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2022-2023 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 regarding and/or sent during the 2022-2023 school year, including Health & Safety updates, can be found online.

Please Note! Information below is subject to change, pending guidance and recommendations from federal, state and local health officials, among other sources. This page is continually updated, as needed.

View general HCPSS student health information 

a young girl smiling and holding an apple. she is eating lunch with a sandwich and drink on the table.

Jump to: Air Quality Measures | General Health & Safety | Student Meals | At-Home Health Checks | Face Masks | Vaccination / Testing | Exhibiting Symptoms & Testing Positive | Staying Home When Sick | FAQs

HCPSS Air Quality Measures

HCPSS has, and continues to implement a combination of measures to improve building ventilation at each school, including installing portable HEPA fan/filtration units in each classroom, cafeteria and COVID isolation room. The HVAC units serving all student-occupied areas of HCPSS school buildings and all other portable classrooms provide outdoor air ventilation.

The following improvements to building ventilation 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 during 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 areas 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.

General Health & Safety

Anyone entering HCPSS buildings is expected to follow health protocols as indicated by the CDC, Maryland Department of Health and the Howard County Health Department. As guidelines are issued/updated by these organizations, the protocols for staff, students and visitors in HCPSS buildings also will be updated.

HCPSS Custodial Services are committed to adhering to all necessary cleaning protocols and precautionary guidelines outlined by the Maryland Department of Health and CDC. To reduce the risk of infection, high touch surfaces will be cleaned with a Green Seal certified multipurpose solution and disinfected with an EPA approved disinfectant. Schools and office buildings will be routinely cleaned and disinfected on a daily basis and will include, but are not limited to, classrooms, offices, restrooms, public areas, health suites, and isolation rooms.

HCPSS encourages regular hand washing and provides hand sanitizer in all its buildings. Sanitizer stations are placed in high-volume areas of schools and offices.

Water fountains will be available for use in all schools. Additionally, all schools are scheduled to have at least one refillable water bottle station by September. Access to refillable water bottle stations provides another layered mitigation effort for limiting the spread of germs and bacteria.

Cafeterias & Student Meals

HCPSS will continue to implement strict COVID mitigation efforts for all its cafeterias that exceed the recommendations of the CDC and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (see Air Quality Measures).

All schools have outdoor eating spaces available for student use, as weather and staffing permits, to lessen the number of students in the cafeteria. Dining tents will be installed at all elementary schools to increase outdoor dining opportunities. Any absence of dining tents will not preclude students from the option to eat lunch outside

FES students eating lunch outside under tent

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.

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

All students, staff and visitors should perform daily health checks and do not enter an HCPSS bus or building with ANY of the following:

  • 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

Face Masks

Face masks in HCPSS buildings and/or on school buses are voluntary. Health experts continue to recommend consistent use of well-fitting face masks to reduce the risk of spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. A limited supply of masks are available in HCPSS schools and offices.

Please note, anyone who visits a school health room and presents COVID-19 symptoms will be required to wear a face mask.

For additional mask guidance, see Student/Staff Tests Positive for COVID and Student/Staff Was In Close Proximity of Someone Who Tested Positive for COVID.

Vaccination / Testing

The Maryland Department of Health and the Maryland State Department of Education “strongly recommend that all eligible Marylanders ages 6 months and older receive all recommended doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, including boosters;” however they are not requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for Maryland public school students. Additionally, HCPSS no longer provides mass COVID-19 testing opportunities for staff or students. Howard County Health Department testing, vaccination and booster information can be found online.

Students and school staff who develop symptoms during the school day may receive a rapid test in the school health room. Parent/guardian consent is required to administer a test to students under the age of 18. Students aged 18 years or older are considered “eligible students” and must complete a print version of the consent form. Details on providing consent for COVID-19 testing can be found online.

Students/staff with a negative rapid test result who do not have a fever and do 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.

Anyone who tests positive from an at-home test should complete this online form to report the positive result to the Maryland Department of Health. (Also see Exhibiting Symptoms & Testing Positive) HCPSS will continue the current processes for students or staff who test positive in school by sending names and addresses to the Howard County Health Department. HCPSS is not conducting any contact tracing.

Exhibiting Symptoms & Testing Positive

Student/Staff Exhibits COVID-like Symptoms

Students or staff who exhibit COVID-like symptoms at home should test for COVID or remain home for five days.

Students or staff who exhibit COVID-like symptoms at school will be directed to visit the school’s health room.

For students, if a parent/guardian has provided consent, the student will receive a rapid COVID test, then:

  • If the student tests positive, they will be sent home.
  • If the student tests negative but the school nurse concludes the severity of symptoms is significant enough, they will be sent home.
  • If the student tests negative and their symptoms are not associated with other communicable diseases and their symptoms are deemed by the nurse to be mild, they will be sent back to class. Parents/guardians will be notified when their child visits the health room.

If a parent/guardian has not provided consent for their child to be tested, the student will be sent home.

Student/Staff Tests Positive for COVID

Regardless of vaccination status, staff and students must stay home for at least five full days from the date of symptom onset if symptomatic or from the date of the positive test if no symptoms. Day 0 is considered the day symptoms started in symptomatic persons or the day of the positive test (based on the date of testing) if asymptomatic.

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. If you test negative on or after day 5, with two negative rapid antigen tests 48 hours apart, you may remove your mask prior to the end of the 10-day period.

Student/Staff Was In Close Proximity of Someone Who Tested Positive for COVID

Regardless of vaccination status, staff and students who may be close contacts can continue to attend school and child care as long as they remain asymptomatic.

  • It is recommended that those who can wear a mask do so for 10 days (Day 0 is the last date of exposure).
  • A test three to five days after exposure is recommended, especially for those who cannot wear a mask.

Staying Home When Sick

The Maryland Department of Health and the Maryland State Department of Education recommends that persons with symptoms of COVID-19 should be tested. If the test is negative, they may return when symptoms are improved, they have no fever for 24 hours without medication, and applicable criteria in the Communicable Diseases Summary have been met.

All persons who test positive for COVID-19 or have suspected COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, should complete isolation as follows:

  • Stay home for at least 5 full days from the date of symptom onset if symptomatic or from the date of the positive test if no symptoms.
  • Day 0 is considered the day symptoms started in symptomatic persons or the day of the positive test (based on the date of testing) if asymptomatic.
  • After day 5, if the person has no symptoms or if symptoms are improved and they have had no fever for at least 24 hours without medication, they may return to school or child care if they wear a well-fitting mask* for 5 additional days (day 6 through day 10).
  • If they are unable to wear a mask, they may return to school or child care if they have a negative test at day 5 or later; otherwise, they should remain at home for day 6 through day 10. A negative test at day 10 or after is not needed to return.

*Masks do not need to be worn in schools or child care programs while eating, drinking, sleeping or outside.

Frequently Asked Questions

HCPSS has the answers to frequently asked questions related to the school system, and specifically to health and safety.