing for individuals who present with COVID symptoms. If the person tests positive, they must self isolate acording to the CDC's guidelines. See the "Testing and Contact Tracing" section of this FAQ for more details. If the person tests negative, they may return to school 24 hours after symptoms resolve provided they have had no contact with a COVID positive case.
Q: When can/should a student return to school after being sick (had COVID symptoms)?
A: See flowchart above. If a person tests positive, they must isolate and be excluded from shool for at least 10 days after symptom onset. If a person tests negative and HAS NOT had household or close contact, they may return to school 24 hours after symptoms resolve. If a person tests neagtive and HAS HAD household or close contact to a COVID case, they must quarantine a full 14 days from last exposure to case. One cannot test out of quarantine if they are a contact.
Q: What are facemask protocols and provisions?
A: Staff and students are required to wear face coverings while on campus, including outside, except for if the student is under the age of 3, while eating (continue maintaining social distance), while participating in sports or physical activities outside (within a stable cohort) if physically distanced, or if there is a health condition present which could be exacerbated by the use of a mask. You may want to read this article about getting your child ready to wear a mask if they are not yet comfortable with that. Here is another strategy to encourage children to wear masks. For information on the efficacy of face masks you may watch this clip from ABC 7 News, start watching around 4 minutes. Please see this Face Covering FAQ from the San Mateo County Office of Education and the San Mateo County Health Department and the Guidance for Face Coverings from the California Department of Public Health.
MPCSD will provide one reusable face covering for each student. Students/staff may use cloth (homemade or purchased) or surgical masks. Masks with one-way valves are not allowed as they are designed for easier breathing, and upon exhalation allow droplets to escape the mask potentially putting others nearby at risk. Bandanas and neck gaiters are also not allowed, based on new research showing they are ineffective at containing exhaled droplets.
Schools will have disposable face masks available in the event that a face covering is lost, damaged, or forgotten. Replacing a lost or damaged reusable face covering is the responsibility of the student.
Teachers are encouraged to develop activities and classroom protocols to help students understand the rationale for wearing face coverings and develop classroom culture that supports face coverings.
Q: What other PPE equipment will be or can be used by staff and students beyond just face masks?
A: Face Shields: Staff who work in close proximity with students whose special needs require feeding, toileting, and performing nebulizer treatments will use face shields in addition to a face mask. Additionally, teachers may use face shields to enable students to see their faces and to avoid potential barriers to phonological instruction. If wearing a face shield without a mask, staff should include a cloth drape attached across the bottom and tucked into the shirt. MPCSD will provide face shields for use by staff upon request. Students may wear parent-provided face shields in school, but must do so in addition to face mask; face shields may not replace a face mask for students. MPCSD will not provide face shields to students.
Gloves and gowns: According to the PRF, “gloves play a minimal role in COVID-19 safety, except when conducting cleaning, handling food, or toileting.” MPCSD will provide gloves to any and all staff who need them for the performance of their duties and/or upon request. Gowns will be provided to staff who are attending to potentially ill students or whose duties include assisting students with medical/toileting needs. Gowns may be provided to other staff upon request. Students may wear parent-provided gloves or gowns; however, doing so is likely to be uncomfortable and won’t be accommodated for by school staff. As there is very little if any medical benefit to wearing gloves or gowns for students, the practice is discouraged. The best way to protect oneself is by frequent handwashing, social distancing and wearing a mask.
Safety Glasses/Goggles: Safety glasses or goggles are not a required PPE. MPCSD will provide safety glasses or goggles to staff upon request. Students may wear parent-provided safety goggles or glasses, although MPCSD will not be providing them to students.
Plexiglass partitions: Plexiglass partitions will be provided to staff and added to high-traffic areas, such as the office, upon request of staff. Students should be prepared to see and interact with some staff through plexiglass partitions. Student learning spaces will not be separated by partitions in MPCSD and parents may not provide partitions for their student’s learning space; we will not be able to accommodate such a device unless called for in a child’s IEP.
Q: What are MPCSD’s hand hygiene guidelines?
A: Proper handwashing, with soap and water for 20 seconds, is preferable to using hand sanitizer. See more information and tips about proper handwashing at the CDC website. Handwashing will be taught and modeled by teachers and staff. Teachers are encouraged to use incentives for students to practice handwashing, and students are encouraged to be leaders in handwashing efforts. Time will be built into the daily schedule for handwashing at these times:
- Upon arrival at school
- After coming in from outside
- Before/after eating
- Before/after touching shared equipment (play or technology)
- After bathroom use/sneezing/coughing
Additional temporary handwashing stations (four per campus) will be available, as well as permanent additional stations where drinking fountains currently exist. Hand sanitizer will be available in every classroom, office space, and at outdoor locations across campus (four stations per campus).
Q: What physical distancing guidelines will MPCSD follow?
A: MPCSD will follow the San Mateo County PRF and California Department of Public Health definition of physical distancing, which recommend six feet of distance between all individuals. This will be practiced at all times on campus as much as is practicable, including in classrooms and throughout outdoor spaces. Some momentary and/or incidental interaction under six feet of distance should be expected to occur.
Classrooms: Desks in classrooms will be spaced a minimum of six feet apart, from seat to seat, facing in the same direction to avoid face-to-face contact as much as possible. Teachers will have a designated primary area within the classroom, not less than six feet from students’ seats.
Bathrooms: Student bathrooms will be assigned to specific cohorts. Student bathrooms will be disinfected 3x/day. A yard duty will be posted at each bathroom during recess and lunch. Face masks are required in bathrooms and physical distancing must be maintained as much as practicable. No more than two people at a time are allowed in bathrooms. Please learn your students’ assigned bathroom and help them remember to use it.
Common Areas/Outdoors/Playgrounds: Visual markings will be installed on campus in areas where students may wait in lines, to show where to stand for physical distancing. Playground equipment will not be closed; however, specific cohorts will be assigned days/weeks to use the equipment. While playground equipment will be cleaned periodically, students will be required to wash their hands before and after use, and will practice physical distancing while using playground equipment as the primary means of protection from contagion. During recess and lunch, students will eat in designated areas that maintain physical distance.
Note: On September 28, the California Department of Public Health published guidelines for public use of publicly accessible playground facilities. MPCSD's playgrounds are now open only during non-school hours for public use, when following these guidelines. New signage has been posted at our playgrounds.
Other Events: Sites will identify “required” and “not required” school activities. All events that are possible to be offered through remote means will be. Until health guidance allows and groups can meet safely, in-person events will be avoided and never involve more than 50 people with social distancing and masking in place. Events parents should expect to be conducted virtually include:
- Back-to-school Night
- Aloha Check-in (Hillview only)
- PTO/MPAEF/District Council General Meetings
- Speaker Series
- Family social events
- Book Fairs
- Music/drama performances
- School Board meetings
Private Gatherings: MPCSD recommends that families and community members follow the CPDH guidelines for gatherings which are tied to the state's tier system. Currently (March 26, 2021), while San Mateo County is in the Orange tier, the following are allowed outdoors and indoors with modifications:
- Masks and physical distancing required
- No more than 3 separate households attend (including the host’s)
- Gatherings should be 2 hours or less
- Those with symptoms must not attend
- Those at high risk of severe illness strongly encouraged not to attend
- Singing, shouting, chanting, cheering, or exercising strongly discouraged outdoors and not permitted indoors
More information may be found at https://covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy/.
Q: What are MPCSD’s cleaning protocols?
A: MPCSD will follow the San Mateo County Schools Insurance Group Cleaning and Disinfection Procedures.
Cleaning: Mop, vacuum, remove trash, clean doors. 2x/week.
Disinfecting: Wipe down surface EPA-approved disinfectant (OXIVIR-TB). Daily at least; shared spaces are wiped down between cohorts.
- Bathrooms will be disinfected 3x/day.
- High touch areas (including door handles, light switches, sink handles, tables, counter tops, student desks, chairs) will be disinfected daily.
- Classrooms and common areas will be disinfected daily, including between AM and PM kindergarten groups and between cohorts at Hillview. Classrooms and common areas will be cleaned 2x/week.
- Playground equipment will be disinfected daily, but hand washing and social distancing will remain the primary defense from contagion. Note: On September 28, the California Department of Public Health published guidelines for public use of publicly accessible playground facilities. MPCSD's playgrounds are now open only during non-school hours for public use, when following these guidelines. New signage has been posted at our playgrounds.
If a student or staff member becomes sick at school, the area where they were will be closed off and cleaned/disinfected.
Q: How will MPCSD’s use of indoor ventilation support health?
A: According to the PRF, maximizing outside airflow is the simplest and most effective way to maintain a healthy classroom environment. Therefore:
- MERV 13 air filters will be installed in each HVAC system at the beginning of each school term (3X/year). HVAC systems will be used on the setting to bring in outside air only.
- HEPA filters are installed in each classroom.
- Classroom doors/windows should be opened to utilize additional outside air ventilation.
- AC can be used as needed for comfort with the setting that brings in outside air.
Q: When will a vaccine be available to children and will schools require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19?
A: The short answer is that right now we do not know. More testing needs to be done before COVID-19 vaccines are available to children under 12. Even when a vaccine is available to children, MPCSD cannot require students to be vaccinated unless the state requires all students to receive this vaccine. For more information on the issues around COVID-19 vaccination for children and how that affects schools, read this article from EducationWeek.