Current COVID-19 Guidelines in GCPS
COVID-19 Information and Data
While teaching and learning is the core business of Gwinnett County Public Schools, the health and safety of our students and staff is our key focus, particularly during the ongoing pandemic.
Combatting COVID-19 requires a community effort, and everyone in the GCPS community is expected to do their part as we work to keep schools open and students learning in person. The information below reflects current practices and will be updated as changes occur.
During our Board of Education work session on July 21, 2022, GNR Public Health CEO/District Health Director, Dr. Audrey Arona, shared an update about the current state of COVID-19 in Gwinnett County. Dr. Arona also shared that community transmission levels are determined by looking at hospital beds, hospital admissions, and the number of new COVID-19 cases in an area.
You can watch the recording of this presentation on GCPSTV to learn more.
View the July 21, 2022 presentation from Dr. Audrey Arona.
COVID Reporting and Communication
Processes are in place for tracking any cases in which a student or adult in a school is impacted by the COVID-19 virus. We will follow the latest guidance from health officials in determining which individuals need to be quarantined or otherwise excluded from school or work in order to protect them and others in the school setting.
To keep parents and employees informed, the COVID-19 Dashboard will be updated weekly on Wednesdays to show the number of students and staff impacted by COVID in each school building/location. The report includes the number of new cases, as well as the number of people currently not at school/work due to COVID-19. In accordance with federal law, no information will be disclosed that would lead to the identification of any individual represented in the numbers shown on the report.
Reporting and Communication Flyer (Revised 7-20-2022)
Families play an essential role in monitoring their children's health in limiting the spread of COVID-19. Ask these four questions every day before your child leaves for school:
1. Does your student have a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher?
2. Does your student display any other symptoms or signs of illness?
3. While away from school, was your student in close contact—within 6 feet for 15 minutes, with or without a mask— of someone with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 (lab or diagnosis) in the last two weeks or someone getting a test or waiting for test results?
4. Is your child getting a test or waiting for results?
If the answer is YES to any of these questions, DO NOT SEND YOUR STUDENT TO SCHOOL. Instead, call the school to report your student’s illness or possible exposure. You will be advised to isolate your sick child from others and seek medical care and testing if appropriate. Self-quarantine will be advised for anyone exposed to COVID-19 but has no symptoms.
Device and Internet Access
The Gwinnett County Board of Education is committed to educating all students and providing the resources needed to support high-quality teaching and learning, including providing access to both devices and reliable internet to support student learning.
All GCPS students will have a Chromebook assigned to them for the 2022-23 school year.
Students can also check out a hotspot for internet access based on a demonstrated need.
Families may contact their schools to discuss options. If a GCPS technology resource is assigned to a student and taken home, it is the family’s responsibility to monitor the use of the device to ensure the student is following the Student Conduct Behavior Code and that the device is returned in the condition in which it was received.
GCPS custodians follow established protocols to clean, sanitize, and disinfect buildings, and high-touch surfaces and objects, including tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, toilets, sinks, and handrails. In the classroom, students and staff have access to hand sanitizer, and supplies are available for staff members to clean and sanitize surfaces as needed.
Since spring of 2020, GCPS has upgraded ventilation systems. Air filters are a higher MERV-13 grade and are changed out quarterly. We’ve increased the run time of HVAC equipment in our buildings, per CDC and ASHRAE recommendations. Automated systems have been modified to override sensors so that HVAC systems can run, regardless of room occupancy. GCPS continues with school HVAC replacements using ionization equipment. These steps are helping to minimize the potential airborne transmission of the virus in our buildings.
Bus drivers also follow a cleaning regimen at the end of their morning routes and again at the end of the day.
In addition, Health Response Teams identify and rapidly respond to COVID-19 reports within our schools and facilities.
GCPS COVID Testing Program
Schools in the Archer, Berkmar, Collins Hill, Dacula, Duluth, Grayson, Lanier, Norcross, and South Gwinnett. clusters are participating in a COVID-19 testing program.
Routine COVID-19 testing (also called surveillance testing) can quickly detect individuals who are positive with COVID-19. Acting as an “early warning system,” the testing program will help lower the risk of transmission in schools so that in-person instruction can continue without interruption.
Participation in this program is voluntary. Families must opt into the program, which includes weekly testing for participating students and staff. The free testing is self-administered with a nasal swab and is quick and easy; testing is not painful or invasive. If you signed up for the program last year, you would not need to sign up again.
GCPS’s voluntary COVID-19 testing program will expand to other clusters as staffing becomes available.
Health Response Teams
Each school has a Health Response Team (HRT) whose members have been trained, based on health department and CDC guidance, to manage cases and close contacts of cases of COVID-19 in schools and other GCPS facilities.
Members of the HRT enter information about positive cases into the district’s secure tracking tool. This information is reported to the Gwinnett County Health Department as required.
Travelers who are up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccines do not need to quarantine after travel but should get a viral test 3 to 5 days after travel and self-monitor for symptoms.
Those who have recently recovered from COVID (within the last three months), regardless of vaccination status, self-monitor for symptoms and do NOT need to get a test 3 to 5 days after travel unless they have symptoms.
Isolation and Quarantine
Students, faculty, and staff who test positive for COVID-19 (or who are noted as probable cases) will be expected to isolate at home to prevent the spread of illness as recommended by the Department of Public Health (DPH) guidance.
GCPS Isolation and Quarantine Protocols:
Isolation Protocol for Positive or Probable COVID-19 Cases (close contact with symptoms)
Students and staff members who test positive for COVID-19 (or who are noted as probable cases) will be expected to isolate at home to prevent the spread of illness, based on guidance from the Department of Public Health (DPH).
- If a student or staff member develops symptoms, the person will isolate for five days from the time symptoms first appeared and at least 24 hours have passed since the last fever without the use of fever-reducing medication and symptoms have improved. If the student or staff member isolates for five or more days and meets the other criteria, he or she may return to work or school on or after Day 6.
- If the student or staff member never develops any symptoms (remains asymptomatic), isolation may be discontinued when at least five days have passed since the positive laboratory test.
Quarantine Protocol for Those Exposed to COVID-19
GCPS follows DPH and CDC guidance for quarantine of individuals exposed to someone with COVID-19, or have been told by a healthcare provider or public health authority that exposure is confirmed, regardless of vaccination status or if someone has recovered from a previous infection. This guidance includes both in-school and out-of-school exposures.
- Following the most updated guidelines from the CDC, you can still develop COVID-19 up to 10 days after you have been exposed. Mask use is strongly recommended for a full 10 days when around others. Students or staff can continue to come to work/school as long as you remain without any symptoms. CDC recommends testing on Day 5. If you are negative, mask use is strongly recommended for an additional 5 days and monitor for symptoms. If you test positive, follow CDC isolation guidance.
GCPS follows CDC mask guidance.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance and the prevention steps that should be taken based on the spread of COVID-19 in communities in February 2022. As part of the changes, the CDC dropped its recommendation for universal school masking and instead recommends masking only in communities at a high level of risk.
The CDC update, released on August 11, shows that Gwinnett County has dropped to "Medium " community transmission of COVID-19. As a result, masks are strongly recommended, though not required, for staff in all GCPS facilities.
- As COVID-19 is still present in our community, the CDC does recommend masks for staff, students, and visitors at high risk for severe illness. Staff, students, and visitors may choose to wear a mask.
- We will continue closely monitoring the COVID-19 spread in our community and update Team GCPS weekly. Our next update will be sent on August 19.
- Once we have been in medium status for two weeks in a row, we will discontinue weekly emails and only send an update if/when the community transmission level changes.
Note that individuals may choose to wear a mask at any time. It is strongly recommended those who return to work or school after isolation or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask for an additional 5 days.
As a reminder, masks should cover the nose and mouth and be fitted at the sides. Masks that have an exhalation valve or vent and masks made from mesh fabrics are not recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as they allow virus particles to escape and spread. As a result, these types of masks do not meet GCPS’ mask requirement.
Mental Health and Emotional Well-Being
Our students’ and staff members’ mental and emotional health matters. Caring for our students’ overall well-being is essential as they face the challenges associated with learning during the pandemic, the current social climate, the ongoing effects of COVID-19, and all that comes with everyday life. If a student is dealing with the effects of having COVID-19, grieving the loss of someone they love to coronavirus, or just feeling isolated, caring adults in our schools can help. Families with concerns about their child’s well-being or about home circumstances that are having an impact on their child are encouraged to contact their child’s teacher or the school counselor.
While teaching and learning is the core business of Gwinnett County Public Schools, the health, safety, and mental and emotional well-being of our students is our key focus. For the third school year, the pandemic continues to affect our students and their families in significant ways, including homelessness, ongoing food insecurity, and mental health concerns. Two new initiatives will help make the most of aligned community resources and services to meet the needs of our students and their families.
A partnership with local mental health professionals will provide therapeutic support in a school setting for high school students with significant mental health needs. While the school district's counselors and social workers provide Tier I and Tier II services for our students through individual and small-group counseling, check-ins, and other supports, some young people need the help of a professional mental health therapist for Tier III services. With support from the GCPS Foundation, our Department of Student Services is working with View Point Health and the Georgia Apex Program to place therapists in Gwinnett high schools.
Another community partnership allows designated staff at local schools to contact the Gwinnett Cares Helpline (powered by the Gwinnett Coalition) to request help to meet the specific needs of students and their families. The helpline provides information and referrals to community-based programs and services, including housing assistance, food resources, healthcare, financial support, and more.
In addition, students are supported in their development of critical social and emotional competencies (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship building, and responsible decision making) to build skills, knowledge, and attitudes that promote success in school, work, and life. When students develop these skills, they are better able to regulate their emotions, understand self and others, make positive choices and exhibit resilience and resourcefulness during challenging circumstances.
Staff members also have access to support through MetLife and LifeWorks, a national company that employs more than 30,000 licensed counselors. In addition to complimentary webinars, GCPS employees can connect by phone or video chat for counseling sessions. If an employee needs information about this benefit, he/she can email the Benefits Administration Team at email@example.com.
Please review these additional resources:
- Georgia Emotional Support Line - General Public
- Georgia Emotional Support Line - Educators
- Stress Tip - English
- Stress Tip - Español
- Before your child leaves for the bus stop, be sure to check for symptoms of illness, including fever. Students should stay home from school when they are sick.
- Masks are strongly recommended.
- All riders will sit in assigned seats on the school bus.
- Note that buses will be disinfected after morning and afternoon routes, and windows will be open for ventilation, weather permitting.
Gwinnett County Public Schools strongly encourages all eligible students, faculty, and staff to get fully vaccinated in order to protect themselves and the community. Individuals ages 5 and older are eligible to receive COVID vaccinations at this time.
Health experts indicate vaccination is currently the leading public health prevention to end the pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 vaccines are effective at helping to protect against severe disease and death from variants of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Since early 2021, when the COVID vaccine became available, Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) has encouraged staff members and eligible community members and students to get vaccinated. Working with the Gwinnett-Newton-Rockdale Health Department and other providers like Northside Gwinnett, Walmart, and CORE, the school district has encouraged citizens to learn more about vaccinations and shared information about numerous vaccination opportunities with staff and families. Why is the district focused on this strategy? Vaccination has proven to be an important part of the district’s layered mitigation efforts to limit the spread of the virus as vaccinated individuals are less likely to become ill and less likely to infect others. This is important to GCPS’ overall goal of keeping schools open and students learning in person.
In an ongoing partnership with the Gwinnett Health Department and other health partners, GCPS continues to host vaccination clinics at high schools around the county. No appointment is necessary. At these clinics, participants will receive the Pfizer vaccine, which requires two shots. Individuals who are eligible for a booster shot may attend a vaccine clinic to get a booster. (The CDC recommends booster shots five months after receiving your second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, six months after your second dose of the Moderna vaccine, and two months after receiving the Johnson & Johnson shot.) One of our health partners—CORE—has been approved to provide vaccinations to children ages 5-11. For other clinics, children must be 12 or older to be served. Note that children ages 5 to 17 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Interpreters will be on site.
Please check with the Gwinnett Health Department or other health provider to learn more about the vaccination and where you may go to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. In addition, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA) is working with Viral Solutions to provide vaccinations to children ages 5-11. Click here to learn more about "no appointment COVID-19 vaccinations" for children and adults, including boosters.
In another effort to encourage vaccination among staff, GCPS offers a $500 vaccination incentive to full-time, benefits-eligible employees, SPUR cafeteria staff, SLP staff, retirees who are currently working and substitutes who have worked 45 days.