Highlights from Jan. 7 DOH guidance for K-12 schools
The most significant changes in the state’s new guidance (released Jan. 7, 2022) are around isolation and quarantine, which now align with the CDC’s recommendations. It also encourages expanding Test-to-Stay for students who have outside-of-school exposure.
Isolation applies to students and staff who test positive for COVID-19. If you test positive for COVID regardless of your vaccination status, you need to isolate at home for five days.
- You may return to school/work when:
- Five days have passed since symptom onset, or since positive test specimen collection date if no symptoms are present; AND
- No symptoms are present, or symptoms are resolving; AND
- No fever within the past 24 hours
An antigen test is recommended but not required at day five. If you test and the result is positive, you must continue to isolate until day 10. If the test result is negative, you may return to school/work and should continue to wear a mask around others until day 10 (this affects students who are allowed to go without a mask when participating in some after-school activities).
Students or staff who had exposure to COVID-19 outside of school are now eligible to participate in our Test to Stay program and may continue attending school during their five day quarantine period as long as they don’t have symptoms of illness.
When to return to school if you are a close contact.
- Students or staff who are fully vaccinated: you do not need to quarantine.
- Students or staff who had a confirmed case of COVID-19 within the last 90 days: you do not need to quarantine.
- Students or staff who are not fully vaccinated: you can participate in Test to Stay and may continue to come to school as long as you test negative. You must wear a mask at all times for 10 days and complete rapid antigen tests. Testing is best on days three and five after exposure.
- Students or staff not participating in Test to Stay: quarantine at home for five days. Do a rapid test on day five and return to school the next day if negative and no symptoms are present. Home rapid is not accepted. We can test at school.
- Students or staff choosing not to test: you should quarantine for 10 days from last exposure.
School Day Information
Information for students:
Students 5 years and older are now able to get vaccinated. Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine is FDA approved and is the only vaccine available to children 5 years and older. Parental consent is required.
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."
Getting fully vaccinated will allow your student to do some things they couldn’t before. For example, if your student is fully vaccinated and has been around someone who has COVID-19, they do not need to quarantine.
Vaccination is important tool in our COVID prevention toolkit and 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. Vaccines are free for everyone and you do not have to have health insurance to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Bellingham Public Schools is hosting the following clinics for students in January 2022:
- For students 5-11 years old: Thursday, Jan. 27 at Cordata Elementary School. Families can sign up here.
- For students 12-17 years old needing a booster, first or second doses, there will be two clinics on Thursday, Jan. 13 at Options High School and Thursday, Jan. 20 at Bellingham High School. Families can sign up here.
If you are looking for vaccine appointments, the Whatcom County Health Department holds weekly clinics serving all ages and they are listed on their website.
Parents/guardians can also look for eligible vaccine appointments for their children by going on https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov/ and searching for vaccine locations in their area.
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.
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 available at no cost to you and health insurance is not required. The vaccine will be provided at no cost. It will be covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance. The cost of the vaccine will be covered for people who are uninsured.
- 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.
Update: Aug. 2, 2021
We follow Washington DOH, OSPI and L&I guidance for masks. All students and staff are required to wear masks in school. Some students may be unable to wear a mask due to medical or other conditions. Our behavior and health teams work with these students, families, and classrooms on an individual basis to support them in safely accessing their education.
Students will be provided masks to wear at school, and are also allowed to wear their own as long as it fits our requirements. Students will need to launder their masks at home. We will also have disposable and reusable masks available in case of forgotten, lost, or soiled masks that need to be changed.
According to Department of Health K12 COVID requirements, a cloth face covering is anything that completely covers the mouth and nose and fits securely on the sides of the face and under the chin. It should be made of two or more layers of tightly woven fabric with ties or straps that go around a person head or behind their ears.
If a student or staff member needs a cloth face covering, we will provide them with one. If a student or staff member needs an accommodation, they should work with their principal or supervisor individually.
Regardless of vaccination, staff and students should not come to school if they are experiencing any symptoms associated with COVID-19. Here is guidance for assessing symptoms and what to do next.
- Fever (100.4° F or higher) or chills
- Cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Sore throat, nasal congestion, or runny nose
- Recent loss of taste or smell
- Muscle or body aches
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- Unusual fatigue
Staff and students should not come to school or work if:
- They are unvaccinated and a close contact of someone diagnosed with COVID-19.
- They tested positive within the past ten days or have been told to self-isolate or self-quarantine because of concerns about a COVID-19 infection.
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:
- Your school
- Your health care provider or pharmacy
- Whatcom County Health Department 360-778-6075
- OR through the Bellingham airport site at testdirectly.com
A home rapid antigen test will not be accepted.
What is Test to Stay?
Bellingham Public Schools is now offering Test to Stay, which is a protocol in the Washington Department of Health guidance for K-12 schools. Test to Stay provides on-site rapid testing for unvaccinated students who are exposed to COVID-19 at school. As long as they continue to test negative for COVID-19, they can continue to attend class during their quarantine period.
What does Test to Stay look like for those who choose to participate?
- Families must give consent for their child to participate in COVID-19 testing at school.
- Test to Stay is for students who are
a) not fully vaccinated
b) identified as close contacts because of a COVID-19 exposure at school
- Students will be tested for COVID-19 during the school day using a rapid test.
- As long they continue to test negative, they can continue attending class during their quarantine period.
- Students must quarantine outside of school and may not participate in sports or after-school activities until day eight after exposure.
- If a student develops symptoms of COVID-19, they should stay home, get tested and notify their school.
How long is a student in Test to Stay?
The length of Test to Stay participation is based on the date of exposure. Students participate in Test to Stay until eight days after exposure as long as they have received a negative test on or after day five.
How many times are students tested?
Students may be tested one or two times during Test to Stay. The number and timing of tests is determined by the health services team and is based on a) the number of days since the exposure, b) the number of days left in the student's quarantine period, and c) our ability to obtain consent for participating and testing.
How are tests administered?
Rapid tests are administered during the school day in a private space and are provided at no cost to families. Parent or guardian consent is required for Test to Stay participation and testing.
What about students with symptoms?
We treat students with symptoms who are participating in Test to Stay as we would for all students: If they develop symptoms of illness during their quarantine, we request they not attend school and receive additional COVID-19 testing (PCR) before they can return.
Testing is a way to keep kids in school and keep schools open. Testing, like masking and vaccinations, is one of many strategies to keep students safe. If a student is unvaccinated, a close contact and eligible for Test to Stay, schools can provide tests for students and keep in them in class (as opposed to sending them home to quarantine).
Based on the state requirements, a person who is fully vaccinated and has a COVID-19 exposure does not have to test or quarantine. They should look for symptoms, and testing is recommended 5-7 days after exposure.
If a person tests positive for COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, they must stay home to isolate. They can come back to school/work 10 days after the date of symptom onset or positive test if they do not have symptoms. They do not need a negative test to return.
Classroom space has been designed to allow each student to maintain physical distance and have independent workspace. This may be a different classroom or common space depending on the school building.
If a student begins to feel unwell during the school day, they will be directed to a designated screening room. 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 their child has symptoms and is well enough to finish the school day, the school may be able to offer a rapid antigen test with parent permission.
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.
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 required while on the bus. Please have your mask on when the bus arrives.
- Siblings will sit in the same seat as possible.
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.
- 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.
Here are the steps we follow for confirmed cases of COVID-19.
- We learn of confirmed case through parent/guardian reporting or notification from the health department.
- Our schools each have COVID site safety teams who help initiate contact tracing. If there are close contacts of a confirmed case, we notify them and their families.
- We work closely with the health department on our case response and in providing close contacts with public health information on what to do (e.g. quarantine, testing, date of return, etc.).
- We update the COVID-19 dashboard for transparency with our community.
Learning for Students in Quarantine
During the 2021-22 school year, some students will need to 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 Quarantine: 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.
Classroom or school quarantine: Class may move to online instruction using Zoom or Teams. Students could follow the class schedule with their teachers and classmates, following the 2020-21 school year schedule:
Athletics and Activities Information
updated Nov. 1, 2021: Key guidance document: Washington State Department of Health's most recent guidance for schools, published Oct. 4, 2021. We also follow all other state and local guidance or regulations.
We are looking forward to more typical seasons for our student athletes this year, and it will take extra teamwork on the part of athletes, coaches, families and our other staff to keep our athletes healthy and playing.
Our athletic programs will follow the Department of Health guidance for prevention and mitigation strategies; however, we also recognize that choosing to engage in athletics is a choice that carries additional risk (and great reward!). Prevention and mitigation in athletics may look slightly different than prevention and mitigation in classrooms.
We encourage all families and athletes to consider immunizing against COVID-19, not just for their individual health, but the health and safety of our schools and community. Fully immunized* athletes do not need to quarantine if they are a close contact to a confirmed case. At this time, our athletic program will not collect student athletes’ vaccination status as a prerequisite to play; however, athletes’ immunization status will need to be shared in case of need for contact tracing.
*We encourage all athletes to be boosted when their age group becomes eligible.
The Department of Health guidelines require masks for all athletes and adults under these circumstances:
- indoors when not practicing or competing.
- in weight room.
- on buses
- for all spectators indoors.
- for all spectators outdoors at events of more than 500 people. (updated September 2021)
The guidelines recommend masks for all athletes and adults under these circumstances:
- when practicing indoors.
- when unvaccinated athletes, coaches, athletic trainers and/or support personnel are in close proximity, such as standing on the sidelines, in a huddle or sitting in a dugout.
Following state requirements from the Department of Health and WIAA, BPS will collect vaccination status of students involved in high-contact or high-aerosolizing activities:
- All athletes participating in basketball, wrestling, cheer, and competitive dance are required to participate in screening testing 3x/week.
- For extracurricular performances, if students would like to perform unmasked, they are required to participate in screening testing prior to performing unmasked.
For unvaccinated students or those who don’t wish to disclose their vaccination status, BPS will conduct screening testing. Families will need to consent to testing using a form provided by schools/coaches.
Screening testing, like masking and vaccinations, is a layer of mitigation. It is a way to keep kids in school and activities and keep schools open.
If a student-athlete tests positive for COVID-19, our communications department and school administration will initiate our communication plan. If a coach or Athletic Coordinator learns of a positive COVID-19 case, they will immediately contact the athletic trainer, assistant principal, principal, or nurse.
If a student is at practice and demonstrates symptoms of COVID-19, coaches will immediately contact the
athletic trainer or nurse. Depending on the situation, the student may be taken to the COVID isolation room or remain isolated while outside waiting to leave practice or competition.
On occasion, optional screening testing may be offered at school; for example, if there is a confirmed case within a team.
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 will follow BPS COVID-19 protocols for contact tracing and return to school and activity. Coaches and athletic trainers will work closely with the Director of Health Services to ensure compliance with any quarantine and/or testing requirements prior to returning to school and sports.
If there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 within any of our sports, we will follow our district contact tracing protocols. Our school nurses and athletic trainers will work together with district COVID lead and the Whatcom County Health Department to determine if someone needs to quarantine. Fully vaccinated individuals will not need to quarantine but should monitor their health for symptoms; testing is also recommended 3 days after first exposure. On occasion, optional screening testing may be offered at school if there is a confirmed case within a team.
Those recovered from COVID-19 within the past three months do not need to quarantine. See pages 11-12 of the Department of Health guidelines for more specifics about contact tracing and quarantining.
WIAA has classified each sport as low, moderate, or high contact.
The level of contact and whether the sport is indoor or outdoor determines some aspects of the sport's COVID risk mitigation strategies.
High School fall sports:
- Low contact (indoor): Dance (no contact), Swimming
- Low contact (outdoor): Tennis (singles), Cross Country, Track and Field
- Moderate contact (indoor): Cheerleading (high aerosolizing), Dance (contact), Volleyball
- Moderate contact (outdoor): Soccer, Tennis (doubles), Softball (slowpitch)
- High contact (indoor): none
- High contact (outdoor): Football
High school winter sports:
- Low contact (indoor): Swimming, Dance (no contact), Bowling
- Low contact (outdoor): n/a
- Moderate contact (indoor): Cheerleading (high aerosolizing), Dance (contact), Gymnastics
- Moderate contact (outdoor): n/a
- High contact (indoor): Basketball, Wrestling
- High contact (outdoor): n/a
- Low contact (indoor):
- Low contact (outdoor):
- Moderate contact (indoor):
- Moderate contact (outdoor)
- High contact (indoor):
- High contact (outdoor):
Information for Staff