COVID-19 Return to School Protocol explained

Everyone who enters Herkimer CSD school buildings is being asked to screen for possible COVID-19 symptoms. Anyone who shows the following symptoms without an explanation is asked to stay home, or may be asked to leave the building to seek medical attention:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Recent loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea

Returning to school after symptoms

Before someone with symptoms can return to school, state and local protocols require “at minimum, documentation from a healthcare provider following evaluation, negative COVID-19 diagnostic test result, and symptom resolution, or if COVID-19 positive, release from isolation.”


What does this mean?

If a student or employee has shown symptoms of the coronavirus, one of the following must take place before that person can return to school:

  • A doctor diagnoses you with something other than COVID-19 that explains the symptoms;
  • A PCR test (not a rapid antigen test) comes back negative for COVID-19; or
  • You are released from isolation by the Department of Health.

In addition, alternate diagnoses such as acute upper respiratory illness/acute gastroenteritis are not sufficient to clear someone to return to school. If you receive a diagnosis of a known chronic condition with unchanged symptoms, or a confirmed acute illness (examples: laboratory-confirmed influenza, strep-throat) AND COVID-19 is not suspected, then a note from a medical provider can clear someone to return to school.

A note about testing

Many testing sites or providers also offer a “rapid PCR” test. This test also uses a nasal swab or saliva sample, but tests are processed right away and are available in minutes. However, the state Department of Health has said that a negative result from a “rapid PCR” test is not enough to rule out illness, especially if the person has symptoms of COVID-19. Therefore, students and staff may not return to school before the quarantine period has elapsed based on rapid-test results.

It is possible to be released from isolation or quarantine if you test negative for COVID-19 using a laboratory-based diagnostic test. This test uses a nasal swab or saliva sample, and the results are sent to a lab for analysis. These results sometimes take a few days to come back.

If the laboratory-based PCR test, or an alternative diagnosis, is not available, the symptomatic child or adult must remain in isolation for at least two weeks, and to remain fever-free for 72 hours, with symptom improvement and at least 10 days since symptoms first started, before returning to school.

Following Public Health protocols

We are aware that these protocols may present challenges for some families, but please know that we believe they are necessary to prevent the spread of illness within the school.

Please also know that these are not simply school or district policy. The district is following the direct guidance of the Department of Public Health, which alone has the power to release individuals from isolation or to determine when it is safe for someone to return to school.

If you have any questions about these protocols, please contact the nurse’s office at your child’s school, or the Herkimer County Department of Public Health. We appreciate your cooperation with this and other health and safety protocols.

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