Important update: Healthcare facilities
CDC has updated select ways to operate healthcare systems effectively in response to COVID-19 vaccination. Learn more
To maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, get vaccinated as soon as you can and wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.
UPDATE
Given new evidence on the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant, CDC has updated the guidance for fully vaccinated people. CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. Children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with layered prevention strategies in place.

Know What to Expect at Your Child’s K-12 School or Early Care and Education Program

Know What to Expect at Your Child’s K-12 School or Early Care and Education Program
illustration of children with bus and at school

COVID-19 outbreaks can happen in schools and early care and education programs, but when multiple prevention strategies are used, most children can safely continue to attend these programs in person.

Things Your Child’s School or Early Care and Education Program May Consider

illustration of students and teacher in classroom

When making decisions about how to keep students and staff safe, school and early care and education (ECE) program administrators should consider:

As the situation in your community changes, school and early care and education program administrators may change policies.

Prevention Strategies

Your child’s school or early care and education program may layer prevention measures in the classroom or during other activities, meaning they may use many prevention measures at the same time. Using layered prevention measures is important when some prevention measures cannot be used. For example, when people are not able to physically distance from each other, using other prevention measures can still help stop the spread of COVID-19.

COVID-19 Vaccines

Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent COVID-19. When teachers, staff, and students 12 years and older are fully vaccinated, COVID-19 outbreaks in schools or child care programs are less likely to occur.

Everyone 12 years and older is now eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.

Find a COVID-19 Vaccine: Search vaccines.gov, text your ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233 to find locations near you.

Your child’s school or ECE program may provide information about how to get vaccinated to families. They may also offer flexible options for excused absences to allow students time to get vaccinated and stay home if they have side effects after vaccinations.

Masks

When teachers, staff, and children who are not fully vaccinated wear a mask, they protect others as well as themselves.

  • Given new evidence on the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant, CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.
  • Mask use is recommended for people who are not fully vaccinated, including children and staff.
  • Children under 2 years of age should not wear a mask.

School and early care and education program administrators may choose to make mask use universally required in your child’s school or ECE program if

Schools and early care and education programs can make exceptions for children who cannot wear a mask or cannot safely wear a mask.

Masks are required on all public transportation, including school buses. Regardless of the mask policy at school, passengers and drivers must wear a mask on school buses operated by public or private school systems. Learn more about face masks on public transportation.

Physical distancing and Cohorting

illustration of classroom with air filter, windows, fan

Your child’s school or child care program will have a policy about physical distancing.

Young children need to be close to caregivers during diapering, feeding, and comforting. Your child’s ECE program may use cohorting. Cohorting means keeping children together in a small group and having each group stay together throughout an entire day. This is used to limit the number of children and staff who come in contact with each other. Your child’s program may also maximize time outdoors, stagger drop-off and pick-up times, and maintain 6 feet between cohorts.

For more information about physical distancing in schools, see Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools and COVID-19 Guidance for Operating Early Care and Education/Child Care Programs.

Screening testing

Screening testing helps K-12 schools identify people infected with COVID-19 so they can quickly isolate them and provide information for anyone who may have been exposed to COVID-19. Decisions about screening testing may be made at the state or local level.

Learn when your child should quarantine.

Ventilation

illustration of classroom ventilation with air filter, fan, windows

Improving ventilation can reduce the number of virus particles in the air.

Your child’s school or early care and education program may:

  • Open multiple doors and windows.
  • Use child-safe fans to increase the effectiveness of open windows.
  • Make changes to the heating, ventilation, or air conditioning (HVAC) or air filtration systems.
  • Open or crack windows in buses and other forms of transportation, if doing so does not pose a safety risk.

Handwashing

Teachers and staff can:

  • Teach students to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Remind students to wash hands frequently and help young children with handwashing.
  • Provide hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if handwashing is not possible. Young children should have adult supervision when using hand sanitizer.
  • Set up handwashing or hand sanitizing stations at facility entrances.
  • Wash their hands after holding, washing, or feeding young children.
  • Wash their hands before and after changing a child’s diaper or handling infant bottles.

Keep Your Child Home if They Are Sick

If your child is sick or has symptoms of COVID-19, they should stay home. Call your child’s healthcare provider for testing and care. Staying home when sick with COVID-19 keeps COVID-19 infections out of schools and early care and education programs and prevents spread to others.

Know when your child should quarantine or isolate.

Contact tracing

Schools and early care and education programs are encouraged to work with state and local health departments to conduct contract tracing. If you are contacted by your health department about your child and a COVID-19 exposure, work with them to know if your child needs to isolate or quarantine.

Visitors

Your child’s school or early care and education program may limit nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities. Visitors should not go into schools if they are sick or have symptoms of COVID-19.

  • You may not be able to enter the facility and instead may drop off and pick up your child outside.
  • Alternative ways of connecting with your child’s teacher or other parents may be used, such as outdoor or virtual meetings.

Early care and education programs should not limit access to mothers who are breastfeeding their infants.

Food Service and Meals

illustration of two people eating outdoors at picnic table

Your child’s school or ECE program may adjust where and when children eat meals. This may include:

  • Physical distancing as much as possible when moving through the food service line and while eating (especially indoors).
  • Using additional spaces outside of the cafeteria for mealtime seating, such as the gymnasium or outdoor areas.
  • Reminding children to wash hands, before and after eating.
  • Improving ventilation in spaces where children eat.

Physical Education and Physically Active Play

Physical play is important for children. In general, people do not need to wear masks when outdoors. In areas with high numbers of COVID-19 cases, people should consider wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings and for activities with close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated. When physical education and play are held indoors, children and staff should wear masks. Children and staff should physically distance when possible.

Sports and Other Activities

Some sports may make players, coaches, and trainers more likely to get and spread COVID-19 because of physical contact and increased breathing. Other extracurricular activities, such as band, choir, theater, and school clubs that meet indoors, may also make students and staff more likely to get or spread COVID-19.

  • Students should not participate in these activities when they have symptoms of COVID-19 and should be tested.
  • Students who participate in indoor sports and other higher-risk activities should continue to wear masks and physically distance as much as possible.

Learn more about how your school administrators will make decisions about sports and extracurricular activities.