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  • Writer's pictureCLPA Policy Staff

COVID-19 Policies for Public Schools in the Washington Metropolitan Area

Updated: Sep 1, 2021

Schools across the DC Metropolitan Area have begun to reopen for in-person learning for the first time since the pandemic began in 2020. Many may be confused about the policies put in place to protect both students and school staff from the still surging coronavirus. CLPA has pulled the most frequently requested sections from the COVID-19 policies from select school systems around the DC Metropolitan Area (that were publically available) and compiled them in one place.

We will provide updates on school systems not included in this report, such as Alexandria and Loudoun County, at a later time. The information provided below comes directly from state and county websites. Please click on the links that appear throughout to get more information.

Washington DC

Washington DC’s full COVID-19 plan can be found at the Washington, DC Mayor's site.

All DCPS students, staff, and visitors are mandated to wear a face mask on school grounds at all times. Masks are allowed to be removed only while students are actively eating or drinking. For Pre-K students, masks can be removed during nap time. DCPS cafeterias are to be set up to allow the greatest amount of distance between students and student seating will be assigned. Students in Pre-K and Kindergarten will eat lunch in their classrooms.

DCPS is recommending that no one travel outside of the Washington Metropolitan Area during the school year. Unvaccinated individuals who travel outside of the area are encouraged to self-quarantine upon their return. It is recommended that on their return individuals get a COVID-19 test. The self-quarantine can end after the seventh day if the test is negative. A ten-day self-quarantine is recommended if no test is performed, for unvaccinated individuals. Should there be any positive COVID-19 cases, schools will follow the DC Health guidance for quarantine. It is suggested that anyone testing positive for COVID-19 isolate at home for at least 10 days and show improvement of symptoms, including no fever for 24 hours.

The DC government has also outlined what is considered close contact and how close contact with a COVID-19 positive person will be handled. Close contact is defined as a student being “within six feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes within a 24-hour window within two days prior to illness onset or positive test result.” Close contact protocols for both unvaccinated and vaccinated students and staff members have been defined:

  • Unvaccinated students or staff members in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, will be required to quarantine for at least 7 days. Students and staff may return to the classroom after seven days if they take a COVID-19 test on or after day five and receive a negative result. Students and staff who do not take a test must quarantine for 10 days.

  • Vaccinated students and staff who are in close contact to someone who tests positive for COVID-19 do not need to quarantine if they are not showing symptoms but are recommended to take a test between three and five days after they are exposed.

Regarding vaccine mandates, staff will be required to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination by September 19th or take a weekly COVID-19 test. The COVID-19 vaccine is currently not required for students but vaccination is suggested.



On August 26th, the Maryland State Board of Education voted that all Maryland public school students and staff will be required to wear masks in school buildings in the coming weeks. At first it was unclear if the Board had the authority to mandate masks be worn in schools, but the Maryland Attorney General’s Office determined they could do so through an emergency regulation. The new regulation must be approved by a legislative committee, but Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Democrat from Baltimore, said he expected the joint committee to approve the regulation.

Charles County

Charles County’s full COVID-19 plan can be found at the Charles County’s Board of Education (CCBOE) site.

COVID Safeguards

Parents/guardians must pre-screen their child each morning before their arrival to school. Failure to accurately complete the pre-screening may temporarily result in a student’s removal from school if the student is ill. The most up-to-date health screening questionnaire is posted on the CCPS website. By sending the student to school, the parent/guardian is acknowledging the health screening questionnaire was completed and their child is not ill.

Social distancing

Desks and work areas must be organized to maximize space and allow separation between students (more if possible). Where possible, desks should be facing in the same direction. Staff may not provide their own barriers such as Plexiglas or shower curtains.


Lunchrooms should be set up to maintain at least three feet of distance between students. Alternative locations (including classrooms) can be used if needed. Distancing between students should be maintained while in line to get meals. Breakfast may be eaten in classrooms. Students should have the opportunity to sanitize their hands before and after eating. Students should remove their masks to eat. Once done eating, students must put their masks back on before leaving their eating area. Desks may be used in lieu of cafeteria tables to maximize space and encourage strict physical distancing.


Children must wear masks when transitioning to and from recess. Masks may be removed once outside. Students should not be required to wear a mask during recess unless they choose to or parents have specified they must. In order to assist in contact tracing teachers monitoring recess should maintain knowledge of groups of students who routinely play and congregate together. After recess, masks must be put back on properly to transition back into the building. Children must be provided an opportunity to wash/disinfect their hands after recess.

Standard Protocol for Notification of Probable or Confirmed Cases of COVID-19

If a student tests positive for COVID-19, the student may not return to school until all the following have been satisfied:

  • 10 days since onset of symptoms.

  • 24 hours since last fever.

  • Symptoms have improved.

If a student tests positive on a COVID-19 rapid test, but test negative on a PCR test, they may return to school immediately if:

  • The student has no COVID-19-like symptoms.

  • The student has no known exposure to a COVID-19 positive person.

Between test results, continuous communication between parents and the school nurse must occur via the telephone for children who wish to return to school. These telephone check-ins are to occur every two school days. Should a parent fail to remain in contact with the school nurse, the longer it will take for the student to be readmitted for in-person instruction.

Quarantine Guidelines for Persons Who Have Been Vaccinated

Following CDC guidelines, a vaccinated person who is exposed to an individual who may have COVID-19 is not required to quarantine only if they:

  • Are fully vaccinated (i.e., greater than two weeks following receipt of the second dose in a two-dose series, or greater than two weeks following receipt of one dose of a single-dose vaccine).

  • Self-monitor for symptoms for seven days.

  • Consider being tested three-to-five days after the exposure.

Prince George’s County

Prince George’s County’s full COVID-19 plan can be found at the Prince George's County Public School (PGCPS) site.

COVID Safeguards

It is imperative that students, teachers, and staff all wear personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriate for the task being performed and practice both social distancing and handwashing/hand sanitizing to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. It is also imperative that all adults model these behaviors for students.

Standard Protocol for Notification of Probable or Confirmed Cases of COVID-19

Staff and students with COVID-19 symptoms will be immediately separated from others. Individuals who are sick (without COVID-19 symptoms) should be sent home. Should a student or staff member have a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher and/or any respiratory signs/symptoms, they will be placed in the C.A.R.E. Room until they can leave the building. Areas used by the sick person will be closed off and will not be used until after cleaning and disinfecting by custodial staff. Students and/or staff who test positive for COVID-19 must stay home for ten days and be symptom-free.

Any staff or students who have had close contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19 must stay home, self-monitor for symptoms, and follow CDC guidance if symptoms develop. In the event that the school is informed of a case of COVID-19 or possible COVID-19 exposure, the school nurse and/or principal will immediately notify the Office of Health Services and the Instructional Director. A centralized confidential document of all assumed cases will be kept and shared with health officials. The Office of Health Services will notify the Prince George’s County Health Department and Chief Executive Officer (or designee) to collaborate on the school’s response. The school will follow the guidance of the PGCPS for notification of staff and families, quarantines, closures, reopening, and any other requirements. In an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, reporting processes have been developed.

Quarantine Guidelines For Persons Who Have Been Vaccinated

Prince George’s County is not mandating vaccinations for students but they are following the CDC recommendation to encourage everyone 12 years and older to get a COVID-19 vaccination. Vaccinated persons with exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they meet all of the following criteria:

  • Are fully vaccinated (i.e., More than two weeks following receipt of the second dose in a 2- dose series, or More than two weeks following receipt of one dose of a single-dose vaccine).

  • Are within 3 months (90 days) following receipt of the last dose in the series

  • Have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure.

Persons who do not meet all three of the above criteria should continue to follow current quarantine guidance after exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. Fully vaccinated persons who do not quarantine should still monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days following exposure. If they experience symptoms, they should be clinically evaluated for COVID-19, including SARS-CoV-2 testing, if indicated.

Contingency Plans in the Event of Positive COVID-19 Test Result in a School or Classroom

The principal and school-based COVID Compliance Committee will follow the following plan when addressing a confirmed COVID-19 case at the school or in a classroom:

  1. Isolate/Quarantine Confirmed Employees or Students. The employee or student with COVID-19 should remain at home for at least 10 days and be symptom free in order to return to a PGCPS building.

  2. Address and Isolate the Employees or Students Who Were in Close Contact With the COVID-19 Positive Employee or Student

Quarantine protocol for vaccinated and unvaccinated

  • Fully vaccinated: individuals do not need to quarantine following exposure to a person with confirmed or probable COVID-19 but should monitor for symptoms for 14 days.

  • Not fully vaccinated: individuals should not attend school, work in or visit a school building until completing quarantine. The quarantine period is at least 10 days and they must be symptom free.

Notifying Employees and Parents/Guardians

Following exposure to a confirmed or probable COVID-19 case, PGCPS schools will notify all Prince George’s County Public Schools employees and parents/guardians: a) of a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 or b) if identified as a close contacts Notifications will occur without revealing any confidential medical information such as the name of the employee or students.

Montgomery County

Montgomery County’s full COVID-19 plan can be found at the Montgomery County’s Public School (MCPS) site.

Standard Protocol for Notification of Probable or Confirmed Cases of COVID-19

If a student in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) tests positive for COVID-19, the school system’s contact tracers will work with both county and state health officials to identify anyone the student had direct contact with and follow up with any quarantine instructions. Notifications of school COVID-19 cases will post on the MCPS website. Parents must notify school leadership if their child is exposed to COVID-19 or receives a positive test result.

Class Size and social distancing

MCPS will return to pre-pandemic class sizes and spacing as such they strictly follow the COVID guidelines set by the CDC. Regarding implementing physical distancing the CDC encourages school districts to implement physical distancing to the extent possible and cautions against implementing distancing requirements that would lead to the exclusion of students from in-person learning. Schools will also be encouraged to use outdoor spaces for unmasked educational and social experiences.

COVID-19 Vaccine

There is no mandate for students to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but MCPS is urging all eligible students and staff members to get vaccinated. Though there is no vaccine mandate MCPS is requiring all employees to submit proof of vaccination or participate in weekly COVID-19 testing.

Standard Protocol for Notification of Probable or Confirmed Cases of COVID-19

Unvaccinated MCPS students and staff who have been exposed to COVID-19 are to quarantine for ten days. There is a quarantine exemption for students and staff who are fully vaccinated unless COVID symptoms appear, or they test positive for COVID-19. MCPS is following CDC protocol by recommending that fully vaccinated individuals get tested three to five days following direct exposure to COVID-19. MCPS notes that any student needing to quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure will receive virtual instructional support.

Lunch and recess

Masks should remain on unless students are actively eating and drinking. Students will be able to eat breakfast and lunch in cafeterias and other designated areas, including outdoor spaces when feasible.

School-wide hybrid instruction

MCPS notes that hybrid instruction will only occur if the school system is required by state government officials to reduce capacity in school buildings as a result of health conditions in the county or state.



Senate Bill 1303, mandates that Virginia school districts follow CDC guidance to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and as of August 5th, the CDC, in response to the Delta variant, recommended universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. This means that all Virginia Public School teachers, staff, students, and visitors are mandated to wear a mask while on school grounds.

Arlington County

Arlington County's full COVID-19 plan can be found at the Arlington Public Schools (APS) site.

COVID Safeguards

Arlington County requires daily health screening for all students attending in-person instruction. No temperature checks or screening are required upon arrival at the bus or school. APS will continue to send the Qualtrics health screener to remind families to check students’ health daily before school and keep students home when they are sick. Daily symptom screeners will be sent to the parent/legal guardian every morning at 5:30 AM, via email and text message. Symptom screening is available in five languages.

Standard Protocol for Notification of Probable or Confirmed Cases of COVID-19

Students who may be infected with COVID-19 and are sent home from school will be required to present one of the following forms of documentation when returning to school:

  • A negative COVID test.

  • A clearance letter provided by a physician or the Arlington County Public Health Department, stating that a student has completed quarantine or isolation following exposure to COVID-19 or having had COVID-19.

Procedures for Positive COVID-19 Cases in a Classroom Students determined to be in immediate proximity (within 6 feet) to a positive COVID-19 case for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period will be considered a close contact and will be excluded/quarantined. However, per the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, a student who is within 3 to 6 feet of an infected student is not considered a close contact as long as both students are wearing masks and the school has other prevention strategies in place, such as ventilation, distancing, screening, etc. This exception does not apply to adults in the school setting. Students determined to be closer than 3 feet through the contact tracing process will be excluded/quarantined, regardless of mask use.

Students with a positive COVID-19 test will need to quarantine for seven days with negative test on day 5-7. Students with a negative test on days 5-7 will be cleared to return on day eight. Fully vaccinated individuals are exempt from quarantine, as verified by School Health, unless they develop symptoms or test positive for COVID-19.

Physical Distancing

APS will implement distancing to the extent possible in schools; however, distancing consistently will not be possible. Masking and other strategies will help protect the school community in classrooms and spaces where distancing is not possible.


APS will resume normal bus capacities. Windows will remain cracked on all buses to allow for outside air circulation. Masks will be required on all buses by riders and drivers.

Breakfast and Lunch Practices

In accordance with CDC and Virginia Department of Health guidelines for schools, every APS school has either a partial or full outdoor lunch plan, and every school will consistently implement the following health and safety measures during lunch:

  • Masks are required in the cafeteria or other designated dining space when students are not actively eating or drinking.

  • Masks must be worn, regardless of vaccination status, during arrival to the lunch area, as well as in the serving line and when finished eating or when departing or traveling within the dining space.

  • Cafeteria or other dining spaces and frequently touched surfaces will be regularly and thoroughly cleaned by custodial staff between mealtimes.

  • Students will be required to wash their hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer before and after eating. Time will be provided for handwashing and sanitizer will be readily available for student use.

  • Mealtime will be monitored to ensure adherence to the safety measures in place and to enforce distancing to the extent possible.

Playgrounds, Recess and PE

Face masks are not required outside on the playground. APS will continue to require frequent hand sanitizing before going to playground areas and immediately following with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Students may share equipment during recess, which will be sanitized to the extent possible by staff, and may access playground swings and other available play areas. During PE, face masks must be worn indoors but may be removed outdoors. Physical distancing will be maintained to the extent possible.

Fairfax County Public Schools

Fairfax County’s full COVID-19 plan can be found at the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) site.

COVID Safeguards

A daily health screening questionnaire is available in the following languages: English, Amharic, Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Korean, Spanish, Urdu, and Vietnamese. Parents/guardians will receive frequent reminders from FCPS via multiple modes of communication, reminding them to complete their daily health screening questionnaire and to keep sick students at home. These communications will be developed in collaboration with the Office of Communications and Community Relations , Office of Professional Learning and Family Engagement and Language Services. All staff and visitors must complete the daily health screening questionnaire prior to arriving on campus. The daily health screening questionnaire will be completed on an honor basis and will not be required to be submitted to the school.

Physical Distancing

FCPS has indoor and outdoor standards for physical distancing for student, teachers, and visitors


  • Indoors: A minimum of 3 feet between K-12 students and 6’ between PreK and Preschool students in classrooms to the extent possible and distance may be reduced as needed to ensure all students can be accommodated for in-person learning.


  • Indoors: A minimum of 6 feet between students and teachers/staff to the extent possible


  • Minimum of 6 feet to the extent possible


  • There are no distancing or mask standards for the outdoors

Students who become sick at school

Students demonstrating any of the following symptoms will be sent home from school:

  • Fever (100.4 or greater)

  • Chills

  • Cough

  • Shortness of breath

  • Loss of taste/smell

  • Sore throat

  • Fatigue

  • Muscle aches

  • Runny Nose/Congestion

  • Stomach ache

  • Diarrhea

  • Nausea/Vomiting

  • Headaches.

The parent/guardian will be notified and a sick student notification and return to school form will be sent home. The Sick Student Notification and Return to School Form is available in English, Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Korean, Spanish, Urdu and Vietnamese. The top portion of the form will be completed by the School Public Health Nurse, School Health Aide or FCPS staff member. Parents are expected to pick up their child within one hour of notification and check into the front office. For students with chronic symptoms similar to COVID-like symptoms/illness, parents/guardians are encouraged to complete and regularly update the Health Information Form (HIF)

Students who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, may not return until:

  • It has been at least ten (10) days since the student first had symptoms

  • The student must be fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication\The student’s symptoms are getting better

Students who have been identified as having close contact with someone who has COVID-19

  • Unvaccinated students who are identified as a close contact with someone with COVID-19 must remain home for 14 days after their last exposure.

  • Fully vaccinated students who are identified as a close contact with someone with COVID-19 must remain home until your vaccination status is verified. Upon verification of vaccination status by the Fairfax County Health Department, and if the student/staff is asymptomatic, they may return to in-person learning and activities once notified by FCPS of their return date.



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