Health & Safety

Question: What are the guidelines for students wearing masks?

Answer: Masks or face coverings are among the most critical components to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Students in grade 2 and above are required to wear a mask/face covering that covers their nose and mouth at all times, with the exception of meals and mask breaks. Whenever possible, students in pre-kindergarten through grade 1 who can safely and appropriately wear, remove, and handle masks should do so. Even if students are spaced six feet apart in classrooms, the use of masks is still required unless students are eating lunch or taking a mask break.

Question: My child would prefer to wear a face shield instead of wearing a mask. Is that allowed?

Answer: The standard set forth by the MA Department of Public Health and the DESE (supported by Governor Baker’s COVID-19 Executive Order No. 31) is that masks are required at all times. Face shields are additional possible mitigation strategies but do not replace the standard and requirement of mask/face coverings and do not provide adequate protection when used alone.

Question: Will hand sanitizer be readily available in schools?

Answer: Yes. Hand sanitizer stations are set up throughout each school, such as common areas, hallways, and classrooms. While the application of hand sanitizer is necessary throughout the school day, hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is the best practice.

Question: What is being done to improve classroom ventilation?

Answer: DPW is working with companies such as Siemens and Mitsubishi to go through each school evaluating existing equipment and identifying where new equipment can be added to or upgraded. They will also recommend changes that can increase outside airflow including air exchanges and methods to disinfect air such as UV or ionization. Cleaning air intakes and ducts are taking place as well as changing filters.

Question: What are the physical distancing guidelines?

Answer: Physical distancing is a critical tool in preventing the spread of COVID-19. DESE recommends that districts aim for 6 feet of distance where feasible. When 6 feet is not feasible, 3 feet is an acceptable minimum as long as staff and students wear masks covering the nose and mouth at all times.

Question: What is the definition of a close contact?

Answer: If a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, their close contacts will be defined as only those who have been within 6 feet of distance of the individual for at least fifteen minutes, while the person was infectious. The infectious period begins 2 days prior to symptom onset. If someone is asymptomatic, the infectious period is considered to begin 2 days prior to the collection of their positive test. While previous guidance stated that all students in an elementary classroom would be defined as close contacts, this new guidance provides a narrower definition of a close contact which mirrors DPH guidance.

Question: What is the policy of when a close contact may return to school?

Answer: All close contacts should be tested but must self-quarantine for 14 days after the last exposure to the person who tested positive, regardless of test result. After further consultation with the medical community, DESE is updating this guidance as the virus can cause illness from 2-14 days after exposure and even asymptomatic individuals can transmit the virus. Going forward, even if an individual identified as a close contact receives a negative test result, they must continue to self-quarantine for the full 14 days as the virus may take up to 14 days to cause illness.

Question: When can a student/staff person may return to school after COVID-19 symptoms


  • If a student or staff member has COVID-19-like symptoms, they may return to school after they have tested negative for COVID-19, have improvement in symptoms, and have been without fever for at least 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medications. If a provider makes an alternative diagnosis for the COVID-19-like symptoms, the individual may return to school based on the recommendations for that alternative diagnosis (e.g., influenza or strep pharyngitis).

  • If a student or staff member presents COVID-19-like symptoms and chooses not to be tested, they may return to school 10 days from start of symptoms, as long as their symptoms have improved and they have been without fever for at least 24 hours prior to their return to school without the use of fever reducing medication.

Question: What is the definition of COVID-19 related fever?

Answer: Over the summer, the threshold for a COVID-19 related fever by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been updated from greater than 100.4˚F to greater than 100.0˚F. As a result, going forward, a fever as a COVID-19 symptom will be defined as 100.0˚F or higher.

Question: Are immunizations required for all models of learning?

Answer: Previously released guidance emphasized the importance of maintaining school immunization requirements and obtaining the flu vaccine as students return to in-person school. This is equally important for students who are enrolled in remote or hybrid schooling models. Immunization requirements must be met in all models of learning.

Question: Will all schools have a medical waiting room?

Answer: Yes. According to DESE guidance, schools must establish a separate room for students exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms or who may have learned about a positive test result while at school, while waiting to be picked up by a family member. This space must be supervised. If feasible given space and staffing constraints, schools are encouraged to provide individual students with their own waiting room. If more than one student is in the same waiting room at a time, each student must be at least 6 feet apart (and should be spaced as far apart as possible) and wearing a surgical mask (non-N95 and non-cloth) while in the medical waiting room. If a student does not already have a surgical mask, the school should provide one. Schools will be equipped with the PPE for the staff involved with supervision of the waiting room.

Question: How will the district determine when it would switch to full remote learning?

Answer: GPS will be making decisions in close consultation with the Gloucester Department of Health as well as using the guidance developed by the Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (DESE) and the team of health and medical experts with whom they are working. Decisions will be based on current state and community transmission of COVID-19.

Question: If a student doesn't feel well or needs to quarantine will remote learning be provided?

Answer: A student in the in person model can go to the remote learning model after giving the proper notification to the school.

Question: What will the structure or expectations for the remote learning model?

Answer: DESE has instructed districts to provide a more robust remote learning model. Remote learning lessons will include live instruction, pre-recorded lessons and corresponding work.

Please refer to the Remote Learning Model for all levels in the Final Reopening Plan located on the Back Together GPS website.