Back To School COVID-19 Guidance

CATEGORY: Private Education Matters
CLIENT TYPE: Private Education
DATE: Aug 31, 2023

With the start of the 2023-2024 school year, and the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases throughout the country, many schools are wondering what the current COVID-19 guidance is for students and employees at California private schools. The most recent guidance from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (CalOSHA) is captured below, but local requirements also may apply. Schools should contact legal counsel for guidance on any local requirements.

Quarantine and Isolation Requirements for Students and Employees

For students and employees who test positive for COVID-19, the current CDPH guidance is the same:

  • Students/employees who test positive for COVID-19 must be excluded from the school for at least 5 days after start of symptoms or after date of first positive test if no symptoms.
  • Isolation can end and the student/employee may return to the school after day 5 if symptoms are not present or are mild and resolving AND the student/employee is fever-free for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medication.
  • If the student/employee has a fever, isolation must continue and the student/employee may not return to the school until 24 hours after the fever resolves.
  • If a student’s/employee’s symptoms other than fever are not improving, they may not return to the school until their symptoms are resolving or until after day 10.
  • Students/employees should wear face coverings around others for a total of 10 days.

So, if a student or employee tests positive, they must remain off campus for at least 5 days and can return if they have no symptoms or if their symptoms are mild or resolving, and they are fever-free for at least 24 hours, even if they are still testing positive.  They must wear a face covering for a total of 10 days.

Employee-Specific Guidance

If an employee contracts COVID-19 in the workplace, CalOSHA states that employers should investigate and respond by taking the following steps:

  • Determine when the COVID-19 case was last in the workplace, and if possible, the date of testing and onset of symptoms.
  • Determine which employees may have been exposed to COVID-19 through a close contact.
  • Provide written notification to all employees (and, if applicable, their union representatives) and independent contractors who were at the school at the same time as the COVID-19 case during the infectious period of any potential exposures within one business day (and notify any other employer who has potentially exposed employees in the workplace).
  • Make COVID-19 testing available to potentially exposed employees with a close contact at no cost and during working hours, with the exception of asymptomatic employees who recently recovered from COVID-19.
  • Exclude employees with COVID-19 from the workplace until they are no longer an infection risk, and implement effective policies to prevent transmission after close contact. See above for instructions on when employees can return to the workplace.
  • Investigate the exposure, whether workplace conditions could have contributed to the risk of exposure, and what corrections would reduce exposure.

There are no longer any state or federal requirements that schools provide COVID-19 sick leave pay, or that employers provide exclusion pay when an employee contracts COVID-19 from the workplace and is excluded from work during the applicable isolation period. Employees can use their sick leave or any personal leave they may have for that purpose, unless a school is electing to offer COVID-19 leave or exclusion pay. Local requirements may differ.

Student-Specific Guidance

Current CDPH guidance recommends schools consider a general notification to the entire school community during times of elevated community transmission of COVID-19. Community notification of increased transmission can serve as a reminder for parents to monitor for symptoms, use available rapid testing/treatment options, and prevent further spread. CDPH has developed template letters for this purpose.

Prior CDPH guidance recommended that families notify the school if their child had COVID-19 and was on school grounds during their infectious period, and that schools in turn notified students who spent more than a cumulative total of 15 minutes (within a 24-hour time period) in a shared indoor airspace (e.g., classroom) with someone with COVID-19 during their infectious period. This is no longer included in the CDPH’s most up-to-date guidance, so schools are free to establish different notification protocols.

CDPH guidance also states that students who are exposed to others with COVID-19 may partake in all aspects of K-12 schooling including sports and extracurricular activities if they remain without symptoms.

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