NOTE: As of January 12, 2022, the County of Santa Clara is awaiting further guidance from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) regarding evolving isolation and quarantine recommendations in school settings. The information on this page may be followed by schools and childcare settings until further notice. We are updating our resources as quickly as possible. Please check back for updates or refer directly to the CDPH K-12 Isolation and Quarantine Guidelines.
Update 1/14/22: The County of Santa Clara Public Health Department endorses and supports the use of at-home testing for all situations in which COVID-19 tests are recommended or required for return to in-person school and childcare settings. FDA-authorized antigen home tests may be used to return to school or childcare settings after COVID-19 exposure, quarantine, or isolation in accordance with CDPH isolation and quarantine recommendations and TK-12 Guidance.
COVID-19 Vaccine Information
For the latest information on where children 5-11 years old can be vaccinated or how to schedule an appointment, please visit sccfreevax.org. This is the County’s official source for vaccine-related information and is updated frequently.
Information on the State of California’s COVID-19 vaccination guidance and prioritization plan is also available.
Education Programs Include Childcare, Preschools, Camps, TK-12, Higher Education and Other Programs Serving Children and Youth
Welcome education program partners. The County Office of Education and County Public Health Department continue to work with schools, other programs serving children and youth, and families to prepare for the safer reopening of schools for in-person learning and operation of programs serving children and youth in Santa Clara County.
Report a Case of COVID-19 in Your Education Program
When to Use the School Portal for Outbreak Tracking (SPOT) :
Complete this intake form if a child, student or staff member in your program is diagnosed with COVID-19 and they fall into one of the categories below.
If the child, student or staff member who tested positive for COVID-19 either:
- reported symptoms of COVID-19 while they were at work, school or on-site
- developed symptoms of COVID-19 within 48 hours of being at work, school or on site
- was diagnosed with COVID-19 without symptoms within 48 hours of being at work, school or on-site
Instructions for Filling out the Education Portal:
Please complete this SPOT Intake Form and submit information for each diagnosed case of COVID-19 in a child or student attending your school/program and for each diagnosed case of COVID-19 in a staff member working at your school/program. Please include as much information as you can. As stated in the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California, 2021-22 School Year, K-12 schools are legally required to submit this report within twenty-four hours after learning of a positive case. The County of Santa Clara Public Health Department also requires programs serving children and youth to submit this report within twenty-four hours after learning of a positive case.
If you do not have complete information within twenty-four hours, you must report the information that you were able to obtain. You may update the information you provide if you discover additional information after your initial report. The information you provide on this form will remain confidential and is not reported to law enforcement or immigration. Providing this information helps our local case investigation teams identify and slow the transmission of COVID-19 in our in-person education settings and the community. Thank you for your cooperation.
Please note, CDPH’s childcare guidance does not require reporting of single cases among staff and children to the local health department.
Current Guidance for TK-12 School District Superintendents, School Boards, And Other School Administration Leaders
State of California Safe Schools for All Hub, including:
- CDPH’s COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California, 2021-2022 School Year
- CDPH’s K-12 school-based COVID_19 testing strategies for school year 2021-22
COVID-19 Designee Toolkit
Each school/school district has a COVID-19 Designee, who is the person appointed as a communication link between the schools and the Public Health Department. Please visit the COVID-19 Designee Toolkit page for all resources needed by COVID-19 Designees in their support of the COVID-19 response in schools.
Resources for Parents
- State of California Safe Schools for All Hub's Safe Schools Parent Page (in English and Spanish), including frequently asked questions, the science behind safely reopening schools, vaccinations for students, and more
Current Guidance for Childcare Programs, Preschools, Camps, and Other Programs Serving Children and Youth
- Template Letters: When a Student/Child or Staff Member in a Cohort Has Been in Close Contact with a COVID-19 Case: | English | Chinese | Spanish | Vietnamese | Tagalog |
- Template Letters: When a Student/Child or Staff Member in a Cohort Tests Positive for COVID-19: | English | Chinese | Spanish | Vietnamese | Tagalog |
- Learn more about these template letters
- CDPH’s Guidance for Child Care Programs and Providers – June 29, 2021
- CDPH’s Guidance for Overnight Camps – May 13, 2021
- CDPH’s COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Instruction Framework & Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California, 2020-2021 School Year – June 4, 2021 (also applies to day camps and other youth activities for the summer of 2021)
Frequently Asked Questions for TK-12 and Programs Serving Children or Youth
(Note: Each FAQ is followed by a parenthetical indicating whether the FAQ applies to TK-12 schools, programs for children or youth, or both.)
School Reopening for TK-12
When can schools reopen for in-person instruction? (TK-12)
CDPH’s COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California, 2021-2022 School Year explains that the State’s guidance “is designed to enable all schools to offer and provide full in-person instruction to all students safely, consistent with the current scientific evidence about COVID-19, even if pandemic dynamics shift throughout the school year, affected by vaccination rates and the potential emergence of viral variants.”
Cohorting and Distancing
Is there a maximum cohort size or minimum amount of physical distancing required for in-person instruction? (TK-12)
CDPH’s COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California, 2021-2022 School Year does not set a maximum cohort size or minimum amount of distancing between students and/or staff. On physical distancing, the State’s guidance specifically states that “[r]ecent evidence indicates that in-person instruction can occur safely without minimum physical distancing requirements when other mitigation strategies (e.g., masking) are fully implemented. This is consistent with CDC K-12 School Guidance.”
What is the recommendation for how to serve students with disabilities who are receiving in-person instruction? (TK-12)
CDPH’s COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California, 2021-2022 School Year states that “schools should carefully consider how to address the legal requirements related to provision of a free, appropriate public education and requirements to reasonably accommodate disabilities, which continue to apply.” It also directs schools “to the CDC K-12 guidance section on ‘Disabilities or other health care needs’ for additional recommendations.”
What is the guidance on breakrooms?
The Health Officer recommends that use of indoor breakrooms by unvaccinated staff be minimized as much as possible. Unvaccinated employees should preferably eat outside, alone in their vehicles or alone at their own desk/workspaces. Employers are strongly encouraged to take steps to encourage these safety measures (for example, by staggering break times and/or setting up outdoor areas where employees can eat and stay at least six feet apart from one another). If unvaccinated employees want to eat with coworkers, they should do so outdoors and distanced more than six feet apart from each other.
Can parents, especially those of younger children, be in the classroom? (TK-12)
CDPH’s COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California, 2021-2022 School Year recommends the following:
a. Schools should review their rules for visitors and family engagement activities.
b. Schools should limit nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving external groups or organizations with people who are not fully vaccinated, particularly in areas where there is moderate-to-high COVID-19 community transmission.
Who is required to wear a face covering? (TK-12)
CDPH’s COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California, 2021-2022 School Year says that face coverings are optional outdoors for all in K-12 school settings. However, K-12 students are required to wear face coverings indoors, with exemptions per CDPH face mask guidance. Adults in K-12 school settings are also required to mask when sharing indoor spaces with others. Persons exempted from wearing a face covering due to a medical condition, must wear a non-restrictive alternative, such as a face shield with a drape on the bottom edge, as long as their condition permits it.
Who is responsible for enforcing face covering requirements? (TK-12)
CDPH’s COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California, 2021-2022 School Year says that “schools must develop and implement local protocols to enforce the mask requirements. Additionally, schools should offer alternative educational opportunities for students who are excluded from campus because they will not wear a face covering.”
At what AQI level should longer, passive activities (such as prolonged instruction) be moved indoors? (TK-12; Programs for Children/Youth)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend that unusually sensitive people consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion when the Air Quality Index (AQI) is between 51-100 and that all children and teenagers reduce prolonged or heavy exertion when the AQI is above 100. However, there are no specific guidelines for the AQI thresholds for moving passive activity (such as outdoor educational instruction) indoors.
We recommend moving longer, passive activities (e.g., prolonged outdoor educational instruction) indoors when the AQI is 101 or higher. Windows and doors should be kept closed when the AQI is 101 or higher.
At what AQI level should short periods of outdoor activity be moved indoors? (TK-12; Programs for Children/Youth)
The CDC and EPA recommend that unusually sensitive people consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion when the AQI is between 51-100 and that all children and teenagers reduce prolonged or heavy exertion when the AQI is above 100.
We recommend cancelling, rescheduling, or moving indoors all activities (active and passive, regardless of duration) when the AQI is 151 or higher. Windows and doors should be kept closed when the AQI is 101 or higher.
At what AQI level should schools consider closing and moving to remote instruction? (TK-12; Programs for Children/Youth)
There is no established cut-off level for air quality for school dismissals or closures. There is no clear evidence that children are safer from poor air quality at home than at school. Parents of students who have longer outdoor transit times to and from school, where they may have greater exposure, may consider alternative methods for transportation or keeping their child home even if the school remains open.
Two important mechanisms for decreasing risk of COVID-19 disease transmission in schools is to conduct educational instruction outdoors and to open doors and windows when indoors. If students must remain indoors with windows and doors closed due to poor air quality, then other measures to reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission become increasingly important including mechanical ventilation and filtration, portable air filters, and masking.
Are there recommendations for minimizing exposure to unhealthy air during pickup/drop-off (e.g., health screenings before arrival) (TK-12; Programs for Children/Youth)?
When the AQI is 101 or higher, health screenings (if performed on campus) should be conducted upon arrival in the classroom/building rather than having students and staff waiting outdoors for screening. Schools may also consider having health screenings conducted before arriving on campus.
Are portable air purifiers helpful in reducing exposure to smoke or COVID-19 transmission risk? (TK-12; Programs for Children/Youth)
Portable air purifiers can provide additional protection from smoke exposure, depending on the type of filter used (high efficiency filtration) and the clean air delivery rate (CADR). Multiple devices per classroom may be necessary. For more information, please see the County’s Guidance for Ventilation and Air Filtration Systems.
Where can I learn more about the Air Quality Index? (TK-12; Programs for Children/Youth)
a. Air Quality and Outdoor Activity Guidance for Schools(from EPA, CDC, on the Air Now website)
b. Air Quality Index: A Guide to Air Quality and Your Health(from EPA, on the Air Now website)
COVID-19 Screening, Testing, Reporting, and Response
Updated 1/14/2022- In general, students/youth who are fully vaccinated (completed a primary series of COVID-19 vaccine at least 2 weeks ago) and have been exposed to a COVID-19 case AND are asymptomatic do not need to quarantine, but they should get tested 5 days after exposure and wear a mask for 10 days whenever near others. Exceptions and other considerations may apply. Please see the County Public Health Department’s Home Isolation and Quarantine Guidance - Contact Tracing webpage for more information.
If my child has runny nose or congestion but no other symptoms of COVID-19, should he/she stay home from school? (TK-12)
Many school age children will have symptoms of runny nose throughout the school year due to a range of conditions. It would be unlikely for a child to experience runny nose as the only symptom of COVID-19, and preventing children with only a runny nose from going to school would likely lead to unnecessary school absences. If a child has a runny nose but no other symptoms of COVID-19, it would be reasonable to allow that child to remain at school, provided the child does not develop any other symptoms of COVID-19.
Do people who have been vaccinated still need to quarantine if they were exposed to someone with COVID-19? (TK-12; Programs for Children/Youth)
a. Updated 1/14/2022- In general, students/youth who are fully vaccinated (completed a primary series of COVID-19 vaccine at least 2 weeks ago) and have been exposed to a COVID-19 case AND are asymptomatic do not need to quarantine, but they should get tested 5 days after exposure and wear a mask for 10 days whenever near others. Exceptions and other considerations may apply. Please see the County Public Health Department’s Home Isolation and Quarantine Guidance - Contact Tracing webpage for more information.
What are the quarantine recommendations for unvaccinated individuals in schools? (TK-12; Programs for Children/Youth)
CDPH’s COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California, 2021-2022 School Year recommends that:
If both the COVID-19 case and the student/youth close contact were masked, and that contact is asymptomatic, the student/youth close contact may continue attending in-person instruction at school, complying with all face mask requirements.
However, the student/youth close contact must quarantine for 5 days from all other activities, including extracurricular activities at the school, athletic activities, and other activities within the community.
The student/youth close contact must also be tested at least twice within the 5 days after their exposure. (Ideally, they should have their first COVID-19 test as soon as possible after the exposure and their second test on/after 5 days after the exposure.) Close contacts who are unable to test must quarantine at home for 10 days.
A student/youth close contact who tests negative on or after Day 5 and is asymptomatic may end their quarantine period from extracurricular, athletic, and other activities after Day 5. In other words, they may resume those activities on Day 6 from the date of exposure. They must wear a mask for 10 days whenever near others. For any activities where a contact does not/cannot mask (i.e., indoor sports or playing wind instruments), quarantine from these activities must continue for a full 10 days.
CDPH further recommends that, for (1) an asymptomatic, unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated student/youth who is a close contact (as described above) and (2) any other student/youth who is an asymptomatic, unvaccinated close contact where one or both parties was not wearing a face covering during the exposure(s), the following quarantine guidance should be followed:
- Quarantine can end after Day 10 from the date of last exposure without testing if they have no symptoms.; OR
- Quarantine can end after Day 5 if a diagnostic specimen is collected on/after Day 5 from the date of last exposure and tests negative and they have no symptoms. Must wear a mask for a total of 10 days whenever near others.
- To discontinue quarantine after last known exposure, asymptomatic close contacts must:
- Continue daily self-monitoring for symptoms through Day 10 from last known exposure; AND
- Follow all recommended non-pharmaceutical interventions (e.g., wearing a mask when around others, hand washing, avoiding crowds) through Day 10 from last known exposure.
- If any symptoms develop during this 10-day period, the exposed person must immediately isolate, get tested and contact their healthcare provider with any questions regarding their care.
Should families who have traveled out of state be required to quarantine before returning to school? (TK-12; Programs for Children/Youth)
The State and County do not have any requirements regarding quarantining after travel. Individuals are recommended to follow CDC guidance for domestic and international travel. Please see CDPH Travel Advisory for detailed guidance.
If a student or staff member has COVID-like symptoms, when is a doctor’s note needed before returning to school? (TK-12)
If a student or staff person, who is not a close contact to a confirmed COVID-19 case, has COVID-like symptoms that may be common to a variety of illnesses, the person should get tested. If the test result is negative, the student or staff member can return to school when at least 24 hours have passed since resolution of any fever (without the use of fever-reducing medications) and other symptoms have improved. The negative test result should be provided to the school, and a doctor’s note is not needed.
A doctor’s note is only needed before returning to school if:
a. the symptoms experienced are identical to those of a documented underlying chronic condition(e.g., asthma or diabetes); or
b. the healthcare provider determined, through a medical evaluation of the person, that there is an alternative, named diagnosis(e.g., streptococcal pharyngitis or coxsackievirus) that explains the symptoms experienced.
For a doctor’s note to be valid documentation of the above situations, the doctor must provide a written explanation that includes all of the following: certification that a medical evaluation was completed; an alternative explanation for symptoms; and a statement that COVID-19 testing is not indicated.
Should students, teachers, and other school staff be routinely tested? (TK-12)
CDPH’s K-12 school-based COVID-19 testing strategies for school year 2021-22 outlines the State’s recommendations and support for testing of students, teachers, and other school staff. In addition to testing of symptomatic individuals and close contacts, screening testing can be helpful in preventing COVID-19 transmission on campus. More frequent screening testing is more likely to result in identifying COVID-19 cases early and preventing on-campus transmission.
How should we notify families of COVID-19 cases in the school or program? (TK-12; Programs for Children/Youth)
The County Public Health Department’s letter templates should be used by schools, childcare programs, and other programs serving children or youth to notify individuals when a COVID-19 case, or close contact of a COVID-19 case, is identified in a school setting or in a program serving children or youth. The letter templates provide instructions for affected individuals (1) when a student/child or staff member in a non-cohort setting has been in close contact with a COVID-19 case, and (2) when a student/child or staff member tests positive for COVID-19 in a non-cohort setting.
As cohorting is no longer required by CDPH, most school settings will be non-cohort settings. (A cohort is a stable group of students/children and staff who remain together throughout the school day/length of the program and who do not mix with other groups of students/children and staff.) If your location is maintaining cohorts, then send either the letter for when a student/child or staff member in a cohort has been in close contact with a COVID-19 case or the letter for when a student/child or staff member in a cohort tests positive for COVID-19.
When can a case or close contact return to school or another program for children/youth? (TK-12; Programs for Children/Youth)
Students and staff are no longer considered contagious if they meet the criteria detailed in the Return to School Letter. Close contacts, who complete a full 10-day quarantine period do not need to provide a negative COVID-19 virus test to return to school. A negative test, taken on/after Day 5 after exposure, is only required if the contact is eligible for modified quarantine (remaining on campus). If not tested, a close contact should complete a 10-day home quarantine.
Updated 1/14/2022 - Fully vaccinated close contacts may not need to quarantine if they meet certain conditions. Please see question 15 above, and also Quarantine Guidance for Fully Vaccinated People for more information.
Anyone who was not a close contact but who has symptoms of COVID-19 IS required to have a negative test or a medical note that details an alternative explanation for the symptoms (see FAQ #18) before returning to school.
Individuals who refuse testing and/or evaluation should be treated as a COVID-19 case and can return based on the usual isolation criteria of 5 days after symptom onset and 24 hours after resolution of fever and improvement of other symptoms.
NEW 1/14/2022 - The County of Santa Clara Public Health Department endorses and supports the use of at-home testing for all situations in which COVID-19 tests are recommended or required for return to in-person school and childcare settings. Specifically, FDA-authorized antigen home tests may be used to return to school or childcare settings after COVID-19 exposure, quarantine, or isolation in accordance with CDPH isolation and quarantine recommendations and TK-12 Guidance.
Schools and childcare settings do not need to require in-person or video monitoring of home tests in order to consider them a valid test result. Instead, schools should follow CDPH guidance for documentation of home test performance, which include options to request photos of labeled test kits, signed attestation forms, or input of testing data into apps provided by the testing companies (see Over-The-Counter-Tests-LHJ-Guidance (ca.gov)).
Are schools required to notify all families in the school community if there is a COVID-19 case? (TK-12)
If the COVID-19 case is in a non-cohort setting, schools should notify all the COVID-19 case’s close contacts at the school. If the COVID-19 case is in a cohort setting, schools should notify all individuals in the COVID-19 case’s cohort. Schools are not required to notify families of students who are not close contacts of a COVID-19 case or in a cohort with a COVID-19 case. However, the County recommends notifications to the broader school community as a best practice, and schools may be required to provide broader notification pursuant to State law.
Are schools allowed to release personally identifiable information, including health information, from students’ education records to the County Public Health Department without parental or student consent? (TK-12)
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records, which generally includes all student information in the possession of schools. In general, school districts and public schools (and other schools receiving federal funds) must obtain consent from a parent or guardian before disclosing personally identifiable information from students’ education records. But exceptions to FERPA’s general consent rule allow schools to share certain records and information without prior consent in certain circumstances.
In its guidance regarding FERPA and how school officials can help slow the spread of COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Education confirms that schools can share information without prior consent when, in connection with an emergency such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, sharing information with public health officials is necessary to protect the health or safety of students or other individuals. In order to prevent and control the spread of disease through case investigation and contact tracing, this may include information such as whether a student has tested positive for COVID-19, their household contacts, and their parents’ or guardians’ contact information.
Archives and Past Guidance
- COVID-19 Prepared: Reopening Santa Clara County K-12 Schools for the 2020-2021 School Year – December 14, 2020 | English | Chinese | Spanish | Vietnamese | Tagalog |
- K-12 COVID-19 Childhood Transmission Scientific Summary (last updated Nov. 20, 2020)
- Letter from Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody and Superintendent Dr. Mary Ann Dewan on childhood vaccinations and wellness care for the upcoming school year – July 23, 2020. PDF: | English | Chinese | Spanish | Vietnamese | Tagalog |
- Science Behind the K-12 School Guidance – July 17, 2020 (PDF) - The Santa Clara County Public Health Department hosted a webinar to discuss the science behind the K-12 school guidance, released on June 30, 2020. The webinar was intended to provide an overview highlighting current scientific data behind the recent public health recommendations. This overview is not comprehensive but highlights themes and key articles and reports relevant to school settings. Our understanding of COVID-19 is rapidly evolving. Santa Clara County Public Health Department will continue to monitor emerging research and provide updated information and recommendations.
- Which school districts have received approval for their waiver applications to re-open elementary schools for in-person instruction?
- A Parent's Guide to Reopening of Santa Clara County K-12 Schools - September 21, 2020 PDF: | English | Chinese | Spanish | Vietnamese | Tagalog |
- List of Elementary School Waiver Applications
- Statement of the County of Santa Clara Regarding the Governor’s Announcement – July 17, 2020
- Guidance for Graduation/Recognition of Graduates – June 5, 2020
- Guidance for Child Care and Preschool Settings– February 13, 2020
- Guidance for Schools and Students Update – February 10, 2020 - | Chinese | Spanish | Vietnamese |
- Letter to Colleges & Universities on Novel Coronavirus Update – February 5, 2020
- Letter to Colleges & Universities on Novel Coronavirus – February 3, 2020
- Recorded livestream of County Public Health Department and Office of Education leaders sharing School Settings guidance with news media - June 30, 2020
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