Updated March 3, 2022

The Center for Disease Control (CDC), Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Department of Early & Secondary Education (DESE) continue to share comprehensive protocols for how to handle an illness in school; we will be updating protocols as they come through.

Both the preschool and the elementary school will be following the same protocol.

Starting March 7th, 2022 masking is optional for both students and staff, except when returning to school on day 6-10 after a 5 day isolation due to COVID-19. During that period, it is required to wear a tight-fitting mask. Masks are recommended for unvaccinated students/staff, as well as for those who have had a known exposure to COVID-19 for the 5 days after exposure.

Caregivers should be monitoring their children, and staff will monitor themselves and the students for any symptoms.

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
  • 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.


Counting days: Day ZERO is the last day of exposure when there is a close contact. Day ZERO is the first day of symptoms or of a positive test (whichever is first) when there is a positive COVID19 infection. See notes on Protocol B’s flowchart at the end of this document for examples.

Isolation: what you are asked to do if you have COVID19 - remain at home and keep distant from members of the family who are not infected.

Quarantine: when you have been in close contact with someone with COVID19 - remain at home in order to monitor for the development of symptoms and help reduce the potential for spread.

Asymptomatic: without any symptoms. Fever free for more than 24 hours at a minimum (without need for fever reducing medications) as well as no cough, sore throat, congestion, sneezing, fatigue, headache, body aches etc. In other words, complete resolution of symptoms and feeling back to normal.

Close contacts:

Close contacts are defined as individuals who have been within 6 feet of a COVID-19 positive individual while indoors, for a total of 15 minutes during a 24-hour period.3 4 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.

• Close contacts who have had COVID-19 within the past 90 days are exempt from testing and quarantine response protocols. 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:

o The exposure occurred within 90 days of the onset of their own illness AND
o The exposed individual is recovered and remains without COVID-19 symptoms.


Cases will be handled as follows:

Protocol A: For individuals who test positive for COVID-19

  • Duration: Self-isolation for COVID-19 positive cases is a minimum of 5 days after symptom onset or after positive PCR/NAAT 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 medications); and
    • Significant improvement of symptoms; and
    • Following the 5-day isolation period, individuals must wear a tight-fitting mask for 5 additional days when around others.
  • Note: Return to school should be based on time and symptom resolution. Repeat testing prior to return is not recommended.

* If an individual tests positive as part of a group pooled test, the 5-day period begins the day the group pooled test returned a positive result.

Protocol B: Protocol for asymptomatic close contacts

At this time, we are no longer contact tracing, as per DPH and DESE recommendations, except in the instance of at-home exposure (see below). If your child is asymptomatic and has been a close contact to someone with COVID-19 they can continue to attend school. It is recommended that they remain masked for the 5 days after their last exposure. We strongly urge all families to participate in Routine COVID-19 pooled PCR and at home testing.


Protocol for asymptomatic close contacts at home:

Positive HOME contact protocol

If a student has a family member at home with active COVID-19, the student is at high risk and must remain quarantined at home during the family member’s infectious period. Quarantine length depends on whether the COVID positive individual is able to isolate, and when they are no longer contagious. 

  • If the sick individual is able to completely isolate from the student (ie: absolutely no contact or shared space with infected family member), once that person isolates (and child is no longer in contact with them), then the student only quarantines for 5 days.
  • If the symptomatic individual is unable to fully isolate from the student, the student’s quarantine AT HOME is (at a minimum) for the entire time the COVID positive individual is contagious. The infected family member is considered contagious until they meet ALL of the following three criteria: (1) 10 days since symptoms appeared (or test was positive, if asymptomatic) given the family is not expected to mask at home (2) symptoms improved, AND (3) has been fever free without medications for 24 hours. This may be different for immunocompromised individuals. Once the family member is no longer considered contagious (ie at least 10 days from start of illness and meeting above criteria) then the exposed student may return to school as their continued exposure is complete. It may be prudent for families to test exposed students, even when asymptomatic, a few times during the course of those 10 days, given that if they test positive for COVID their isolation guidelines change and may even in fact shorten. 
  • If at any point during the quarantine the exposed student develops symptoms, they should follow Protocol C.



Protocol C: Protocol for symptomatic individuals

Protocol C-1 and C-2 apply to vaccinated and non-vaccinated individuals who experience the COVID- 19 symptoms listed above.

Protocol C-1 (Recommended): Return to school post-symptoms with test

  • Duration: Dependent on symptom resolution
  • Return to School: Individuals may return to school after they:

o Have received a negative molecular (PCR/NAAT) or antigen (Rapid at home tests) test result for COVID-19.
o Have improvement in symptoms
o Have been without fever for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications.

*Siblings of symptomatic students may continue to attend school as long as they remain symptom free


Protocol C-2: Alternative protocol for symptomatic individuals who are not close contacts and choose not to receive a COVID test to return to school

  • Duration: Isolation is at least 5 days from symptom onset
  • Return to School: After 5 days, returning on day 6, assuming they:

o Have significant improvement of symptoms
o Have been without fever for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication.

o Following the 5-day isolation period, individuals must wear a tight-fitting mask for 5 additional days when around others.


Protocol C-3:  Symptomatic testing at school

Even when alone, mild symptoms including headache, runny nose, fatigue, sneezing and sore throat have been more common with the omicron variant of COVID-19.

  • Should a student develop any of these milder symptoms while at school they will be sent to the nurse for rapid antigen testing. If they test positive they will be sent home. If they test negative they will return to class.
  • Should a student develop any of these milder symptoms and not be consented for testing, they will be sent home until a negative COVID-19 test is obtained – either rapid antigen testing or molecular (PCR/NAAT) test is acceptable.



Routine COVID pooled PCR & at Home Rapid Antigen testing protocols

Routine COVID pooled testing involves combining several test samples together and then testing the group sample with a PCR test for detection of COVID-19. Testing for all consenting students and staff members will typically take place once per week. Each individual will collect two samples each time. One will be used for the pooled test, the other will be reserved for any necessary follow up testing.

Protocol for routine COVID pooled testing (Tuesdays)

If the routine group pooled testing result is negative, then:

  • All individuals within that group are presumed negative and should remain in school.

If the routine group pooled testing result is positive, then:

  • All individuals within that group/pool will be retested individually using their second swab to identify who within the pool was positive.
  • If asymptomatic, members of the group should return to school until and unless an individual is identified as positive. Individuals in the group should wear masks until the positive individual is identified.
  • Small 3 person pools will be arranged. Should a pool test positive, those three students will have rapid testing done at school every morning until either the rapid test identifies the positive case, or the individual pool test results are obtained, at which point the infected student will be identified and remain home.
  • Symptomatic members of the group should stay home and follow Protocol C.


Protocol for routine at home rapid antigen testing (Thursdays)

Students will be given two tests every two weeks for parents to administer at home.

  • Every Thursday morning families will administer a rapid antigen test at home prior to school arrival.
  • If the test result is positive the student and siblings should remain home and the school should be notified.
  • If the test result is negative the student comes to school as planned. Notification to the school is not necessary.
  • Our community relies on each family’s diligence and honesty in the administration and reporting of these weekly safety checks.



Take care and stay safe.

The Health Committee


47 Nichols Avenue, Watertown, MA 02472

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