COVID-19

Frequently Asked Questions and Guidance from Our Nurses

Understanding COVID-19 and How to Stay Safe

Message from Our Nurses

Dear Parent/Guardian:


Please do not send an ill student to school.


The box below gives examples of when your student should not be in school.


If your student’s symptoms are related to a chronic condition, contact the nurse, and follow school policies for chronic condition management.


Please contact your health care provider about serious illness, including any fever of 103°F or higher.


Notify school staff if your student requires medication during school hours. Follow school protocols for medicine at school.


To help protect all students, please notify the school if your child is diagnosed with any of these diseases: chickenpox, COVID-19, diphtheria, E. coli diarrhea, hepatitis, measles, mumps, pertussis, rubella, Salmonella, scabies, shigellosis, tuberculosis, or another disease as requested. The school will protect your private information as required by law.


With consent, the school nurse may consult with your doctor about your student’s health to keep your student safe, healthy, and ready to learn.


To contact the school nurse or health office, please call 617-923-6475 or email- michelle.laracy@watertown.k12.ma.us


When Should I Keep My Student Home?

NOTE: These are school instructions, not medical advice. Please contact your doctor with health concerns.

*The list below tells the shortest time to stay home. Your student may need to stay home longer for some illnesses.



Student’s Symptoms or Illness

Student May Return to School When*


Student’s Symptoms or Illness

Fever Student must stay home for a temperature by mouth greater than 100.0 degrees. May return once fever free for 72 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine.


Skin rash or open sores. Student may return when the rash is gone; sores are dry or can be completely covered by a bandage; or with orders from the doctor to the school nurse.


New cough May return when symptom-free for 72 hours. If pertussis (whooping cough) is diagnosed, after taking the 5-day course of prescribed antibiotics, or when cleared for return by the local public health authority. If COVID-19 is diagnosed, quarantine must be fulfilled and can return after 10-14 days (case dependent) once symptom-free.


Diarrhea 3 loose or watery stools in one day OR newly not able to control bowel movements

May return once symptom-free for 48 hours.


Vomiting Symptom-free for 48 hours.


Headache with stiff neck and fever OR with a recent head injury. Must be fever-free for 72 hours; symptom-free; or with orders from the doctor to school nurse.


Jaundice (new) yellow color in eyes or skin. After orders from the doctor or local public health authority to the school nurse.


Red eyes or eye discharge yellow or brown drainage from eyes. May return when redness and discharge are gone OR with orders from the doctor to the school nurse.


Acting different without reason unusually sleepy or grumpy OR acting differently after a head injury

After return to normal behavior OR with orders from the doctor to school nurse.


Major health events, like surgery OR an illness lasting two or more weeks

After orders from the doctor to school nurse.


Student’s health condition requires more care than school staff can safely provide. May return after measures are in place for student’s safety.

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Return to School Frequently Asked Questions

What happens when a staff member tests positive for COVID-19?

When anyone in the district tests positive for COVID-19, it will be reported to the Department of Health. That individual will be contacted and notified that they need to isolate for ten days at home and be interviewed to understand symptoms and to identify close contacts. Close contacts will be notified and instructed to quarantine for 14 days.


What is the definition of close contact?

Close contact is somebody who is within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more cumulatively over a 24 hour period.


What if a support staff member tests positive for COVID-19?

This could include staff who float around the building and serve multiple students in multiple grades and classrooms. This may impact numerous classes and multiple children throughout a school. As much as possible, schools shouldn’t have staff float throughout the building but instead have children move to their location, if possible, or stay with the same cohort of students. This will minimize the number of exposures.


What is the cohort recommendation from the DESE?

As much as possible, students should be kept in smaller groups. WPS has cohort groupings set up at each school.


What happens if a student tests positive for COVID-19?

A positive COVID-19 test on a student will be reported to the Watertown Health Department; the case will be investigated to determine close contacts. The WHD will follow up with the school to help determine this. The student will isolate at home for ten days, and close contacts will quarantine at home for 14 days.


What is the difference between the 14-day quarantine and the 10 day isolation period?

Positive cases of COVID-19 need to isolate at home for ten days because that is the length of time that an individual is contagious and can pass on the virus. Close contacts of positive cases need to quarantine at home for 14 days because that is the incubation period or the length of time it takes for an individual to test positive or contract the virus.


What happens when a parent or sibling tests positive for COVID-19?

Because household contacts are continuously exposed, household contacts will have to stay home for the case’s 10 day isolation period. Plus, their 14 day quarantine period because there is the potential that the contact could still be exposed on day 10 of the case’s isolation period and still have 14 days where they could potentially test positive for COVID-19. The 14 day quarantine period starts on the last day of the positive case’s isolation period.


Should close contacts be tested for COVID-19?

It is recommended that all close contacts be tested 4-5 days after known exposure. If you are tested before those 4-5 days, you may be a false negative.


Does a close contact of a close contact need to quarantine?

Close contact of a close contact does not need to quarantine.


Does a mask policy change the need for quarantine?

Masks have been shown to decrease transmission of COVID-19 by 33%, so they will have an impact on the number of cases. Because this percentage isn’t 100%, even if masks are being worn, close contacts are still recommended to quarantine for 14 days following exposure.


If someone who is quarantined tests negative for COVID-19, can they return to school before the 14 day quarantine period is complete?

All close contacts are recommended to be tested for COVID-19 7-10 days after exposure. Even if an individual tests negative at this time, he or she still needs to complete the 14-day quarantine because it can take up to 14 days to be positive.


If you are asymptomatic and not a close contact and choose to be tested for COVID-19, do you have to quarantine until you receive results?

You do not need to quarantine pending results of a COVID-19 test as long as you have no symptoms and you have not been identified as a close contact of somebody who has tested positive for COVID-19.


If you are quarantined due to exposure outside of school, do you need to quarantine from school, too?

If an individual is identified as a close contact of somebody who tested positive for COVID-19 and is advised to quarantine, that means they need to quarantine at home and can only be around people who are immediate household members regardless of where the exposure occurred.


Are there activities that schools should consider not participating in this school year?

Any activities where the 6-foot social distancing cannot be maintained are riskier for COVID-19 and are recommended to avoid. For example, it may be better for children to eat in their classrooms than in a cafeteria. Any high touch items that cannot be cleaned between uses (i.e. manipulatives or school supplies) should be divided among students so they all have their own.


What considerations need to be made in the secondary school setting?

Consider rotating the teachers instead of the students to decrease the number of close contacts. Assigned seating will be helpful so it is easier to identify close contacts. Teachers in the secondary setting should ideally maintain 6-foot social distancing as much as possible. Cohort students as much as possible and avoid congregating of students in an area such as near lockers. Consider having students only going in one direction down hallways.


How do school staff determine who needs to be sent home?

COVID-19 looks like many other respiratory illnesses, and symptoms may include fever (generally 100.0 or higher), sore throat, runny nose, congestion, headache, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of taste and smell. It will be challenging to determine if an illness is COVID-19 or something else. The CDC recommends schools follow their general infectious disease exclusion guidelines. They are not recommending that schools formally screen students as they enter the building, such as fever checks. It is recommended that parents screen their children at home and keep them home if they have any of the above symptoms. When it is recommended for a student to be sent home, they will wait for parent/guardian pick up in the isolation room which will help minimize contact.


When can students return to school after symptoms are present?

The CDC recommends that schools follow the general illness exclusion guidance they have followed in past years. Students may return to school if it has been 24 hours since their symptoms have subsided and fever-free without the use of medication. If a child is not improving, it is recommended they see their primary care physician determine further steps, such as a COVID-19 test.


Should children be vaccinated against influenza this year?

It is more important than ever that children be vaccinated against influenza this year because if they have a cough or congestion, even mild, they will be excluded from school. These symptoms could be caused by flu and not COVID-19 eliminating your child’s chances of contracting flu is best; they can stay in school. Students will be required to have an influenza vaccination to attend school. Students have until December 31, 2020.


If my child misses multiple days this school year due to symptoms or quarantine, will he or she need to repeat a grade or extend their school year?

If a child is quarantined but still healthy enough to participate in school, each school the district is supposed to have a plan in place to provide education through a distance learning format. Everyone will have an opportunity to learn even if they are excluded from school so parents do not need to be concerned that their child will need to repeat a grade or extend their school year due to quarantine or isolation.


What considerations do families need to make for this school year?

Even if a school is perfect about social distancing and requires masks, there will still be COVID-19 cases in a school and families need to be prepared for interruptions to face to face learning. Families need to continue socially distancing and being mindful of activities after school and on the weekends to decrease the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Families also need to have a backup plan to prepare for quarantine or isolation. This backup plan should not include grandparents or others that are at higher risk for having severe complications from COVID-19.


What are the recommendations for bussing this school year?

All people on a bus are required to wear masks. Assigned seating would help determine close contacts. Passengers should be spaced out 6 feet apart.


Should I continue with well visits and immunizations during this pandemic?

This fall, more than ever, it is crucial to maintain the health of you and your child. This will prevent exclusion from school due to illness and could prevent future additional visits to the doctor for illness. Parents are recommended to take their children to well-child appointments to make sure student is healthy and meeting developmental milestones. Children must continue taking controller medications to maintain their health. All immunizations are still required for school as listed on the MDPH website, and records of these immunizations or proper exemption paperwork must be submitted to the school before their first day of school.


Is there a vaccine for COVID-19?

There are some COVID-19 vaccines that are moving into Phase 3 clinical trials, and it is possible we could have a vaccine by 2021. It is unclear who will be recommended to receive that vaccine or how many doses will be required.

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