COVID-19 & Return to School Hub
Below is the latest District information regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Return to School 2021-2022. Individual school information should be available via email and the individual school sites. If you are not receiving emails please reach out to the main office at your student's school to ensure your email information is up to date.
- Key Definitions
- Recommended Testing & Quarantine Response Protocols
- DESE & DPH Frequently Asked Questions Compilation Document
This section outlines the list of COVID-19 symptoms, provides the definition of a close contact, and outlines situations where close contacts are exempt from COVID-19 testing and quarantine response protocols.
Below is the full list of symptoms for which caregivers should monitor their children, and staff should monitor themselves.
At this time, based on the advice of public health officials and medical experts, DESE and DPH are revising the symptoms list to align with DPH statewide guidance. While previous guidance provided a differentiated symptoms list for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, the new symptoms list below applies to all individuals, regardless of vaccination status. Individuals who experience any symptoms on the list below should follow the testing and quarantine response protocol for symptomatic individuals (Protocol C) as outlined in Section 2 of this document. Please note that, consistent with the DPH Public Health Advisory Regarding COVID-19 Testing, these protocols have been adjusted to recommend, but not require, a COVID-19 test to return to school.
COVID-19 Symptoms List:
- Fever (100.0° Fahrenheit or higher), chills, or shaking chills
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- New loss of taste or smell
- Muscle aches or body aches
- Cough (not due to other known cause, such as chronic cough)
- Sore throat, when in combination with other symptoms
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea when in combination with other symptoms Headache when in combination with other symptoms
- Fatigue, when in combination with other symptoms
Nasal congestion or runny nose (not due to other known causes, such as allergies) when in combination with other symptoms
Definition of Close Contact
Close contacts are defined as individuals who have been within 6 feet of a COVID-19 positive individual while indoors, for at least 15 minutes during a 24-hour period. Please note that the at-risk exposure time begins 48 hours prior to symptom onset (or time of positive test if asymptomatic) and continues until the time the COVID-19 positive individual is isolated.
In general, close contacts should follow the testing and quarantine response protocols in Section 2 of this document. However, certain close contacts are exempted from testing and quarantine response protocols as noted below.
Close contacts exempt from testing & quarantine response protocols
The following close contacts are exempt from testing and quarantine response protocols:
- Asymptomatic, fully vaccinated close contacts: Individuals who are asymptomatic and fully vaccinated are exempt from testing and quarantine response protocols.
- Masked close contacts in classrooms and on buses: An individual who is exposed to a COVID-19 positive individual in the classroom, so long as the individuals were spaced at least 3 feet apart, or on the bus, while both individuals were masked, is exempt from testing and quarantine response protocols.
- Close contacts who have had COVID-19 within the past 90 days: An individual who has been previously diagnosed with COVID-19 and then becomes a close contact of someone with COVID-19 is exempt from testing and quarantine response protocols if:
- The exposure occurred within 90 days of the onset of their own illness AND
- The exposed individual is recovered and remains without COVID-19 symptoms.
This section outlines testing and quarantine response protocols for individuals - students and staff, who test positive for COVID-19, close contacts who are not exempt from testing and quarantine response protocols, and symptomatic individuals. Each scenario outlines the duration of any recommended quarantine or isolation, the conditions to be met in order for the individual to return to school, and any additional considerations.
Overview of Protocol Categories:
- Protocol A: For individuals who test positive for COVID-19
- Protocol B: Protocol for asymptomatic close contacts
- Protocol C: Protocol for symptomatic individuals
Duration: Self-isolation for COVID-19 positive cases is a minimum of 5 days after symptom onset or after positive PCR or antigen test, if asymptomatic.
Return to school: After 5 days and once they have:
- Been without fever for 24 hours (and without taking fever-reducing h e to medications); and
- Experienced improvement in other symptoms.
- Following the 5-day isolation period, wear a mask for 5 additional days when around others, other than when eating, drinking, or outside.
Note: Return to school should be based on time and symptom resolution. Testing during isolation to return to school is not required.
Updated testing guidance from DESE and DPH recommend that districts select the new option within the statewide testing program to offer weekly rapid at-home antigen tests to students and staff and discontinue contact tracing and Test and Stay programs. As such, for districts selecting this new option, individuals will no longer be identified as close contacts by school health professionals.
However, individuals may still be identified as close contacts outside of school settings (e.g. as a close contact of someone who tests positive for COVID-19 in their household). Individuals who test positive are encouraged to notify their close contacts. In these cases:
- While in school settings (including for sports and extracurriculars), asymptomatic vaccinated individuals remain exempt from testing and quarantine protocols. If an asymptomatic, vaccinated individual is identified as a close contact outside of school, they may return to school. Individuals should closely monitor for symptoms and follow Protocol C if they experience symptoms listed in Section 1.
- Unvaccinated individuals who are identified as close contacts outside of school settings should stay home and follow Protocol B* below prior to returning to school:
Protocol B*: Protocol for asymptomatic, unvaccinated individuals identified as close contacts outside of school settings
Duration: Quarantine is at least 5 days from the date of exposure
Return to School: After 5 days, returning on day 6, provided that they:
- Remain asymptomatic,
- Wear a mask, other than when eating, drinking, or outside, and conduct active monitoring for symptoms through day 10; and,
- Self-isolate if symptoms develop.
Note: If an individual has symptoms at the time they are designated as a close contact or within the 5 days following initial exposure, they should follow the protocol for symptomatic individuals (Protocol C). If an individual tests positive at any time, they follow the protocol for individuals who test positive for COVID-19 (Protocol A).
For all those exposed, best practice would also include a viral test (antigen or PCR) for COVID-19 at day 5 after exposure. An antigen test may be self-administered and does not need to be proctored or performed by a healthcare professional
Protocol C applies to vaccinated and non-vaccinated individuals who experience the COVID-19 symptoms listed in Section 1 applicable to their status and who have not tested positive for COVID-19.
Protocol C for symptomatic individuals: Return to school post-symptoms with optional test
Duration: Dependent on improvement in symptoms
Return to School: Individuals may return to school after they:
- Have improvement in symptoms.
- Have been without fever for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications.
- It is also recommended that individuals receive a negative PCR or antigen test result for COVID-19. An antigen test may be self-administered and does not need to be proctored or performed by a healthcare professional. For districts participating in the at-home testing option, individuals may use their district provided test for this purpose. Note: So long as the individual is not a close contact, if a medical professional makes an alternative diagnosis for the COVID-19-like symptoms, the individual may use this recommendation (e.g., for influenza or strep pharyngitis) in lieu of a PCR test or antigen test.
- Best practice would also include wearing a mask until symptoms are fully resolved.
Please Note: If an individual has mild symptoms, the individual may be considered for testing using BinaxNOW, if available.
- If the result if positive, they should be sent home and follow Protocol A.
- If the result is negative, they should remain in school.
If symptom(s) persist after a negative test, the individual may re-test within the subsequent 1-2 days. If symptoms worsen, the individual should seek medical care and be evaluated for the need for PCR testing.
You can locate COVID-19 testing sites here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/find-a-covid-19-test
More than 900 vaccination sites are available across the state and most accept walk-in appointments, including CVS and Walgreens pharmacies, pediatric primary care offices, and community health centers. As a reminder, the COVID vaccine is free for all, and no ID or insurance is needed to obtain the vaccine. More information on these sites, as well as safety information, and helpful Q&As are all available at www.mass.gov/covidvaccine.
Overview: At- Home Rapid Testing Program
- About the Test: iHealth is a 15-minute at-home FDA-approved rapid antigen test
- Opt-In: To participate, you must opt in by completing the online form . By opting in, you will agree to review the training materials for test administration, report positive test results to your student’s school, and administer the tests according to Norton’s guidelines.
- Weekly: Every two weeks you will receive an iHealth at-home rapid test kit. Each kit contains two individual tests. Your student will administer one test each week on Monday.
- Reporting Positive Test Results: If your student tests positive on an at-home antigen test, you will inform their school of the positive result using the Positive Test Result Notification form. The school will keep the results confidential and will not make individual results public. In addition, it is strongly recommended that you inform your healthcare professional of the positive result.
- Easy, Free, and Flexible: This test is administered at home (not at school), reducing the burden on school staff and time to administer tests, and increasing a family’s flexibility to do testing in the home for free.
How do I administer the test?
- Click here for a full “how to” written guide in various languages
- Click here for a video of an individual self-testing
How do I submit positive test results?
- Submit Results: In order to streamline the way for families to report their student's positivity, we are asking all families to complete this confidential google form ( https://forms.gle/eUo4D8ZXRjkWbmVv9) when your student tests positive for COVID-19 instead of contacting the nurses directly. The information you provide will auto-populate into a google sheet and will go directly to the school nurses. This process will greatly assist our nurses. The form can also be found on the COVID-19 Hub on the website directly under the COVID-19 Dashboard.
- Confidentiality: Positive test results are shared with your school district for informational purposes only. Individual results will remain confidential, and they will never be made public.
Norton Public Schools uses ParentSquare for school communication, primarily with email, text and app notifications. ParentSquare automatically generates an account for each parent, using their preferred email address and phone number. We encourage parents to access their accounts so they can download the mobile app and update their preferences on when and how they are notified. Learn more here.