CDC releases more extensive safety guidelines for schools

New guidance expands on a graphic the agency released last week
By: | May 20, 2020
The CDC recommends teachers and school staff wear face coverings as classrooms gradually reopen. The agency recognizes, however, that face coverings may be challenging for students to wear all day.The CDC recommends teachers and school staff wear face coverings as classrooms gradually reopen. The agency recognizes, however, that face coverings may be challenging for students to wear all day.

The CDC has released a more extensive set of safety precautions schools should take as they reopen and gradually welcome students, teachers and staff to classrooms this summer or fall.

The new guidance, which urges schools to make all decisions in consultation with local public health officials, expands on a graphic the agency released last week.

For instance, the CDC recommends teachers and school staff wear face coverings. But the agency recognizes, however, that face coverings may be challenging for students, particularly younger students, to wear all day.

Schools should also conduct daily temperature checks and screen everyone in the building for coronavirus symptoms.

If there is a confirmed case in school, administrators should dismiss students and most staff for 2-5 days.

“This initial short-term dismissal allows time for the local health officials to gain a better understanding of the COVID-19 situation impacting the school,” the CDC says. “This allows the local health officials to help the school determine appropriate next steps, including whether an extended dismissal duration is needed to stop or slow further spread.”


More from DAWhat districts are learning about connecting kids to WiFi


“These recommendations depend on community monitoring to prevent COVID-19 from spreading,” the document says. “Communities with low levels of COVID-19 spread and those with confidence that the incidence of infection is genuinely low … may put in place the practices described below as part of a gradual scale-up of operations.”

It all starts with social distancing

Key to the safety precautions is social-distancing across all K-12 activities. Schools leaders should:

  • Place seats/desks at least six feet apart.
  • Turn desks to face in the same direction (rather than facing each other) or have students sit on only one side of tables, spaced apart.
  • Avoid sharing electronic devices, toys, books and other games or learning aids.
  • Close communal use spaces such as dining halls and playgrounds if possible; otherwise stagger use and disinfect in between use.
  • If a cafeteria or group dining room is typically used, serve individually plated meals.meals in classrooms instead.
  • Create social distance between children on school buses—for example, seating children one child per seat, every other row
  • Ensure that student and staff groupings are as static as possible by having the same group of children stay with the same staff (all day for young children, and as much as possible for older children).
  • Restrict mixing between groups.
  • Cancel all field trips, inter-group events and extracurricular activities
  • Restrict nonessential visitors, volunteer and activities involving other groups.
  • Stagger arrival and drop-off times or locations, or put in place other protocols to limit close contact with parents or caregivers as much as possible.

If someone gets sick

Administrators, school nurses and local healthcare providers should work together to create isolation rooms in each school building so any student or staff member who exhibits COVID symptoms can be separated.


More from DA: How one state is planning for in-person summer school


Administrators should then close off areas used by a sick person and then wait 24 hours to disinfect.

Students or staff who have been in contact with a sick person should be informed and asked to stay home and self-monitor for symptoms.

Other school safety precautions include:

  • Teach and reinforce washing hands and covering coughs and sneezes among children and staff.
  • Have adequate supplies to support healthy hygiene behaviors, including soap, hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol, paper towels, tissues, and no-touch trash cans.
  • Post signs on how to stop the spread of COVID-19, properly wash hands, promote everyday protective measures, and properly wear a face covering.
  • Ensure ventilation systems operate properly and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible such as by opening windows and doors.
  • Ensure that all water systems and features are safe to use after a prolonged facility shutdown to minimize the risk of Legionnaires’ disease and other diseases associated with water.

Read or download the full CDC report below.


DA’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on K-12.