Q&A: Health and Safety
Health screening and response to illness
Q: What happens if someone tests positive for COVID-19?
A: Any NCS community member (household member, students, faculty, and staff) who tests positive for COVID-19 must contact the school nurse. Any student or employee diagnosed with COVID-19 must isolate at home for at least 10 days after symptom onset, after which they may return to school if any fever has been resolved for at least 24 hours without the aid of medication and any other symptoms are improving.
Asymptomatic individuals may return to school after 10 days have passed since the date of the positive COVID-19 test.
Q: What should our family do if our child or family member has had a COVID-19 exposure?
A: Any NCS community member who has come into close contact (as defined by the CDC as being within 6 feet of an infected individual for more than 15 minutes in a 24-hour period) with an individual with COVID-19, whether at school, home, or elsewhere, must stay home and quarantine for 10 days since the last exposure to a COVID-19-positive individual before returning to school (on day 11), only if the student or employee is symptom-free AND continues to self-monitor for symptoms until 14 days after the last exposure.
If you develop symptoms at any time in the 14 days after exposure, self-isolate immediately and contact with your health care provider.
Q: What happens if a student or employee has COVID-19 symptoms?
A: Any NCS student or employee who feels unwell or is exhibiting COVID-19-like symptoms must stay home and should contact a healthcare provider as soon as possible. This person must remain at home until either at least 10 days after symptom onset, after which they may return to school if any fever has been resolved for at least 24 hours without the aid of medication and symptoms are improving, or until able to provide the school nurse with clearance from a health care provider that the symptom is related to a diagnosis other than COVID-19.
Q: What if someone in our household has COVID-19 symptoms?
A: Any NCS student or employee living with a household member who is exhibiting COVID-19-like symptoms should stay home, and we encourage the household member to contact a healthcare provider as soon as possible. The NCS student or faculty/staff member must remain at home either 10 days from the date of the household member’s onset of symptoms, after which they may return to school (on day 11) only if the student or employee is symptom-free AND continues to self-monitor for symptoms until 14 days after the household member’s onset of symptoms, or must provide the school nurse with clearance from a healthcare provider that the household member’s symptom is related to a diagnosis other than COVID-19.
If the NCS student or faculty/staff member also develops symptoms of illness or feels unwell during the 14-day period, self-isolate immediately and contact your health care provider.
Q: What should we do if someone in our household is in quarantine?
A: If a household member of a student or employee is quarantining, either because of travel or COVID-19 exposure, and the household member remains asymptomatic, the student or employee is permitted to be on campus. (Please inform the school nurse if there is a household member quarantining due to COVID-19 exposure.)
Q: What happens if we have traveled to an area designated as high-risk?
Any student or employee who travels to a high-risk COVID-19 state (as identified by the District of Columbia) or country (CDC level 3 or 4) must quarantine before returning to work/school as follows, by either:
- obtaining a negative test result from a PCR COVID-19 test administered on or after day 7 post-travel before returning to school; or
- waiting 14 days after travel before returning to work/school.
Note: This policy is not applicable to parents; nor does a student or faculty/staff member need to quarantine if someone else in their household has traveled to a high-risk state)
To help understand how medical experts are associating risk of transmitting COVID-19 with time in quarantine, please refer to the below chart drawn from DC Health’s Phase Two guidance.
|Days of quarantine||Risk of transmitting COVID-19|
|7 days with negative test||5 percent (up to 12 percent)|
|10 days without a test||1 percent (up to 10 percent)|
|10 days with a negative test||0.3 percent|
|14 days of quarantine||0.1 percent|
Q: Will we be notified when someone at NCS tests positive for COVID-19?
A: Yes, NCS would notify parents, faculty, and staff by email. The school would also reach out directly to families and employees who were in close contact with the confirmed positive case. For reasons of privacy, NCS will not share the names of individuals who tests positive for COVID-19.
Q: Will the D.C. Department of Health also contact me if my child tests positive for COVID-19?
A: The health department in the city or county where you live may contact you. In addition, you will be contacted by NCS staff members who will assist the D.C. Department of Health by conducting contact-tracing interviews.
All positive COVID-19 tests must be reported to the health department by laboratories or ordering providers, and by a student’s school. The goal with this outreach is to break the chain of transmission, and NCS urges anyone contacted by a health department to assist their investigators.
Q: Will NCS conduct COVID-19 testing for students, faculty, and staff before they return to campus for Blended Learning?
A: COVID-19 testing can play a meaningful ancillary role in further decreasing the already-low risk of COVID-19 transmission in our schools, when used in connection with masking, social distancing, daily symptom screening, hand hygiene, and the ventilation upgrades that are the core of our COVID-19 risk-mitigation strategy. Prior to Blended Learning, NCS tested all members of our school community who expected to be regularly present on campus: students, faculty, and staff. The testing was conducted by a respected outside laboratory, Capital Diagnostics. We will also be returning to remote learning following Thanksgiving and winter breaks for a period of time and then testing students, faculty, and staff for COVID-19 again prior to returning to Blended Learning.
Q: What health screening will happen at home?
A: Prior to arriving at school, NCS expects that parents and/or guardians conduct a quick, daily health screening of their child at home, taking an oral temperature (non-contact thermometers are often inaccurate) and assessing for other COVID-19 symptoms. Parents would then report this information through the Magnus Mobile app. The app will notify the parent whether the student should come to school or stay home.
Those advised by the app to keep a child at home need to email NCSAbsences, the school nurse, and contact your healthcare provider for further guidance.
Faculty and staff must undertake a similar daily assessment.
Q: What protocols does NCS follow with cleaning and disinfection?
A: NCS’s longstanding daily practice has been to wipe down high-touch surfaces throughout the school, including chairs, desktops, dining tables, switches, knobs, and handles. In March, we began using electrostatic sprayers with a chlorinated-water disinfectant solution in each room and common areas and in bus interiors after each trip. All upholstery and carpets in our buildings are steam-cleaned monthly.
Once we return to campus, we will undertake more frequent cleaning and disinfection around the school during the day, as well as a nightly deep cleaning. On Wednesdays, when no students will be on campus, enhanced cleaning and disinfection will be performed.
Q: What role will students play in cleaning classrooms?
A: When students enter a classroom, each should use hand sanitizer and grab a single disinfecting wipe for her desk surface. At the end of class, the teacher will distribute additional wipes so that students may clean their desk and chair before departing. Finally, each student should use hand sanitizer while exiting the classroom.
Q: What sort of filtration improvements have been made to the school?
A: NCS is upgrading HVAC filters to MERV 13, the most efficient that fit our systems. Portable HEPA filter systems, which also increase ventilation and filtration in classrooms, have been added in Hearst and Whitby halls. More information is on this page.
Q: How will classrooms be different this year?
A: The introduction of social distancing requirements means that each classroom contains fewer desks than before, spaced at least 6 feet apart. Desks all face in one direction, toward the teacher and the whiteboard, and they may not be rotated or otherwise moved.
Q: I understand that hallways and classrooms have been reconfigured. How about restrooms and locker rooms?
A: We are closing off stalls and turning off sinks in restrooms so that only one may be in use at a time. There will be limited access to locker rooms for clothes changes only.
Q: How would cleaning protocols change after a positive COVID-19 test result by a school member?
A: Surface cleaning and disinfection would target areas where that person was in the 48 hours before developing symptoms. Any indoor room where the person ate or drank (i.e., was without a mask) would receive special attention to surface cleaning and disinfection. The HVAC filters in these areas would need to be replaced as part of the clean-up. Classes may meet in different rooms for a brief period as well.
Q: Will I be able to meet with people inside the school buildings to discuss my child?
A: Non-essential visitors to NCS are not allowed inside, including parents and most contractors. For the moment, parents should not expect that a forgotten item may be timely delivered to their child.
Q: How often will NCS clean lockers and/or cubbies?
A: We are closing off lockers, the Middle School hook room, and Lower School cubbies. Students will need to keep their possessions in backpacks, carrying them to and from school daily.
Q: What health screening will happen at school?
A: Once at school, a student who shows COVID-19 symptoms, such as a cough, fever, or runny nose, would be sent to the school nurse to be assessed in an isolated health environment. If the nurse confirms the possibility of COVID-19 symptoms, parents and/or guardians would be asked to pick up the child as soon as possible and take her home. As the student waits to be picked up, she would remain in one of two designated areas with independent air-distribution systems: the Lower School Assembly Room and the Dance Studio in the Carriage House, adjacent to the Athletic Center.
The student must be seen by a healthcare provider before returning to school. If the student tests negative for COVID-19 and/or the provider has an alternative explanation for the symptoms, she may be able to return to school with medical clearance.
Q: What if my child has seasonal allergies or frequent headaches?
A: Our in-school screening does not differentiate between symptoms of allergies and COVID-19, and NCS will err on the side of protecting health and safety. Consider consulting with your child’s healthcare provider about optimizing management of these ongoing conditions to minimize the risk that symptoms may be confused with COVID-19. Anything you and your daughter’s physician can do to “tune up” her allergies before coming to campus will eliminate disruption and stress.
Q: Will NCS require the use of face masks when on campus?
A: Yes, everyone at school will be required to wear a mask throughout the day, except when eating or drinking. The mask should cover the nose and mouth at all times, whether a person is inside or outside.
NCS will provide each student, teacher, and staff member with two three-ply masks made of cloth materials that follow WHO recommendations for preventing the transmission of COVID-19. Families may also provide students with other masks that meet these standards. Masks should be laundered after one day of use, or if visibly soiled.
Q: Why is NCS not recommending N-95 masks for students, faculty, and staff?
A: Medical experts have advised that N-95 masks are not necessary for routine interactions and need to be reserved for front-line medical workers. A cloth three-ply mask is sufficient for personal protection.
Q: What should my child do with her mask while she is eating, drinking, etc.?
A: Any mask removal should be for as short a time as possible. First, the student should sanitize or wash her hands before removing the mask. We recommend that the mask be removed by touching only the elastic straps around the ears or head. After it has been taken off, the mask should be kept in a plastic bag. Before putting the mask back on, the student should sanitize and wash hands.
Q: Is there any advantage to handwashing vs. using hand sanitizer?
A: Medical experts, including the CDC, say that both methods are equally effective.
Q: Where can students, faculty, and staff access hand sanitizer in the buildings?
A: NCS has added several dispensing machines and positioned them at the entrance to each classroom and throughout our campus.
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