For a complete list of public health official recommendations for schools, please visit the following websites:
Your local county health office may also have relevant information for your community.
Screening Testing: Pooled Testing
The CDC recommends screen testing to identify infectious individuals, including those with or without symptoms (or before development of symptoms) who may be contagious, so that measures can be taken to prevent further transmission. One screening testing strategy is pooled testing of cohorts.
Pooled testing is free for all Arizona K-12 schools, allowing the community to test every student, every week. All students in a class, pod, or cohort swab their own noses and place their swab in a single tube, the pooling step. The swabs in that tube are then run as a single sample, using one test. Individuals in a positive pool, a rare occurrence, then receive a follow-up test (i.e., BinaxNOW) to determine who in the pool is positive.
ADE highly encourages schools to unitize ADHS’ free pooled testing program.
Quarantine & Isolation
Regarding best quarantine and isolation practices, ADHS has published a guide that outlines what to do if:
- A person is symptomatic and awaiting COVID-19 test results
- A person is symptomatic and tested positive for COVID-19 by PCR or antigen testing
- A person is symptomatic and tested negative for COVID-19 by PCR or antigen testing
This guide was updated on December 29, 2021.
Maricopa County Quarantine Guidance
The Maricopa County Department of Health Services has updated their guidance for those who are sick or exposed to COVID-19. This guidance reflects the CDC's recommendations in light of the omicron variant (December 2021).
Test to Stay
Test to Stay (TTS) is a practice comprised of contact tracing and serial testing (testing that is sequentially repeated) to allow close contacts who are not fully vaccinated to continue in-person learning during their quarantine period. While implementation of TTS may vary, contact tracing and testing, as well as masking of contacts during their in-school quarantine period, are integral to minimizing the risk of transmission.
Staying Home When Sick
The CDC on staying home when sick: Students, teachers, and staff who have symptoms of infectious illness, such as influenza (flu) or COVID-19, should stay home and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and care. Staying home when sick with COVID-19 is essential to keep COVID-19 infections out of schools and prevent spread to others. It also is essential for people who are not fully vaccinated to quarantine after a recent exposure to someone with COVID-19. Schools should also allow flexible, non-punitive, and supportive paid sick leave policies and practices that encourage sick workers to stay home without fear of retaliation, loss of pay, or loss of employment level and provide excused absences for students who are sick. If a student becomes sick at school, see What to do if a Student Becomes Sick or Reports a New COVID-19 Diagnosis at School.
Leveraging Federal Recovery Dollars for Paid Sick Leave
As COVID-19 continues to impact our teachers, students, and families, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) encourages schools to remain as flexible as possible with sick leave and absence policies. In the interest of keeping everyone in our school communities safe, individuals who test positive for COVID-19 should stay home and quarantine in accordance with CDC guidelines. For our educators and school professionals, we know there can be extra burdens between work demands and financial needs.
ADE encourages schools to consider leveraging funds from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Act (ESSER) funds to pay for sick leave for staff who have tested positive or were exposed to COVID-19.
Face Coverings Are Recommended for Everyone in K12
Public school districts and charters are no longer prohibited from mandating face coverings for students and staff per the Monday, September 27, 2021 court ruling.
In accordance with the CDC and the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), face coverings are recommended and encouraged for all individuals in K12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. Consistent and correct mask use by people who are not fully vaccinated is especially important indoors and in crowded settings, when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
Public schools can and should encourage consistent and correct mask use. Under the current state law, a school district or charter may require its students and staff to wear a mask in school or while on other school facilities.
The CDC on physical distancing: “Because of the importance of in-person learning, schools where not everyone is fully vaccinated should implement physical distancing to the extent possible within their structures but should not exclude students from in-person learning to keep a minimum distance requirement. In general, CDC recommends people who are not fully vaccinated maintain physical distance of at least 6 feet from other people who are not in their household. However, several studies from the 2020-2021 school year show low COVID-19 transmission levels among students in schools that had less than 6 feet of physical distance when the school implemented and layered other prevention strategies, such as the use of masks.”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “achieving high levels of COVID-19 vaccination among eligible students as well as teachers, staff, and household members is one of the most critical strategies to help schools safely resume full operations.” Public schools are encouraged to promote vaccinations in your community to regularly educate your community of the benefits of vaccination. Public schools can use federal recovery dollars like Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to provide and incentivize COVID-19 vaccinations for teachers, staff, and eligible students.
Honoring Tribal Sovereignty
Public school districts and charters on or adjacent to tribal lands and those with staff and students affiliated with Arizona’s federally recognized tribal nations are encouraged to honor tribal public health orders.
U.S. Department of Education's Return to School Roadmap
This resource is intended to support students, schools, educators, and communities as they prepare to return to safe, healthy in-person learning this fall and emerge from the pandemic stronger than before.
- A fact sheet for schools, families, and communities on the Return to School Roadmap.
- A guide for schools and districts outlining what schools can do to protect the health and safety of students, including increasing access to vaccinations and steps for implementing the CDC’s recently updated K-12 school guidance.
- A checklist that parents can use to prepare themselves and their children for a safe return to in-person learning this fall, leading with vaccinating eligible children and masking up if students are not yet vaccinated.