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Coronavirus and Education Programs




Education Programs Include Childcare, Preschools, Camps, TK-12, Higher Education and Other Programs Serving Children and Youth

Welcome education program partners. The County Office of Education and County Public Health Department continue to work with schools, other programs serving children and youth, and families to prepare for the safer reopening of schools for in-person learning and operation of programs serving children and youth in Santa Clara County.

Table of Contents


Message Regarding K-12 Schools and the New COVID-19 Restrictions Applicable to Businesses and Residents of the County Effective November 30, 2020:

There have been no changes to our schools-related guidance.  We continue to encourage schools to operate for in-person instruction consistent with state and local public health directives.  Schools are essential for children and families in our community, and in-person instruction can be resumed safely if all county and state requirements are carefully followed.  Because our County is currently in the Purple Tier, under the State’s Order, schools that have already resumed in-person instruction may continue with in-person instruction.  K-6 schools that have not yet resumed in-person instruction may resume after receiving approval from the Public Health Department via the “waiver” process.  We continue to encourage schools that has not yet resumed in-person instruction for grades K-6 to do so.

The most recent County requirements for schools providing in-person instruction is available here.  A summary of scientific evidence and other information about COVID-19 in children and in schools is also attached here.  

Regarding the new rules related to quarantining after travel more than 150 miles outside the County (, those rules take effect on Monday, November 30, 2020.  Any person returning from travel before that date is not required to quarantine.  Anyone returning from travel on or after November 30, 2020 will be required to quarantine.  There are limited exceptions to this rule described on our website.  We encourage all schools in the County to remind families and staff that all non-essential travel is strongly discouraged at this time.


Report a Case of COVID-19 in Your Education Program

When to Use the Education Portal:

Complete this form if a child, student or staff member in your program is diagnosed with COVID-19 and they fall into one of the categories below.

If the child, student or staff member who tested positive for COVID-19 either:

  • reported symptoms of COVID-19 while they were at work, school or on-site
  • developed symptoms of COVID-19 within 48 hours of being at work, school or on site
  • was diagnosed with COVID-19 without symptoms within 48 hours of being at work, school or on-site

*NOTE: Collegiate athletic programs must complete this form for EVERY Athlete or Personnel (as defined in the Mandatory Directive for Collegiate and Professional Athletics) who tests positive for COVID-19, regardless of their location when they reported symptoms or if they were diagnosed without symptoms. College athletic programs must additionally report these cases by email to

Instructions for Filling out the Education Portal:

Please complete this Case and Contact Information Sheet for each diagnosed case of COVID-19 in a child or student attending your site and for each diagnosed case of COVID-19 in a staff member working at your site. Please include as much information as you can. Under the Health Officer Order, employers are legally required to submit this report within four hours after the employer learns of the positive case(s). If you do not have complete information within four hours, you must report the information that you have obtained. You may update the information you provide if you discover additional information after your initial report. The information you provide on this form will remain confidential and is not reported to law enforcement or immigration. Providing this information helps our local case investigation teams identify and slow the transmission of COVID-19 in our in-person education settings and the community. Thank you for your cooperation.



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Current Guidance for Institutions of Higher Education


Current Guidance for TK-12 School District Superintendents, School Boards, And Other School Administration Leaders




For more instructions on how to fill out the School Preparedness Plan Reporting Form, please visit the School Preparedness Plan Instructions page.



Reopening of Santa Clara County K-12 Schools for the 2020-2021 School Year. Issued June 30, 2020. Revised August 7, 2020 


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COVID-19 Designee Toolkit

Each school/school district has a COVID-19 Designee, who is the person appointed as a communication link between the schools and the Public Health Department. Please visit the COVID-19 Designee Toolkit page for all resources needed by COVID-19 Designees in their support of the COVID-19 response in schools.


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Resources for Parents

  • K-12 COVID-19 Childhood Transmission Scientific Summary
  • A Parent's Guide to Reopening of Santa Clara County K-12 Schools - September 21, 2020 PDF: | English | Chinese | Spanish | Vietnamese | Tagalog |

  • Letter from Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody and Superintendent Dr. Mary Ann Dewan on childhood vaccinations and wellness care for the upcoming school year – July 23, 2020. PDF: | English | Chinese | Spanish | Vietnamese | Tagalog |
  • Science Behind the K-12 School Guidance – July 17, 2020 (PDF​) - The Santa Clara County Public Health Department hosted a webinar to discuss the science behind the K-12 school guidance, released on June 30, 2020. The webinar was intended to provide an overview highlighting current scientific data behind the recent public health recommendations. This overview is not comprehensive but highlights themes and key articles and reports relevant to school settings. Our understanding of COVID-19 is rapidly evolving. Santa Clara County Public Health Department will continue to monitor emerging research and provide updated information and recommendations.
  • Which school districts have received approval for their waiver applications to re-open elementary schools for in-person instruction?


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Current Guidance for Childcare Programs, Preschools, Camps, and Other Programs Serving Children and Youth


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Important Resources


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Frequently Asked Questions for TK-12 and Programs Serving Children or Youth

(Note: Each FAQ is followed by a parenthetical indicating whether the FAQ applies to TK-12 schools, programs for children or youth, or both.)

School Reopening for TK-12

  1. When can schools reopen for in-person instruction? (TK-12)
    Under the guidance of the California Department of Public Health, K-12 schools may open for in-person instruction when a county has been in Tier 2 (the Red Tier) of the State’s Blueprint for a Safe Economy for 14 days. As of September 22, 2020, Santa Clara County remained in Tier 2 for 14 days. K-12 schools in Santa Clara County were therefore allowed to resume full in-person instruction on September 23, 2020.

    Schools reopening to provide in-person instruction must comply with the County’s Mandatory Directive for Schools and its updated COVID-19 Prepared: Reopening of Santa Clara County K-12 Schools for the 2020-2021 School Year document, as well the State’s COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Schools and School-Based Programs and any other applicable State requirements.
  1. If schools reopen for in-person instruction, what criteria will be used to decide when to close a school? (TK-12)
    If the county returns to Tier 1 (Purple Tier), K-12 schools in Santa Clara County will not automatically close.

    The State has issued the following guidance regarding school closures:
    • ​“Individual school closure may be appropriate when there are multiple cases in multiple cohorts at a school or when at least 5 percent of the total number of teachers/student/staff are cases within a 14-day period, depending on the size and physical layout of the school.”
    • “A superintendent should close a school district if 25% or more of schools in a district have closed due to COVID-19 within 14 days, and in consultation with the local public health department.”
    • Schools and school districts that close may typically reopen after 14 days, in consultation with the local public health department.
    ​​However, the State’s guidance also recognizes that individual school closures and school district closures should be made in consultation with the local health officer. The local health officer may determine school closure is warranted for other reasons, including results from public health investigation or other local epidemiological data.

    ​Factors that the County of Santa Clara Health Officer may consider in school closure decisions include, but are not limited to, the number of COVID-19 cases associated with a school; a school’s ability to effectively respond to COVID-19 cases and exposures; the number of current COVID-19 cases in Santa Clara County; the degree to which schools are contributing to community spread of COVID-19; the capacity of our health system to identify and care for cases and prevent transmission in healthcare settings; the availability and use of widespread testing to identify new cases; county residents’ ability to quickly and effectively isolate or quarantine themselves when sick; evolving scientific understanding of COVID-19; and our community’s continued cooperation in practicing physical distancing, using face coverings, and taking other preventive measures.

Instruction for TK-12

  1. Can band and choir rehearsals be conducted in-person if students meet outdoors, wear masks and remain socially distant while playing or singing? (TK-12)
    Both indoor and outdoor choir and band rehearsals are generally prohibited at this time. However, in-person choir, band, and cheerleading activities may be conducted if they do not include aerosol-generating activities such as singing, playing of wind instruments, cheering, or chanting. In-person class time can be used for non-aerosol generating activities, such as rhythm study, music theory, music history, composition, analysis, and more.

    Schools should consider using Zoom or other video conferencing platforms so that students may participate in aerosol-generating activities (such as singing, playing of wind instruments, cheering, and chanting) at home.
  1. What guidelines should high schools follow for PSAT, SAT, or ACT exams being held on their campuses? (TK-12) 
    High schools hosting PSAT, SAT, or ACT examinations are required to follow all of the County’s requirements for high schools, and are encouraged to follow as many of the recommendations as possible, in COVID-19 PREPARED: Reopening of Santa Clara County K-12 Schools for the 2020-2021 School Year.  These requirements include, but are not limited to, screening students on the day of the exam for COVID-19 symptoms, seating students at least 6 feet apart, and ensuring that students and staff are wearing face coverings at all times.
  1. Can elementary schools adopt a hybrid model of instruction in which a teacher provides the primary, in-person instruction to two different classroom cohorts? 
    Yes, elementary schools can choose to adopt instructional models in which the same teacher provides the primary, in-person instruction to two separate stable cohorts (e.g., morning and afternoon stable cohorts or one cohort on some days of the week and another cohort on other days of the week).  Hybrid models of instruction may support the implementation of strategies to mitigate the risk of transmission, including smaller classroom cohorts and greater distance between students’ desks.

Cohorting and Distancing

  1. Is there a maximum cohort size for in-person instruction? (TK-12)
    The Public Health Department does not require schools to adopt a maximum cohort size, but it strongly encourages schools to make stable classroom cohorts as small as practicable. Smaller cohorts reduce the number of contacts between students and staff, but there is no specific optimal cohort size. In practice, schools may need to limit the number of students in each cohort to meet other public health requirements. For example, middle schools and high schools may need to limit the number of students in each cohort to maintain the six feet of distance between students’ desks, which is required in middle school and high school settings. Schools should weigh their specific circumstances for providing instruction (e.g., classroom size and staffing resources), use of various mitigation strategies (e.g., ventilation, instructional activities outdoors, and face covering use), grade levels, and educational needs of students when determining an appropriate cohort size.
  1. How can students who are part of stable cohorts receive special services from Special Education staff and/or specialty teachers? What is the recommendation for how to serve these students in-person? (TK-12)
    Students with disabilities and their personal aides can rotate into general education classrooms for a portion of the day. Students with disabilities may spend a portion of the day in a separate classroom cohort for the provision of special education services. The County recommends that schools train staff and students to maintain at least six feet of distance from each other as much as possible during educational instruction (e.g., during whole-class instruction, presentation, or lecture). For special education instructors and aides and healthcare personnel, a surgical mask and face shield is recommended when providing services to students which requires repeated close contact interactions (e.g., assistance with activities of daily living) or conducting health assessments (including vision and hearing screening). Gloves should be worn as recommended for procedures which require universal precautions (e.g., toileting assistance, catheterization, and insulin administration). In addition, PPE for potential aerosol generating procedures (e.g., suctioning of tracheostomy sites and nebulizer treatments) should follow CDC guidance.

    Specialty teachers may rotate into classrooms for specialized instruction (e.g., art or music) but must maintain at least 6 feet of distance from everyone in the cohort. Schools can consider limiting the number of teachers physically present with each student cohort, such as by having specialty or subject-specific teachers provide instruction remotely. In addition, all adults must wear a face covering at all times while on campus, except while eating or drinking. Teachers may also consider using face shields in combination with face coverings when in the classroom to further reduce the risk of transmission.
  1. What protocol should substitute teachers adhere to if they are teaching an in-person class for a day? (TK-12)
    Substitute teachers can provide coverage for teachers who are absent. If possible, schools should limit the number of stable cohorts that substitute teachers interact with by assigning certain substitutes to specific schools. The County recommends that schools train staff and students to maintain at least six feet of distance from each other as much as possible during educational instruction (e.g., during whole-class instruction, presentation, or lecture).
  1. Parents, especially those of younger children, will want to be in the classroom. Can this be accommodated at all? (TK-12; Programs for Children/Youth)
    Generally, no. Schools may only allow necessary visitors and volunteers on campus and must limit the number of students and staff who come in contact with them. The limiting of visitors is critical to limiting the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the classroom.
  1. Can schools allow lower school students to attend specific classes with older students (e.g., math or music)? (TK-12)
    To limit mixing of cohorts, students from lower schools should not be participating in in-person instruction with older students.

Face Coverings

  1. Who is responsible for enforcing face covering requirements? (TK-12)
    Schools are responsible for ensuring older students required to wear face coverings comply with those requirements, and younger students are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings at all times. However, schools should not exclude young students from the classroom if they occasionally fail to wear a face covering or if a few students in the classroom are consistently unable to wear a face covering (e.g., due to special needs) when required. The Public Health Department’s detailed requirements and guidance on face coverings can be found on pages 11-12 of “COVID-19 PREPARED: Reopening of Santa Clara County K-12 Schools for the 2020-2021 School Year.”
  1. Can disposable masks be used in place of cloth face coverings? (TK-12; Programs for Children/Youth)
    The Public Health Department strongly encourages the use of reusable cloth face coverings. Medical masks, such as N95s and surgical masks, are strongly discouraged for general use due to the global shortage of medical masks needed for healthcare professionals. The Public Health Department is aware that the State of California has provided schools with a limited supply of disposable masks and that some school districts have already purchased supplies of disposable masks. Schools may use their existing inventories of disposable masks for students and staff if reusable cloth face coverings are not available.


  1. At what AQI level should longer, passive activities (such as prolonged instruction) be moved indoors? (TK-12; Programs for Children/Youth)
    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend that unusually sensitive people consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion when the Air Quality Index (AQI) is between 51-100 and that all children and teenagers reduce prolonged or heavy exertion when the AQI is above 100. However, there are no specific guidelines for the AQI thresholds for moving passive activity (such as outdoor educational instruction) indoors.

    We recommend moving longer, passive activities (e.g., prolonged outdoor educational instruction) indoors when the AQI is 101 or higher. Windows and doors should be kept closed when the AQI is 101 or higher.
  1. At what AQI level should short periods of outdoor activity be moved indoors? (TK-12; Programs for Children/Youth)
    The CDC and EPA recommend that unusually sensitive people consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion when the AQI is between 51-100 and that all children and teenagers reduce prolonged or heavy exertion when the AQI is above 100.

    We recommend cancelling, rescheduling, or moving indoors all activities (active and passive, regardless of duration) when the AQI is 151 or higher. Windows and doors should be kept closed when the AQI is 101 or higher.
  1. At what AQI level should schools consider closing and moving to remote instruction? (TK-12; Programs for Children/Youth)
    There is no established cut-off level for air quality for school dismissals or closures. There is no clear evidence that children are safer from poor air quality at home than at school. Parents of students who have longer outdoor transit times to and from school, where they may have greater exposure, may consider alternative methods for transportation or keeping their child home even if the school remains open.

    Two important mechanisms for decreasing risk of COVID-19 disease transmission in schools is to conduct educational instruction outdoors and to open doors and windows when indoors. If students must remain indoors with windows and doors closed due to poor air quality, then other measures to reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission become increasingly important including mechanical ventilation and filtration, portable air filters, and masking.
  1. Are there recommendations for minimizing exposure to unhealthy air during pickup/dropoff (e.g., health screenings before arrival) (TK-12; Programs for Children/Youth)
    When the AQI is 101 or higher, health screenings (if performed on campus) should be conducted upon arrival in the classroom/building rather than having students and staff waiting outdoors for screening. Schools may also consider having health screenings conducted before arriving on campus.
  1. Are portable air purifiers helpful in reducing exposure to smoke or COVID-19 transmission risk? (TK-12; Programs for Children/Youth)
    Portable air purifiers can provide additional protection from smoke exposure, depending on the type of filter used (high efficiency filtration) and the clean air delivery rate (CADR). Multiple devices per classroom may be necessary. For more information, please see the County’s Guidance for Ventilation and Air Filtration Systems.
  1. Where can I learn more about the Air Quality Index? (TK-12; Programs for Children/Youth)

Cleaning, Hygiene, and Other Safety Measures

  1. Are water fountains safe to drink from or should they only be used to fill bottles? (TK-12; Programs for Children/Youth)
    Schools and programs should suspend or modify use of water fountains to minimize students’ and staff’s sharing or touching items, while maintaining access to drinking water.
  1. How can schools obtain adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as hand sanitizer or face coverings? (TK-12)
    The State of California provided an initial distribution of PPE for school districts and charter schools to use for the first 60 days of school campus reopening. For schools’ additional PPE needs, the State of California has partnered with the California Manufacturers & Technology Association to launch the “Safely Making California” marketplace, which provides non-medical grade PPE, such as face masks, face shields, gowns, gloves, sanitizer and wipes, at discounted prices.

COVID-19 Screening, Testing, Reporting, and Response

  1. Should families who have traveled out of state be required to quarantine before returning to school? (TK-12; Programs for Children/Youth)

    Please note, quarantine guidance has changed as of December 14, 2020 and has been reflected in the Mandatory Directive on Travel. Under the Mandatory Directive on Travel, almost everyone who travels into Santa Clara County (directly or through another stopover point) from more than 150 miles away must quarantine for 10 days. Please go to for quarantine instructions.

    Under this new directive, people may still leave quarantine to obtain healthcare services and to perform essential work deemed necessary by their employers. Also, licensed healthcare professionals, as defined by the Order, and all persons working at acute care hospitals, are exempt from mandatory quarantine. For more information on other exemptions, please see the Travel Section in the Public Health Order FAQ page, as well as the Mandatory Directive on Travel.

  1. If a symptomatic student or staff person provides a medical note in lieu of a negative COVID-19 test result, what should the medical note state? (TK-12) 
    If a symptomatic individual who is not a close contact to a confirmed COVID-19 case seeks medical evaluation but is not tested for COVID-19, he or she can return to school if the doctor provides a written explanation that includes the following: certification that a medical evaluation was completed and a statement that an alternative explanation for symptoms has been identified and that COVID-19 testing is not indicated. 
  1. Should all teachers and staff be required to have a test for COVID-19 prior to returning to school or be routinely tested like those in other high exposure fields? (TK-12)
    Teachers and staff are not required to have a COVID-19 test prior to returning to school. The County recommends that schools encourage routine monthly testing of all staff, whereas the State requires that “[s]chool districts and schools shall test staff periodically, as testing capacity permits and as practicable.”
  1. How should we notify families of COVID-19 cases in the school or program? (TK-12; Programs for Children/Youth)
    The letter templates should be used by schools, childcare programs, and other programs serving children or youth to notify individuals when a COVID-19 case or close contact of a COVID-19 case is identified in a school setting or in a program serving children or youth and to provide instructions for affected individuals. The letter templates address three scenarios: (1) when a student/child or staff member in a cohort has been in close contact with a COVID-19 case, (2) when a student/child or staff member in a cohort tests positive for COVID-19, and (3) when a student/child or staff member tests positive for COVID-19 in a non-cohort setting​. A cohort is a stable group of students/children and staff who remain together throughout the school day/length of the program and who do not mix with other groups of students/children and staff.
  1. When can a case or close contact return to school or another program for children/youth? (TK-12; Programs for Children/Youth)
    Students and staff are no longer considered contagious if they meet the criteria detailed in the Return to Work and School Letter. The County of Santa Clara discourages schools from requiring a medical note or a negative test to return to work as long as the criteria detailed are met.

    In contrast, symptomatic, non-close contacts ARE required to have a negative test or medical note to return 24 hours after resolution of fever and improvement of other symptoms. Individuals who refuse testing and/or evaluation should be treated as a COVID-19 case and can return based on the usual isolation criteria of 10 days after symptom onset and 24 hours after resolution of fever and improvement of other symptoms.
  1. Are schools required to notify all families in the school community if there is a COVID-19 case? (TK-12)
    If the COVID-19 case is in a non-cohort setting, schools are required to notify all of the COVID-19 case’s close contacts at the school. If the COVID-19 case is in a cohort setting, schools are required to notify all of the individuals in the COVID-19 case’s cohort. Schools are not required to notify families of students who are not close contacts of a COVID-19 case or in a cohort with a COVID-19 case. However, the County recommends notifications to the broader school community as a best practice.


  1. Are public schools required to comply with the County Health Officer’s October 5, 2020 Order Establishing Revised Mandatory Risk Reduction Measures Applicable to All Activities and Sectors to Address the COVID-19 Pandemic (“Order”)? (TK-12; Programs for Children/Youth)
    Governmental agencies, including local educational agencies, are urged to follow the Order’s requirements that apply to businesses. However, governmental entities and their contractors are not required to follow these requirements to the extent that such requirements would impede or interfere with an essential governmental function, as determined by the governmental entity, unless otherwise specifically directed by the Health Officer. Sectors/industries subject to specific directives of the Health Officer are required to follow the requirements of the applicable directive. All K-12 schools are required to comply with the requirements in “COVID-19 PREPARED: Reopening of Santa Clara County K-12 Schools for the 2020-2021 School Year” and the Mandatory Directive for Schools​. All programs serving children or youth are required to comply with the Mandatory Directive for Programs Serving Children or Youth.
  1. What guidance applies to schools providing adult education programs? (Adult Education)
    Adult education programs are required to follow the October 5, 2020 Order of the Health Officer of the County of Santa Clara Establishing Mandatory Risk Reduction Measures Applicable to All Activities and Sectors to Address the COVID-19 Pandemic, which is available here. Adult education programs are also encouraged to follow the County’s Recommendations for Institutions of Higher Education.
  1. Are schools allowed to release personally identifiable information, including health information, from students’ education records to the County Public Health Department without parental or student consent? (TK-12)
    The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records, which generally includes all student information in the possession of schools. In general, school districts and public schools (and other schools receiving federal funds) must obtain consent from a parent or guardian before disclosing personally identifiable information from students’ education records. But exceptions to FERPA’s general consent rule allow schools to share certain records and information without prior consent in certain circumstances. In its guidance regarding FERPA and how school officials can help slow the spread of COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Education confirms that schools can share information without prior consent when, in connection with an emergency such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, sharing information with public health officials is necessary to protect the health or safety of students or other individuals. In order to prevent and control the spread of disease through case investigation and contact tracing, this may include information such as whether a student has tested positive for COVID-19, their household contacts, and their parents’ or guardians’ contact information.

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Archives – Past Guidance

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Last updated: 1/15/2021 10:40 AM