K-12 Schools and Childcare Facilities
Things to Know:
- Home Isolation and Quarantine Decision Tools The CDC has created a decision tool to help individuals better understand guidance and timeframes for what to do if sick (isolation) or exposed to COVID-19 (quarantine). CDC: Quarantine and Isolation Calculator
- Guidance Updates MCDPH has updated its isolation and quarantine guidance documents to align with recent CDC updates. We are updating additional K-12 communication materials on this page to align with these changes. In interim, please see CDC FAQs on K-12 quarantine and K-12 isolation.
- Update Webinars See information for school officials on our update webinars for Community Partners.
- BinaxNOW Testing Information and demo video below in Monitoring for Illness
Reporting Cases and Exposures to Public Health
Maricopa County K-12 school nurses or administrators and childcare providers should use our online reporting form below to report confirmed cases of COVID-19 and exposures, specifically:
- Single or multiple cases of confirmed COVID-19 in students/children, teachers, and staff
- Identified close contacts in the facility (exposed persons) including students/children, teachers, and staff
- A suspected outbreak*
*MCDPH defines school outbreaks as follows:
- ≥3 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases among students/children or staff with onsets within a 14-day period, who are epidemiologically-linked, do not share a household, and were not identified as close contacts of each other in another setting during standard case investigation or contact tracing
For non-COVID school/childcare reportable conditions PDF PDF PDF PDF PDF PDF PDF PDF PDF PDF , please continue to report to public health by completing a Communicable Disease Reporting Form PDF PDF PDF PDF PDF PDF PDF PDF PDF PDF and faxing the completed forms to 602-372-8935.
To complete this form, please be prepared to report:
- School or childcare point of contact information
- Email address required; please include your childcare facility-associated or school-associated email address
- Basic school or facility information
- Information about case(s):
- Contact information
- Test date for PCR or antigen laboratory results
- Symptom onset date
- Grade / homeroom / classroom
- Date of last attendance
After successful submission of the form, the point-of-contact will automatically receive guidance material via email from Public Health that will aid with managing facility or campus-related exposures, contact tracing, and notifying parents and staff.
For questions regarding use of the online reporting form, please contact us.
Schools and childcare facilities are encouraged to report cases using the online school reporting form above, but MCDPH will continue to accept and process the previously-available paper-based form via fax.
Public Health Guidance and Flow Charts
If close contacts were identified following a COVID-19 exposure at schools, schools can use the following Close Contact letter templates to send to parents and staff.
- MCDPH Letter to In-School COVID-19 Close Contact – Student: English | Spanish (PDF - Rev. 02/14/2022)
- MCDPH Letter to In-School COVID-19 Close Contact – Staff: English | Spanish (PDF - Rev. 02/14/2022)
Quarantine and Isolation Guidance
**UPDATE 1/13/22--MCDPH has updated its isolation and quarantine guidance documents below to align with revised CDC recommendations. Additional K-12 supplementary guidance documents are in the process of being updated and will be added to this page once available. In interim, please see CDC FAQs on K-12 quarantine and K-12 isolation.
- Quarantine guidance and flow chart for close contacts of a person with COVID-19:
English (PDF - Rev. 06/22/22) | Spanish (PDF - Rev. 01/28/22)
- School-based Modified Quarantine: Masked Return to School After Exposure English (PDF - Rev. 02/02/22)
- Home isolation guidance and flow chart for people who test positive or have symptoms consistent with COVID-19:
English (PDF - Rev. 01/07/22) | Spanish (PDF - Rev. 01/07/22)
- Steps to Take if Student or Staff is Diagnosed with COVID-19 for K-12 Schools (PDF - Rev. 02/03/22)
Notice of Exposure/Outbreak & Medical Absence Template Letters
- School & Childcare Child or Staff Exposure: English | Spanish (Word - Rev. 1/26/22)
- School Outbreak Notification Letter: English | Spanish (Word - Rev. 2/14/22)
- Public Health Statement for Medical Absence: English | Spanish (PDF - Rev. 10/15/20)
Prevention and Mitigation Guidance for Schools
Additional guidance resources:
- Isolation Room Guidance (PDF - Rev. 04/25/22)
- CDC: Public Transportation Guidance
- CDC: Additional Resources and COVID-19 Communications Toolkit
Monitoring for Illness
Schools should encourage all students/parents, staff, and teachers to self-monitor for symptoms at home prior to leaving for school. Childcare facilities should also instruct staff and families of children attending their facility to conduct symptom monitoring or implement procedures for on-site screening prior to check-in.
All students and staff, including vaccinated people, should monitor for symptoms, since vaccine breakthrough infections can occur.
COVID-19 symptoms include:
- Fever (greater than or equal to 100.4 F or 38 C)
- Subjective chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
*Children should not be sent home if fatigue is their sole symptom.
Check the CDC website for the latest list of symptoms associated with COVID-19.
For children or staff who have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, see the information about home isolation on our Sick or Exposed to COVID-19 page.
The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) and Maricopa County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) have worked to develop a system to supply schools with BinaxNOW Self-Tests for the rapid detection of COVID-19 in K-12 students and staff. This testing program augments resources already available in the community and in schools including existing BinaxNOW testing initiatives, pooled testing provided through ADHS, and community testing events and sites such as retail pharmacies. See instructions for ordering and use of tests in the documents below.
FAQs for Parents/Caregivers
If you have questions not answered in the FAQs provided below, please Contact Us.
See our COVID-19 main FAQs for general information about COVID-19.
Cases & School Outbreaks
Quarantine is used to prevent transmission of the virus by ensuring that people who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 stay apart from others. Quarantine is important because even before a person has tested positive for COVID-19 or has symptoms, they could spread the virus that causes COVID-19 to other people without knowing it.
If a person is in quarantine, they should:
- Stay home and away from others for at least 5 days following your last exposure. Do not travel during this time.
- Get a PCR or antigen test at least 5 days after your last exposure. If you test positive, follow the isolation guidelines.
After the quarantine period ends, the person should continue to do the following until it has been 10 days from the day after their last close contact with someone with COVID-19:
- Wear a well-fitted mask in public settings.
- Stay away from others who are at risk for getting very sick from COVID-19.
- Avoid places or activities where they will need to take off their mask to take part in an activity and avoid eating near others. There should be a plan to adequately distance from others for times when a mask must be removed (e.g., when actively eating during lunch).
- Avoid travel. If the person must travel, they should wear a well-fitting mask.
If a person is up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations OR has had a confirmed COVID-19 infection in the last 90 days they do not need to quarantine. They should be monitored for symptoms for 10 days and be tested around 5 days after their last exposure. Those who test positive or develop COVID-19 symptoms should follow recommendations for isolation.
Per MCDPH guidance, if a child is up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations (I.e., completed their primary series) OR has had a confirmed COVID-19 infection in the last 90 days they do not need to quarantine. They should be monitored for symptoms for 10 days and be tested around 5 days after their last exposure.
If your exposed child has no symptoms of illness, Public Health recommends discussing the school-specific quarantine policies with your child’s school. Many schools are allowing students to return to class immediately after exposure, as long as they do not have any symptoms. These students should wear a mask for at least 10 days following their exposure. Other schools may request a student quarantine at home for up to 5 days after their exposure, depending on their recent infection history and COVID vaccination status.
Other Considerations & Resources
New testing methods have been developed since the start of the pandemic for detecting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Some involve inserting a swab into the nose, others require a spit sample. While most labs can turn results back in two to three days, new rapid testing kits can provide results in as little as 15 minutes. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two types of tests for diagnosing an active COVID-19 infection:
PCR test. This COVID-19 test detects genetic material (RNA) of the virus using a lab technique called polymerase chain reaction (PCR). PCR tests are considered highly accurate, but running the tests and analyzing the results can take time. Results may be available in as little as 24 hours or a few days depending on the lab's proximity to the testing site and other factors.
PCR tests require that a health care worker collects fluid from the nose or throat. Many coronavirus testing sites have started using shorter, less invasive swabs to swab inside the nostrils and don’t go as far into the nose as the long, uncomfortable nasopharyngeal swab. Saliva-based PCR testing is now also available, where you spit into a small collection tube.
- Antigen test. This COVID-19 test detects certain proteins in the virus. Using a nose or throat swab to get a fluid sample, rapid antigen tests can produce results in minutes. A positive antigen test result is considered very accurate, but there's an increased chance of false-negative results — meaning it's possible to be infected with the virus but still have a negative result. Depending on the situation, your health care provider may recommend a PCR test to confirm a negative antigen test result.
NOTE: While they sound similar, antigen tests are not the same as antibody tests. Antibody, or serology, tests are used to detect a past infection with COVID-19 and require a blood sample to detect the presence of antibodies. Antibody tests are not designed to detect an active infection of the virus and should not be used for diagnostic purposes.
Free community COVID-19 diagnostic testing is widely available and test types vary by testing site. There also may be minimum ages for certain types of tests. For more information and locations near you visit our testing page or call 2-1-1.
No. While they sound similar, antigen tests are not the same as antibody tests. Antibody, or serology (blood) tests are used to detect a past infection with COVID-19 and require a blood sample to detect the presence of antibodies. Antibody tests are not designed to detect an active infection of the virus and should not be used for diagnostic purposes.
For questions regarding the need for isolation for a person with a negative PCR test collected within 24 hours of a positive rapid antigen test:
- A positive result on an antigen or PCR/NAAT test for COVID-19 indicates current/active infection and persons should begin isolation per MCDPH Home Isolation Guidance.
- MCDPH does not recommend serial/subsequent testing after obtaining a positive result.
- MCDPH advises that a person with a positive test isolate at home.
- If you receive a positive antigen result, you should consider yourself as having COVID-19 and should begin isolating at home (or continue if you had been instructed to do so pending the test results).
- Due to the lower sensitivity of some rapid antigen tests, these tests may be less likely to detect the virus when it is actually present. Antigen testing is most effective in identifying the virus in those with symptoms in the early stages of their infection. If there is still concern that a person has COVID-19 after a negative antigen test, it is recommend that person be tested again with a molecular (PCR) test.
For those situations where persons have taken multiple tests, recommendations for isolation can be dependent upon their test results and whether that person has symptoms. We understand these situations can be unique and confusing - please consult MCDPH for additional guidance by calling 602-506-6767.
In general, isolation recommendations for a person with a negative PCR test collected within 24 hours of a positive rapid antigen test are:
Antigen positive and PCR positive (collected within 24 hrs. of each other)
Isolate until they have completed the isolation period outlined in the MCDPH Home Isolation Guidance.
Isolate until they have completed the isolation period outlined in the MCDPH Home Isolation Guidance.
Antigen positive and PCR negative (collected within 24 hrs. of each other)
Isolate until at least 24 hours after symptoms have resolved or per your school’s illness policy. (Note: if person was recently exposed to COVID-19, follow recommendations in the MCDPH Quarantine Guidance.)
No isolation is needed at this time. (Note: if person was recently exposed to COVID-19, follow recommendations in the MCDPH Quarantine Guidance.)
You can get tested if you are currently experiencing symptoms or are concerned you were exposed to someone with the virus, even if you have no symptoms of illness. Visit our testing page for free or low-cost testing options.
It’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both spread this fall and winter. Healthcare systems could be overwhelmed treating both patients with flu and patients with COVID-19. This means getting a flu vaccine every flu season is more important than ever.
While getting a flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19, there are many important benefits, such as:
- Flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization, and death.
- Getting a flu vaccine can also save healthcare resources for the care of patients with COVID-19.
Check with your healthcare provider or local pharmacy about flu shots in your area. Our three childhood immunization clinics around Maricopa County also have the flu shot free for anyone 6 months through 18 years of age! Please call ahead to ensure vaccine is available. It takes about two weeks to build immunity to the virus so be sure to plan ahead to make sure you and your family are protected.
If you need assistance finding food, paying house bills, accessing free childcare, or other essential services, dial 2-1-1 or 877-211-8661, search on the homepage of 211Arizona.org or download the 211 Arizona app.
Many students are dealing with sudden or ongoing changes to their social lives and daily routines due to COVID-19. While it is completely normal for youth to experience a wide range of emotions during uncertain times, severe or prolonged feelings of depression or sadness may be an opportunity to provide them with additional support. Talk with your child’s pediatrician about your concerns or seek professional help from a trained counselor. The CDC provides some tips for helping students cope with stress and anxiety here Version OptionsK-12 Schools and Childcare Facilities Headline. For immediate help, counselors are available 24/7 at the Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone by texting "TALK" to 741-741. For Arizona Teen Lifeline, call 602-248-8336 (TEEN) or 1-800-248-8336 (TEEN) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI, operates a free hotline that provides information, referrals and support to people living with a mental health condition, family members and caregivers, mental health providers and the public. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
School Staff & Administration
If you are reporting cases of COVID-19 in your school or are seeking official guidance, please first see our Reporting Cases and Exposures section. Be sure to view our biweekly webinars for the most updated guidance and answers to questions being asked by our school community. If further clarification on any topic is needed, please contact us.
- If you have questions about an exposure notification you received from your child's school or have other questions about COVID-19, please first see our FAQs.
- You can speak to someone directly by calling our CARES Team at 602-506-6767 Mon-Fri 8am to 5pm.
- You also can submit your questions through our Contact Us web form.