COVID-19 Protocols FAQ


Mask Requirements

Please take a moment to watch the latest HCPS Parent Academy Real Talk where Mary Beth Stapleton, HCPS Manager of Family and Community Partnerships, sits down with special guest Dr. David Bishai, Harford County’s health officer, to talk about current COVID-19 metrics in our community – specifically the increase in transmission among children – and the importance of face coverings in helping to reduce the spread of infection.
  1. Will students be required to wear masks outside?
    Masks are required outdoors when students cannot maintain a minimum of three feet of social distancing.

  2. What types of masks are required?
    Appropriate face masks should have at least two layers of washable, breathable fabric, cover a person’s chin and nose and fit snugly against the sides of the face without any gaps. Masks will be available at school buildings for students who do not have compliant masks when they arrive at school.
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COVID-19 Health, Quarantine, and Isolation

As of August 10, 2021, the CDC defines close contact in the school setting as follows:

In the classroom setting, the close contact definition excludes students* who were within 3 to 6 feet of an infected student (laboratory-confirmed or a clinically compatible illness) where:

  • Both students were engaged in consistent and correct use of well-fitting masks; and
  • Other school prevention strategies (such as universal and correct mask use, physical distancing, increased ventilation) were in place in the school setting.

*This exception does not apply to teachers, staff, or other adults in the indoor classroom setting.

  1. Will there be temperature checks?
    No; The CDC does not currently recommend schools conduct symptoms screening on a routine basis, but parents/guardians should monitor their children for symptoms of COVID-19 and students who are sick should not attend school.

  2. What happens if a student or employee becomes ill during the school day?
    If a student or employee becomes ill, school nurses or a human resources case manager will 1) Follow the MDH Decision Aid. 2) Provide consented diagnostic COVID-19 testing for persons who become symptomatic during the school day. School nurses provide consented rapid antigen testing and confirms any negative test results through consented PCR testing. 3) Provide contact tracing for school related close contacts and quarantining for 14 days. 4) Offer close contacts consented diagnostic screening. If close contacts test negative for COVID-19 they will still need to quarantine. 5) Conduct disinfecting of any area visited by the person with COVID-19.

  3. How will HCPS obtain consent for COVID-19 diagnostic testing?
    Diagnostic COVID-19 testing in school has been occurring since March 2021 and is only performed on students with parental consent. Diagnostic testing is only for symptomatic students who are going home from school. Parent's/Guardian's are offered testing for their student, but testing is only performed with a parent/guardian written consent at the time of testing.

  4. Will parents/guardians be notified if a student in their child’s class presents with COVID-19 symptoms or a positive test result?
    If your student is identified as a close contact to a person who tests positive for COVID-19, you will be contacted by your school nurse. Additionally if a classroom or school experiences an outbreak a letter will be sent home to those affected.

  5. Will HCPS be following a 10-day or 14-day quarantine period?
    Quarantine length is set by the CDC with options based on positivity rates and local health department efforts. Due to the current high transmission in Harford County, HCPS will follow the HCHD recommended 14-day quarantine period as of Monday, August 16, 2021.

  6. Does HCPS currently require students to be vaccinated for COVID-19?

  7. How do I get my student vaccinated when eligible?
    COVID-19 vaccines are available at many physician’s offices, pharmacies and at the Harford County Health Department. When possible, HCPS plans to offer vaccine clinics in school.

  8. How do I get my student tested for COVID-19?
    COVID-19 testing is available at many physician’s offices, urgent care centers and local pharmacies. If a student has COVID-19 symptoms at school or is identified as a close contact during school hours, the school nurse will offer a COVID-19 test for parent consent at school.

  9. If students are vaccinated, will they be exempt from quarantine?
    Yes, according the MDH Decision Aid, if a student is vaccinated, they will be exempt from quarantine as long as they are asymptomatic. HCPS utilizes the MDH Decision Aid, and consults with the Harford County Health Department if needed, for all quarantine decisions.

  10. What happens if there is an outbreak at school?
    If a classroom or school experiences an outbreak a letter will be sent home to those affected. The Maryland Department of Health defines an outbreak as:

    Classroom/cohort outbreak definition:
    1) At least two confirmed COVID-19 cases among students/teachers/staff within a 14-day period and who are epidemiologically linked, but not household contacts; or

    School-wide outbreak definition:
    2) Three or more classrooms or cohorts with cases from separate households that meet the classroom/cohort outbreak definition that occurs within 14 days; or

    3) Five percent or more unrelated students/teachers/staff have confirmed COVID-19 within a 14 day period (minimum of 10 unrelated students/teachers/staff).

    HCPS will convene a decision team (including consultation with the local health department as needed) to determine if any additional action is required such as closing a school in whole or in part or any alternative COVID-19 protocols should be put in place.
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Additional Safety Layers

  1. Will social distancing be required at school?
    Whenever and wherever possible, schools will include three feet social distancing in classrooms and in school activities.

  2. Will plexiglass barriers be used?
    Plexiglass barriers can be used as an additional safety layer, but it is not required. A common location for plexiglass may be in the cafeteria.

  3. Are any measures regarding ventilation, opening windows, and periodic/daily air disinfection being put into place?
    Facilities is monitoring and working on ventilation improvements throughout all HCPS buildings. Opening doors and windows is encouraged, when it is safe to do so.

  4. Are shared materials permitted?
    Sharing of materials is permitted. If shared materials are used, handwashing before and after use is highly encouraged.

  5. Will visitors be required to complete a COVID-19 sign-in?
    Yes. Visitors must continue to use the COVID-19 sign-in at all HCPS buildings.

  6. Will after school clubs be allowed in-person this year?
    Yes, after school clubs and programs are allowed this year with COVID-19 safety layers in place.

  7. Will shared spaces, such as restrooms, be limited in capacity?
    Restrooms will not be limited in capacity.

  8. Will students be permitted to drink from water fountains this year?

    Water fountains will only be available for bottle filling. Students should bring their own personal water bottle to school.

  9. Are volunteers permitted?
    Volunteers are not permitted for school activities when Harford County’s positivity rate is above 5%. When county positivity is below 5%, only volunteers essential to curriculum or school needs are permitted, with principal approval.

  10. How will COVID-19 requirements affect outside groups events at school?
    When Harford County’s COVID-19 positivity is over 5%, Use of Facilities will be restricted for outside organizations and approved for outdoor use only. Watch the HCPS Operational Status guide or visit for any Use of Facilities restrictions.
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Virtual Learning

  1. Is there space available in the Swan Creek School Blended Virtual eLearning Program?
    The original deadline for enrollment in Swan Creek School Blended Virtual eLearning Program has passed. Families interested in enrolling their student(s) for the 2021-2022 school year will be added to the official Wait List. HCPS will consider all requests on an individual basis, as openings become available.

  2. Will a hybrid/virtual learning option be considered if county positivity continues to increase? (ex. A similar format to the 2020-2021 school year)
    This type of transition is not in our plans. We are actively working to keep students in our school buildings.

  3. When students are quarantined/isolated at home, will they be able to join their class virtually using Teams?
    Students will not have virtual classes unless they have previously enrolled in Swan Creek School. If a student is quarantined/isolated, make-up work will be provided by the students’ teacher to allow for flexibility and personalized content. Make-up work will be accessible via itslearning. HCPS tutors will be available upon parent/guardian request.

  4. Will tutors be available for students?
    Will the tutors
    be HCPS teachers?
    Yes, parents/guardians may request tutoring assistance for their children by completing an intent form that will be available on the HCPS website once tutoring begins during the school year. Tutors will be HCPS staff members. The Harford County Public Library system also offers free online tutoring. Further details can be found here.

Back to School

Please read this important letter from Superintendent Bulson, and Rachel Gauthier, President of the Board of Education of Harford County. The letter addresses the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mask wearing guidance and quarantine exemptions for students in school settings.

Find more Back to School information on our website, by clicking here.

  1. Are back to school nights allowed to be held in-person?
    Elementary: Back to School Nights will be held virtually. If blended with Open House, the Back to School Night portion must be virtual.

    Secondary: Back to School Nights will be held virtually.

  2. Are open houses allowed to be held in-person?
    Elementary: Open Houses may be held in-person with COVID-19 safety layers in place.

    Open Houses, Kick Start, and Orientation events may be held in-person with COVID-19 safety layers in place.

  3. Are gradual entrance days allowed to be held in-person?
    Gradual Entrance events will be held in-person with a modified schedule and appropriate mitigation strategies in effect. One parent will be invited to participate in this event. Gradual Entrance at Swan Creek School will be held virtually.

Assemblies and Field Trips

  1. Will field trips be permitted?
    All field trips will be limited until further notice, except for the trips listed to the right. Contingency plans should be prepared in the event a student becomes ill on any field trip. Any other planned trips, e.g., senior trips and other non-curricular field trips need to be approved by the Executive Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment.

  2. Are assemblies allowed in schools?
    When Harford County positivity rates are above 5%, only those assemblies essential to academics should be held. All assemblies will need to adhere to the three feet social distancing guideline.


  1. Are athletics allowed this Fall?
    Yes. After school athletic programs will have additional safety protocols in place that will be communicated with families participating in those programs.

  2. Are masks required for athletes?
    Masks are required for athletes when three feet social distancing cannot be maintained, and when not engaged in high intensity activities. Masks are also required in locker rooms.

  3. Are spectators allowed at sporting events?
    HCPS will not limit spectators at outdoor events. Spectators are allowed at indoor sporting events with intentional social distancing, which means capacity may need to be reduced.

Fine Arts

  1. Is PPE still required for band students?
    Band specialty masks must be worn, and bell covers in place when playing an instrument indoors or when social distancing is not possible outdoors.

  2. Is singing allowed indoors?
    Will students be required to wear masks while singing?

    Students are permitted to sing indoors, but masks will be required. Singing is permitted without masks if students are outdoors and socially distanced.

  3. Are extracurricular band and chorus programs allowed?
    Yes. Extracurricular band and chorus programs will have additional safety protocols in place that will be communicated with families participating in those programs.


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