Current COVID-19 Guidelines in GCPS
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.
Digital Learning for Grades K-5
Of the nearly 180,000 students who attend Gwinnett County Public Schools, approximately 2% have opted out of in-person learning for the 2021-22 school year. Here are some quick facts about K-5 digital learning:
- Elementary students will be assigned to a teacher from their school, within their cluster, or another school in the district.
- Students will remain enrolled at their home school so that they can take part in clubs, activities, social events, etc.
- Classes will be delivered largely in a synchronous setting (similar to 2020-21). Synchronous classes require that the student be logged in to participate during a specific time.
- The digital learning schedule may be different from the in-person schedule.
- Please read this FAQ for Families of Digital K-5 Students.
Digital Learning for Grades 6-12
Of the nearly 180,000 students enrolled in Gwinnett County Public Schools, approximately 2% have opted out of in-person learning for the 2021-22 school year. Here are some quick facts about digital learning for students in grades 6-12:
- Grade 6-12 students will be enrolled concurrently at both their home school and at Gwinnett Online Campus (GOC). They will participate in the GOC online platform for classes.
- Academic and elective classes will be taught through GOC.
- Students will be able to take part in athletics, clubs, activities, social events, etc., at their home school.
- Counseling and Advisement will be provided through GOC for digital learners.
- Parents should contact the GOC teacher to discuss their student’s progress, grades, attendance, etc.
For the 2021-22 school year, all students will receive breakfast and lunch at no charge, based on USDA waivers. While meals will be provided at no charge for all students this school year, families whose students would be eligible for meal support in a typical year should complete the free/reduced-price meal application as soon as possible. Confirmed eligibility for free/reduced-price meals ensures access to many benefits beyond school meals (free SAT/ACT, free college applications, free/reduced internet, additional technology and resources for schools, etc.) Click here for information regarding the Free and Reduced Meal Application Benefits… it provides more than just a meal.
Cafeterias are open and students and are using the serving lines and selecting their meal items.
- Menu items are similar to offerings provided in the cafeteria in the past. However, GCPS school cafés are feeling the pinch due to disruptions to the nation’s supply chain. As a result, GCPS’ menu offerings vary from school to school, and may not reflect the planned menu as School Nutrition Program (SNP) staff work with available resources.
- Schools have established precautionary practices in place to minimize risks.
- Some food items are wrapped and packaged to avoid direct contact with food items.
- Students may eat meals in the cafeteria.
Information about meal pick-ups for digital learners has been communicated by each school. (Meals will are provided to GCPS students only.)
On scheduled Digital Learning Days (DLDs), our School Nutrition and Transportation teams work together to ensure that students have a nutritious breakfast and lunch to fuel their learning at home. Our bus drivers are on the road and at every bus stop to deliver meals prepared by School Nutrition Program staff. Families should expect buses to run their routes from approximately 10:45 a.m. to noon, beginning at the first stops on the route. Like meals served at school, these delivered meals are provided at no cost to the student under a federal waiver.
Scheduled DLDs for second semester are Jan. 25, March 2, and March 22.
Athletics and Extracurricular Activities
Gwinnett County Public Schools is currently offering athletics and extracurricular activities for the 2021-22 school year. Plans are that events will be open to spectators at full capacity per Georgia High School Association guidance.
Masks are strongly recommended in GCPS schools and facilities, and spectators attending athletic and extracurricular events held indoors are encouraged to wear masks. The level of community transmission may determine capacity for events.
- GCPS has established reasonable and precautionary practices for transporting students to and from school.
- Buses are operating at maximum capacity as usual. Physical distancing is not possible on school buses.
- Buses are cleaned/disinfected at the end of the morning and afternoon routes.
Masks are required on buses in compliance with federal mandates, regardless of current GCPS mask status.
COVID-19 Mitigation Strategies
Gwinnett County Public Schools has deployed multiple mitigation strategies, a practice called layered mitigation, to promote healthy and safe practices for our students, staff, and visitors. These strategies include:
On 2/25/22 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. The CDC dropped its recommendation for universal school masking and instead will recommend masking only in communities at a high level of risk. In light of this updated guidance and Gwinnett County’s designation at a“Low” community level, Gwinnett County Public Schools has transitioned from requiring masks to strongly recommending the use of masks in its facilities.
- Sharing regular reminders about proper mask use (covering nose and mouth, fitted at sides, etc.) 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.
- Promoting vaccination for those who are eligible (ages 5 and older)
- Hosting mobile walk-in vaccination clinics at high schools around the county in an ongoing partnership with the Gwinnett Health Department and other health partners
- Launching a voluntary COVID-19 testing program, currently in several clusters and expanding to other clusters as staffing is available
- Physical distancing when feasible
- Continuing use of enhanced ventilation practices, including the installation and use of upgraded MERV 13 filters
- Encouraging regular handwashing and the use of hand sanitizer
- Promoting proper respiratory etiquette (covering coughs and sneezes, disposing of tissues, etc.)
- Emphasizing the need for individuals to stay home if they are sick, have been exposed to a known case, or are being tested for COVID
- Continuing the Health Response Teams (HRT) process that was used this past year to identify close contacts and report positive cases
- Following health department guidance regarding isolation and quarantine
- Continuing with cleaning and disinfection practices in schools and on buses, focusing on high-touch areas
GCPS will continue to review guidance from local and state health partners, the CDC, and the Georgia Department of Education, using this guidance to inform decision-making about additional or updated mitigation strategies that might be needed for the 2021–22 school year.
Please check again soon for an updated Mitigation Strategies chart in English and Spanish.
GCPS follows updated CDC mask guidance (2/25/22)
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. 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.
In light of this updated guidance and Gwinnett County’s designation at a “Low” community risk level, Gwinnett County Public Schools has moved from requiring masks to strongly recommending the use of masks in its facilities.
Should Gwinnett County move to a different level as designated by the CDC, the school district will adjust its guidance and communicate any changes, accordingly. Note that individuals may choose to wear a mask at any time and people with symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask.
Should GCPS enter a time when masks are required, students, staff, and visitors are reminded that masks should cover 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.
Monitoring the health of their children is an important role that families play 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 who has been exposed to COVID-19 but has no 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, including both in-school and out-of-school exposures.
- Following the most updated guidelines from the CDC, fully vaccinated students and staff and those who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the 90 days prior to an exposure are not required to quarantine following exposure to a positive COVID-19 case and can continue to attend school/work as long as they are not experiencing any symptoms.
- Any unvaccinated individuals identified as a close contact to a confirmed or probable case outside of the school/work setting are required to quarantine, due to regular unmasked exposure. This means that siblings of positive students are considered to be out-of-school exposures. Therefore, they must quarantine at home following DPH guidance. In addition, an employee who is exposed to a positive case at home also would have to quarantine, following DPH guidance.
Note that during periods when masks are not required (based on community spread and GCPS protocol), students and staff members identified as close contacts may remain at work or school as long as they remain asymptomatic, despite vaccination status or mask use.
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.
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.
COVID Reporting and Communication
With 97% of GCPS students attending class in person, GCPS wants to be sure families know where to find information about COVID-19 cases in the school district.
To keep parents and employees informed, GCPS provides information every school day about the number of students and staff affected by COVID in each school building/location. In addition to the report (PDF) that has been updated daily since last year, GCPS has launched a new COVID-19 Dashboard. The new dashboard provides a user-friendly, visually appealing way for our community to review the information. Both the report and the dashboard reflect details about current conditions in our schools. In accordance with federal law, no information is disclosed on either report that would lead to the identification of any individual represented in the numbers shown on the report.
Reporting and Communication Information(Current February 2022)
GCPS COVID Testing Program
Schools in the Norcross, Grayson, South Gwinnett, and Berkmar 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 and trace contacts who should quarantine. 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 in to the program, which will include weekly testing for participating students and staff. The free testing, which is self-administered with a nasal swab, is quick and easy, and is not painful or invasive.
GCPS’ voluntary COVID-19 testing program will be expanding to other clusters as staffing becomes available.
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.
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 new 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please review these additional resources:
- Georgia Emotional Support Line - General Public
- Georgia Emotional Support Line - Educators
- Stress Tip - English
- Stress Tip - Español
As families plan travel during breaks, it’s important to know that GCPS follows CDC guidelines when it comes to international travel. The CDC recommends that unvaccinated travelers (including children) get tested for COVID-19 within 3 to 5 days after returning AND self-quarantine at home for a full 5 days after travel. Fully vaccinated travelers 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, should follow all requirements and recommendations for fully vaccinated travelers with one exception. They do NOT need to get a test 3 to 5 days after travel unless they have symptoms. People can continue to test positive for up to three months after having COVID-19 and not be infectious to others. They also do not need to self-quarantine after travel but should self-monitor for symptoms.
Device and Internet Access
Access to both devices and reliable internet is critical to our students’ learning and helps to ensure educational equity as more students engage with digital learning resources.
Schools use established processes for addressing our students’ needs for devices and internet access and distribute devices and hotspots accordingly.
Families should note that devices issued to students must be returned to the school on the specified date the school determines. Per district policy and procedures, and the agreement noted in the Student/Parent Handbook, fines may be assessed to the family if the device checked out is returned damaged or is not returned.
Families should contact their local school for additional information if their student(s) need assistance with devices and/or reliable internet service. For middle and high school digital students concurrently enrolled at Gwinnett Online Campus, the home school will coordinate device and hotspot distribution.