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2021-2022 Health & Safety

The health and safety of all students and staff is of the utmost concern. See below for HCPSS efforts regarding health and safety measures for students, staff, families, schools and offices.

Communication

Communication regarding and/or sent during the 2021-2022 school year, including Health & Safety updates, can be found online. Read more 

Jump to: Tested Positive for COVID–19? | Identified as a Close Contact? | Masks | Vaccination / Testing | Health Checks | Isolating & Quarantining | Contact Tracing | COVID Dashboard | Air Quality | Student Meals | Attendance | FAQs

Student and Staff Isolation and Quarantine Procedures

Note: Primary Series denotes the initial 2-dose series provided by Pfizer and Moderna or the single dose of Johnson & Johnson.

I Tested Positive for COVID–19

I am unvaccinated

Isolate for five days. You may return on day 6 if you are fever free, have experienced an improvement in symptoms, and are able to wear a mask properly.

I received the primary series and am eligible for the booster but have not received it

Isolate for five days. You may return on day 6 if you are fever free, have experienced an improvement in symptoms, and are able to wear a mask properly.

I received both the primary series and booster

Isolate for five days. You may return on day 6 if you are fever free, have experienced an improvement in symptoms, and are able to wear a mask properly.

I received the primary series but am not eligible yet for the booster

Isolate for five days. You may return on day 6 if you are fever free, have experienced an improvement in symptoms, and are able to wear a mask properly.

I tested positive in the past 90 days

If you are not experiencing symptoms, there is no need to isolate as you may receive a false positive during the 90-day period following the testing date of your positive result. However, consulting with a medical professional is recommended. If you are experiencing symptoms, please isolate until such time that you can consult with a medical professional.

I Was Identified as a Close Contact and Am Not Symptomatic

I am unvaccinated

The day of your exposure to the positive case is day zero, therefore you will be expected to test on day one after being identified as a close contact. If the test is negative, the individual may continue to attend school and participate in extracurricular activities—including high school graduations and other end-of-year celebrations.

You will need to continue testing on days three and five, following the same protocols as Day one. Remain masked in public settings for 10 days following the exposure.

I received the primary series and am eligible for the booster but have not received it

The day of your exposure to the positive case is day zero, therefore you will test on day one after being identified as a close contact. If the test is negative, the individual may continue to attend school and participate in extracurricular activities—including high school graduations and other end-of-year celebrations.

You will need to continue testing on days three and five, following the same protocols as day one. Remain masked in public settings for 10 days following the exposure.

I received both the primary series and booster

No need to quarantine.

I received the primary series but am not eligible yet for the booster

No need to quarantine.

I tested positive in the past 90 days

No need to quarantine.

Note: These tables are meant for reference purposes only. Different isolation or quarantine guidance may be provided based on individual circumstances.

Defining Booster Eligibility, Isolation, and Quarantine

Booster Eligibility

The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) authorized booster shots of the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines for all individuals age 18 and older (age 12 for Pfizer). Please review the following information:

  • If you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you are eligible for any vaccine booster shot, if you are 18 years of age or older, two months following your initial vaccination.

  • If you received the Moderna vaccine, you are eligible for the booster shot if you are 18 years of age or older, five months after your final vaccination.

  • If you received the Pfizer vaccine, you are eligible for the booster shot if you are 12 years of age or older, five months after your final vaccination.

    Note: Pfizer is the only vaccine approved for adolescents ages 12–17, including booster shots. Adults 18 and older may choose any vaccine booster no matter which original vaccine was received.

Isolation and Quarantine:

The CDC provides guidance on how to isolate and quarantine properly to reduce the spread to others.

Masking Properly:

The Howard County Health Department provides guidelines on how to wear masks properly for maximum protection. Students and staff who are unable to wear a mask properly following a five-day quarantine must quarantine for 10 days before returning to school or work.

Face Masks

Masks in Buildings

Face masks in HCPSS buildings are voluntary and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health experts continue to recommend face masks as a precautionary measure.

Please note that per the CDC, masks are required in healthcare settings, so students and staff must continue to wear a mask in school health rooms.

Masks on School Buses

The CDC recently changed its federal order and no longer requires people to wear masks on public transportation school buses or vans. Consequently, mask-wearing on HCPSS school buses is voluntary.

COVID-19 Vaccination / Testing Requirements

Updates to Vaccination / Testing Requirements: April 22, 2022

In an effort to maintain safe, healthy learning environments that fully provide instruction and supports for all students, while balancing multiple layers of staffing challenges and workloads, HCPSS has continued to adapt its protocols and procedures around vaccine and testing requirements. Requirements and protocols are reevaluated as we progress through the school year, in anticipation that vaccines will become available for our youngest students, health agencies’ guidance may change, and/or declining COVID infection rates may reduce the threat to the safety of students and staff.

HCPSS is no longer providing COVID-19 testing opportunities for staff or student athletes. Howard County vaccination information can be found on the Howard County Health Department website.

HCPSS Students and Staff

HCPSS students and staff are not required to show proof of vaccination or undergo testing. Student-athletes are no longer required to provide proof of vaccination or undergo weekly testing in order to participate.

Students and school staff who develop symptoms during the school day may receive a rapid test in the school health room. A negative rapid test result will not require a confirmatory PCR test if the student/staff has not been identified as a close contact or part of a cohort outbreak. A student/staff with a negative rapid test result who does not have a fever and does not need to be excluded for other communicable disease concerns, may remain in school. If symptoms persist, it may be necessary for the health room staff to refer the individual for medical evaluation.

Proof of Negative COVID Test

If a student or staff member exhibits COVID-like symptoms, the parent/guardian or staff may submit any of the following to show proof of a negative test and return to the building:

  • Negative PCR test result
  • Negative rapid test result
  • Negative at-home test result

A negative rapid test result will not require a confirmatory PCR test if the student or staff member has not been identified as a close contact or part of a cohort outbreak.

After a Positive Test

Anyone who tests positive from an at-home rapid antigen test should complete this online form to report the positive result to the Maryland Department of Health. After reporting the positive, test, follow isolation guidance.

Contracted Service Providers

Contracted staff who work for before- and after-care and other service providers, such as bus drivers, no longer are required to implement a vaccine or testing requirement for employees.

Volunteers and Classroom Observers

Visitors and/or volunteers no longer are required to provide proof of vaccination when entering a school building.

Howard County Health Department COVID-19 Vaccine Website 

At-Home Health Checks

Parents/guardians should keep their children home if they are experiencing symptom(s) associated with any communicable disease, including COVID-19. In addition, parents/guardians are to perform the following COVID-19 health check every day before the student leaves home. Students and staff should NOT come to school with any of these symptoms:
  • fever of 100.4 degrees or higher
  • sore throat
  • cough
  • difficulty breathing
  • diarrhea or vomiting
  • new onset of severe headache (especially with fever), or
  • new loss of taste or smell

For persons with chronic conditions such as asthma, the symptoms should represent a change from baseline.

Isolating & Quarantining

Updates to Isolating & Quarantining: May 26, 2022

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a recommendation to shorten quarantine duration to five days. This recommendation was adopted by the Howard County Health Department (HCHD) and detailed in the Dec. 31, 2021, message to the community and staff.

In alignment with guidelines provided by HCHD for positive cases, all students and staff who test positive for COVID or are showing symptoms must be isolated for five days regardless of vaccination status and may not return to school until:
  • They have been out at least five days from the onset of symptoms or upon receiving a positive test without symptoms, and
  • Remain fever-free for 24 hours, and
  • Show a consistent improvement of symptoms.
If you come into close contact with someone with COVID-19, you do not need to quarantine if you have received all recommended vaccine doses, including boosters when eligible. Anyone identified as a close contact and is asymptomatic should be tested on day one after the initial day they are identified as a close contact, again on day three, and then again on day five. As long as each test is negative, the individual may continue to attend school and participate in extracurricular activities—including high school graduations and other end-of-year celebrations. Remain masked in public settings for 10 days following the exposure.

Contact Tracing

HCPSS recently made adjustments to its contact tracing process to ensure we are meeting legal requirements to provide accurate and timely data to the health department while supporting our students and staff who test positive. HCPSS will continue the current processes for students who test positive by sending names and addresses to the Howard County Health Department, making personal contacts with families of students with COVID, and gathering information about cohorts where there are multiple cases of positive students. Families may receive a text message from emocha Health, a service contracted by the Howard County Health Department, which is using this mobile health monitoring application for quarantined students and staff associated with outbreaks. HCHD has a data privacy agreement with emocha Health.

When HCPSS recognized that the surge in cases severely disrupted existing contact tracing procedures, we focused our energy on completing actions that would be helpful for families and staff. Specifically, we prioritized:

  • Tracking positive cases and investigating infected individuals to determine their onset of symptoms, classes, and cohorts;
  • Contacting household contacts of any student who is positive to ensure they are following the proper guidance for household exposure;
  • Notifying families of students who are unable to mask or are experiencing high-risk health conditions;
  • Investigating linkages between cases when there are multiple cases in schools; and
  • Communicating positive cases and cohort outbreaks to the Howard county health department.
HCPSS staff look for school cohort outbreaks. The Maryland Department of Health defines a cohort outbreak as “three or more laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases among students/teachers/staff in a specified group with onsets (or, if asymptomatic, collection dates) within a 14-day period, and who are epidemiologically linked in the school setting, but not household contacts.” Additional details on contact tracing may be found online.

HCPSS COVID-19 Dashboard

The HCPSS COVID-19 dashboard reflects daily (non-cumulative) positive test results self-reported to HCPSS of students, staff or visitors in school/office buildings during their contagious period. This data reflects the date HCPSS Health Services was notified of the positive case and not necessarily the date of the positive test result or the date a school notification was sent.

Due to the current high-volume of daily positive cases, it is likely that cases are not reflected on the dashboard right away as our focus remains on ensuring we support students and staff who have tested positive and notifying families and individual school communities first.

HCPSS incorporated additional changes to help ensure the dashboard data is current and aligns with notifications issued by schools. The numbers represented on the dashboard are pulled directly from the HCPSS Student Information System (Synergy) as they are entered by school staff. Schools often are the first point of contact for parents and staff reporting a positive case to the school system. In the interest of ensuring families are alerted as soon as possible, schools may send a message to families before entering data into Synergy. Once positive case information is entered, the dashboard data is backdated, however, it can take some time for the Dashboard and school email numbers to sync. Please note that once posted, dashboard data is not changed in the event of a false-positive test.

The HCPSS COVID-19 dashboard also includes cases that are part of the MDH outbreak reporting. These cases may not impact HCPSS school communities because they often include people who are already in quarantine as an identified close contact and not participating in-person activities while contagious.

The dashboard additionally includes weekly numbers of students and staff in quarantine due to a positive COVID-19 test or as a close contact. Close contact or quarantine does not indicate those students or staff have tested positive for COVID-19.

Air Quality

HCPSS implemented a combination of measures to improve building ventilation at each school, including portable HEPA fan/filtration units to provide auxiliary air cleaning in each school’s COVID isolation room, and in portable classrooms where outdoor air is not introduced through the HVAC unit. The HVAC units serving all student-occupied areas of HCPSS school buildings and all other portable classrooms provide outdoor air ventilation. In addition, HCPSS has additional portable HEPA fan/filtration units on order to deploy as necessary, however, all spaces that currently require one due to inability to meet ventilation guidelines are fully equipped with portable HEPA fan/filtration units.

The following improvements to building ventilation already have been implemented at all schools:

  1. Air filters having a minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) rating of MERV 13 have been installed in all HVAC units wherever possible.
  2. Outdoor air ventilation has been maximized at all schools by ensuring that outdoor air dampers, airside economizers, and exhaust fans are working properly in all HVAC units. Air bypass around 16 air filters has also been addressed in all HVAC units to ensure that all air passes through the air filters and not around them.
  3. HVAC system run times have been extended, starting two hours before school occupancy through two hours after school occupancy, to flush schools with additional outdoor air ventilation prior to students’ arrival and after their departure.
  4. HVAC units provide approximately six room air changes per hour durin student-occupied hours.
  5. Demand-controlled ventilation has been disabled to ensure that 100% of the outdoor airflow designed for each space will be continuously delivered whenever schools are occupied.
  6. HVAC system energy recovery units have been disabled during times of non-extreme summer and winter conditions to prevent any exhaust air from being re-entrained into the outdoor air ventilation.
  7. Portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) fan/filtration units have been installed in the isolation room in each school’s health suite, as described above.
  8. Carbon dioxide (CO2) sensors with data logging capabilities have been installed in all school cafeterias. The level of CO2 in the room air, measured in parts per million (ppm) CO2, provides an indication of the effectiveness of the outdoor air ventilation in diluting airborne contaminants.

Student Meals

Mask-wearing is optional in all HCPSS buildings, including during meal time.

HCPSS will continue to implement strict COVID mitigation efforts that exceed the recommendations of the CDC and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers.

All schools have outdoor eating spaces available for student use, as weather and staffing permits, to lessen the number of students in the cafeteria. In an effort to maintain a healthy environment in cafeterias, the following actions have been implemented:

  • Additional tables were ordered and distributed to schools to help ensure outside eating areas are furnished, as well as to allow maximum spacing indoors.
  • Based on the availability of products from vendors, large tents that are compliant with local code were provided to elementary schools to increase outdoor dining spaces.
  • Plexiglass shields for indoor cafeteria tables were secured for grades K-6 where students were largely unable to be vaccinated. These panels were removed beginning March 1, 2022.

FES students eating lunch outside under tent

Attendance

Some parents have requested an excused absence for reasons not related to required isolation or quarantine for COVID for their student based on the current State of Emergency. HCPSS staff received clarity from the Maryland State Department of Education that, “The Governor’s State of Emergency covers various health care matters including, health care providers, hospitalizations, etc. There is no reference to schools in the Executive Order. The Governor is committed to keeping students in schools. Therefore, the State emergency code is not applicable and is not a reason to request virtual instruction.”

At this time, absences from school will be considered unexcused unless the student is ill or meets other qualifications for an excused absence.

Frequently Asked Questions