COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidance and Requirements

Last Updated: August 8, 2022
Update summary: The Washington State Department of Health shared updated requirements and guidance for K-12 schools and child care on Friday, August 5, 2022.

We will update the information on this web page once our staff have finalized updates to our district protocols in accordance with the new guidance. In the interim, please click here to view the Washington State Department of Health Requirements and Guidance to Mitigate COVID-19 Transmission in K-12 Schools and Child Care.

The safety of our students and staff is our top priority as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance and requirements on this page are updated as plans are refined and public health guidelines change. The COVID-19 guidance and requirements in Bellingham Public Schools are based on and follow current guidance from local, state and federal health authorities.

Please consult the resources on this page for more information about each category. Click each title accordion to expand each section for more information.


Mask Guidance

Masks

Bellingham Public Schools lifted its mask requirements beginning Saturday, March 12. In alignment with the governor, and state and local public health, masks are optional both indoors and outdoors at BPS buildings and on school buses.

This mask optional guidance extends to all athletics, performing arts, and other activities, as well as visitors to our school campuses.

Masks are still required in school health/nurse rooms for staff and students.

We will continue to offer well-fitting masks to staff and students who choose to wear a mask at all of schools and sites.

Talking to your child about masks

With the change to mask optional, some students may be feeling excited or anxious and may have questions. BPS is committed to supporting staff, students and their families in their choice and fostering respect and kindness towards each other. 

In support of this, a team of BPS teachers, counselors and nurses created a lesson plan to help students understand the changes. Click the links below  to see examples of the slides that will be used by staff to facilitate a discussion about masks. 

We encourage all families to talk with their child about masks being optional.

Some key points include:

  • There are many reasons why someone may choose to wear or not wear a mask, and those reasons may change over time.
  • Show mutual respect, concern and kindness to one another.
  • Understand that each person’s needs and story are unique and valuable.
  • Tell an adult if you witness or experience mistreatment or bullying related to masking.
  • We don’t know if or when masking will be required again. As public health experts monitor COVID in our community, the guidance may be updated in the future.

We believe that if we navigate these changes with kindness as our compass, we will all be better for it.

What if a parent wants their child to continue to wear a mask after March 11? Is staff responsible for monitoring?

If mask-wearing is part of a health plan or individual education plan (504 or IEP), then staff are asked to help enforce the health/education plan. Otherwise, we encourage families to talk with their child about mask-wearing expectations and preferences. Staff will not be responsible for tracking and monitoring individual family mask-wearing preferences.


Vaccine Clinics

Vaccine Information

Information for students:

The COVID-19 vaccine is now authorized for children ages 6 months to 4 years old. Everyone ages 5 and up is eligible for a booster.

We encourage all families to consider immunizing their student against COVID-19 to protect their child’s and family’s health and also the health of our schools and community. View the Department of Health COVID-19 vaccine informational flyer "What Parents of Minors Should Know."

Vaccine facts from the CDC:

  • COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective and help protect you from getting sick or severely ill with COVID-19.
  • You may have side effects after vaccination, but these are normal.
  • Vaccines are covered through health insurance. If you do not have health insurance you can still get vaccinated for free at the Health Department's clinics.
  • It typically takes two weeks after vaccination for the body to build protection (immunity) against the virus that causes COVID-19. You are fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose of a two-dose vaccine or two weeks after a one-dose vaccine.
  • If you have already had COVID-19, the CDC recommends that you still get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Learn more facts about COVID-19 vaccines at the CDC website.

Vaccine Clinic at Back to School Block Party

Bellingham Public Schools is hosting the following clinic for anyone in the community:

Back to School Block Party and Clinic
Saturday, August 20, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Bellingham High School, Back to School Block Party

Vaccines are free for everyone at these school-based clinics and health insurance is not required.

Please bring documentation of any previous doses (photo of vaccine cards OK). 

Parent/guardian consent is required for vaccinations. The consent form is available using these links in English and Spanish and will be provided at the appointment.

Questions? Contact amelia.vader@bellinghamschools.org.

Vaccine Clinics in the Community

Health insurance required beginning April 5

Beginning April 5, the cost of the COVID vaccine is no longer covered for those without health insurance. Insurance may be required at community-hosted clinics, but no insurance is required at Whatcom County Health Department’s clinics.

Vaccine appointments in the community:

The Whatcom County Health Department has weekly clinics serving all ages and they are listed on their website.

Here are some other options:

  • Both Rite Aid and Walgreens have many open appointments and you can schedule online.
  • If you are a SeaMar patient or don’t have a provider, the Cordata clinic has walk-up vaccines available (no appointments needed). Find more information here.
  • If you are a PeaceHealth patient, you should be able to get a vaccine during a regular office visit using the online patient portal.
  • Haggen’s pharmacies have walk-ups and online scheduling (plus you get 10% off your grocery purchase). You can call ahead to be sure they have vaccine.

Call Washington State Department of Health’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-833-VAX-HELP (833-829-4357) for assistance. They can tell you which locations near you offer the COVID-19 vaccine, and help you schedule an appointment if needed. This line also has Spanish, Russian, Punjabi and other language options.


Testing Information

Getting Tested

Rapid antigen testing for those experiencing symptoms or with a known exposure is available at all schools.

You can request, find and/or schedule a COVID-19 test at:

*Please note: PCR tests are sent to Northwest labs and billed to insurance.


Test Reporting
Persons testing positive at home with an iHealth rapid test kit provided by the school are advised to report their positive to public health.

Public health asks you to report positive tests done at home to 1-800-525-0127 (then press #) or use this online form.

If You Test Positive for COVID-19

As a reminder, if you test positive for COVID-19 please inform your school’s front office and report any at-home positive test results to the Whatcom County Health Department by calling them at 1800-525-0127 or filling out this online survey.

Those who test positive must isolate for five days from symptom onset. If you have been fever-free for 24 hours and your symptoms are improving, you may return on day six or later and public health offers three options to return to school/work:

  1. Wear a mask for days 6-10 (testing not required)
  2. Test negative with rapid antigen test after day five (wearing mask is optional) OR
  3. Isolate at home for 10 days.

Note: If you test positive on day 6 or after, you must continue to remain home in isolation through day 10.

This applies to all students and staff in all settings including our preschools.  If an individual is under two years old or unable to wear a mask, they must isolate for the full 10 days unless they test negative using a rapid test on day six or after. Students and staff may unmask to eat or drink during days 6-10.

Testing After Exposure to COVID-19

Students and staff exposed to COVID-19 are not required to be excluded from school, regardless of vaccination status.

Exposed students and staff members may continue to take part in all in-person instruction and care, including sports, performing arts, and other extracurricular activities, as long as they are not symptomatic.

Public health encourages you to monitor your student for symptoms and consider wearing a mask for 10 days after the last exposure. 

Testing is recommended 3-5 days after exposure. Rapid antigen tests are available at schools for home use and testing is available at the Family Resource Center at Shuksan Middle School, and in the community.

If your student tests positive, they must isolate for 5 days and follow related protocols.


Case Response and Notification Processes

DOH Isolation and Quarantine Calculator

Click here to see Department of Health calculator for isolation and quarantine calculator.

Although individuals are no longer required to quarantine after exposure, the calculator can be helpful in calculating how long to monitor for symptoms.


Notification Protocol for Confirmed Cases

Students and staff are still asked to notify schools if they test positive for COVID-19.

Our COVID Response Team will determine days at school contagious and update the district's COVID-19 dashboard.

We will continue to track cases and monitor for outbreaks. In the event of an outbreak, we will work closely with public health on response and communication.

What to do about learning during an extended absence?

Learning During an Extended Absence

During the 2021-22 school year, some students may be remote for periods of time due to quarantine or illness.

Our number one priority is for your child and family to be healthy. Families will determine the level of participation based on their child’s health. When students need temporary remote instruction, here is the learning support you can expect.

Individual Absence: Communication will take place between the teacher and family to connect and facilitate student participation and progress. Student may complete assigned learning tasks or other online or independent learning activities as determined with the teacher.

COVID-19 Dashboard

The COVID-19 dashboard is updated regularly to reflect current cases impacting our schools and district.

Click here to view the COVID-19 Dashboard.

This dashboard reflects case counts for confirmed positive cases that were at school during their contagious period and serves as notification of possible exposure. This count does not include individuals who were not at school while contagious.

You can see all COVID cases across our community on the Whatcom County COVID dashboard.

If you are concerned about a possible exposure, please contact covid@bellinghamschools.org or call 360-676-6455 and we can help determine your risk of exposure.


School Day Information

Stay Home If Sick and Get Tested

All Schools

Regardless of vaccination, staff and students should not come to school if they are experiencing any symptoms associated with COVID-19.

If experiencing any of these symptoms: 

  • Cough (new, changed, worse)
  • Fever (100.4)
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Shortness of breath

Do this:

  • Stay home for 5 days OR
  • Return with a negative test (PCR or rapid antigen), 24 hours fever free and symptoms improving.

If experiencing any of these symptoms:

  • Runny nose or congestion
  • Sore throat
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Headache

Do this:

If only one symptom and it lasts less than 24 hours, testing is not needed.

If the symptom lasts more than 24 hours OR more than one symptom:

  • Stay home for 5 days OR
  • Return with a negative test (PCR or rapid antigen), 24 hours fever free and symptoms improving.

Getting tested

Students and staff will need to have improving symptoms and a negative test in order to return to work and school.

You can request and schedule a COVID-19 test at:

When Symptoms Develop at School

If a student begins to feel unwell during the school day, they will be directed to a designated screening room. Students will be asked to put on a mask in the screening room (nurse health room) per public health guidance on masking in health settings.

There a school nurse or trained staff member will assess their symptoms. Parents will be notified if their child needs to be picked up from school. If the student is well enough to finish the school day, the school may administer a rapid antigen test with parent permission and return to class if the test is negative.

Every family is required to have up-to-date contact information and emergency contacts in Skyward and Seesaw. Families can visit our Skylert instructions webpage for instructions on how to update their contact information.

Staff, Volunteers, Visitors

All volunteers, including field trip chaperones, must be approved through the BPS volunteer process which includes showing proof of vaccination against COVID. Visitors who are onsite for a one-time event, such as speaking in a class, do not need go through the volunteer process. As with staff and students, volunteers should stay home if they are ill and haven’t tested, or if they have tested positive for COVID.

Transportation

Using Infofinder to find your bus stop and time:

If your child will be riding the bus to/from school, you can find their bus stop and time at Infofinder. Enter your street address (no zip code or school) and you will be able to see the location and times for your child. Please note that as enrollment changes we will make adjustments to bus stops and times as needed, and you can always see the most up-to-date information by checking Infofinder.

Key safety reminders:

  • Please arrive at the bus stop five minutes prior to the scheduled time in the morning.
  • Masks are optional while on the bus.

For transportation help or questions:

If you have any questions about transportation, please contact your school office, or call transportation directly at 360-676-6546.

Cleaning Protocols and Supplies
  • Custodians will clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at the end of the day. 
  • Custodians will clean and disinfect during the day as needed. 
  • Teachers may use school-provided cleaners for spot cleaning during the school day. This cleaner is effective at removing virus and is safe to use. 
  • No students or adults should bring their own cleaning supplies, as all cleaners used in schools must meet state and district environmental standards. 

Information for Staff

Human Resources Information Related to COVID-19

Questions?

Call

360-676-6455

Email

BPS.Health@bellinghamschools.org

 

WA State DOH K-12 Guidance

WA DOH K-12 Guidance and Requirements, updated August 5, 2022

 

BPS COVID-19 Dashboard

COVID-19 Dashboard