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Return-to-school protocols

Filed in Archive, District, District News by on November 5, 2020

The following protocols are reflective of NYS guidance and were last updated on Oct. 6, 2020.

As you know, everyone who enters our school buildings is being asked to screen for possible COVID-19 symptoms. Those who are ill or who may have been exposed to COVID-19 through close contact or travel are asked to stay home.

On Thursday, Sept. 30, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) released updated protocols for school districts, parents, health care providers and others to use in determining how and when students and staff can return to school after showing symptoms of coronavirus or similar illness or being exposed to the coronavirus. This guidance affects all school districts in New York State. This information was provided to the district by the Albany County Department of Health and replaces the county information that the district had previously shared with Bethlehem families on September 17.

Important highlights from this new DOH guidance can be found below. The district is still in the process of reviewing these revised protocols with the district’s physician and with local health officials. If you have specific questions regarding these public health protocols please email

Overview of new protocols

State guidance recommends any COVID symptom be evaluated and tested

If a student or employee has shown symptoms of the coronavirus, they should be evaluated by a health care provider (HCP) and the following must take place before that person can return to school: 

  • The student or employee’s symptoms are improving AND
  • The student or employee is fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicines AND
  • The student or employee provides one or both of the following:
    • A note from a health care provider indicating a COVID-19 test was negative AND/OR
    • A copy of the negative COVID-19 test result.

What if a health care provider determines symptoms are not COVID-related?

If a student’s or employee’s health care provider provides a diagnosis of a known chronic condition with unchanged symptoms, or a confirmed acute illness (examples: laboratory-confirmed influenza, strep-throat) AND COVID-19 is not suspected, then a note signed by the HCP explaining the alternate diagnosis is required before the student or employee is allowed to return to school. They may return to school according to the usual guidelines for that diagnosis.

Please be aware that a signed note from an HCP documenting an unconfirmed acute illness, such as viral upper respiratory illness (URI) or viral gastroenteritis, will not be accepted for a return to school.

If you do not see your doctor, or if no COVID-19 test is performed or no alternate diagnosis is provided, a 10-day isolation period is required

A student or employee that after evaluation from their health care provider, a COVID-19  diagnostic test was recommended but not done and no alternate diagnosis was provided, or if the student or employee was NOT evaluated by a provider, the individual must remain in isolation at home and is not able to go back to school until after a period of isolation, which is typically:

    • At least 10 days have passed since the date of first symptoms; AND
    • The person’s symptoms are improving; AND
    • The person is fever-free for at least 72 hours without use of fever-reducing medicines.

Experiencing symptoms? DOH guidance for parents and staff

The updated state guidance includes detailed decision-making guides that can help parents and staff members sort out questions regarding the new protocols, especially if a student or an employee is experiencing one of the following symptoms, whether or not you think it is related to COVID.

Symptoms of COVID-19 (CDC) are: 

  • Fever greater than 100.0 F
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Congestion or runny nose

If a student has one or more symptoms listed above

If an employee has one or more symptoms listed above

Your school nurse or your supervisor is ready to assist you

  • Parents/guardians: If your child is exhibiting any of the symptoms below, do not send your child to school. Contact your health care provider and contact your child’s school nurse.
  • Faculty/staff: If you are exhibiting any of the symptoms listed below, do not come to work. Contact your health care provider and your direct supervisor.