COVID-19 Update:Learn where you can get your child vaccinated, as well as other important facts about COVID-19.
Returning to School During the Pandemic: FAQs
We understand that families may have many questions about returning to school during the pandemic. Our FAQs provide valuable information to families about COVID-19 transmission in children, masks, school buses, physical distancing at schools and more.
Children’s National Hospital supports the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Guidance for School Re-entry.
Available evidence has revealed that children, especially those under 10 years of age, are less likely to spread the virus to others. Studies from South Korea, Australia, Ireland and The Netherlands have shown that young children were usually infected by other family members and not the initial source of infection. However, children 10 and older appear to be similar to adults in spreading the virus.
There are many types of face coverings available. A recent study by researchers at Florida Atlantic University tested several types of face coverings and found that the best face covering for home and the community was the cloth face mask made with at least two layers of cotton cloth and stitched together. Higher count cotton material and more layers worked the best. A commercially available cone shaped mask also worked well.
- Recommended: Homemade or store bought face coverings with multiple layers of fabric. The mask needs to be the appropriate size for the child’s face and fits snugly to the sides of the face and the child can breathe easily.
- Not Recommended: Bandanas, neck gaiter or masks with exhalation valves or vents.
Check out Dr. Bear’s video on how to wear a mask.
Children older than 2 years can usually wear a mask for a period of time. Like any new activity, wearing a mask will take practice to allow the child to tolerate mask wearing for a long period of time. Parents should remind children to not touch their face when wearing a mask. It also helps to model good behavior by having adults wear masks in public areas or around other people to normalize the behavior. Most children with medical conditions including asthma are able to wear masks as well.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has additional information of face covering for children.
If you or your child is ill, it is important to keep physical distance from others in the family, even from your pets. Identify one person to take care of the person who is ill. Both the caregiver and the ill person should keep a distance of 6 feet from other family members. Avoid touching animals or pets. If possible, reserve a separate bathroom for those that are sick that is not used by other family members. If this is not possible, then clean surfaces with disinfectant after use by the person who is ill. If weather permitting, open windows and doors to increase air circulation. See the CDC website for how to protect others when a family member is sick.
Even if everyone is well, frequently touched surfaces (door knobs, light switches, refrigerator door, etc.) should be cleaned daily. See the CDC website on how to protect yourself and others for more information.
There are several strategies to keep students physically distant at school:
- First limit the number of students in class depending on the size of the room to allow at least three to six feet between students.
- Keep students and teachers in one class or cohort, particularly in elementary school, though this may be harder at the middle and high school levels. Limit switching students or teachers between classes.
- Hold class outside when weather permits or open windows and doors in classrooms to increase ventilation. Fans however are discouraged to avoid spreading air particles.
- Stagger start times to limit the number of students in the hallway or school entrances.
- Use Plexiglas in areas that do not allow distance or when masks cannot be used – lunch, certain types of instruction, etc.
- Mark the floor to remind students and teachers of spacing requirements.
Physical activity is important for everyone and may help students concentrate during class time. Therefore, the risk of exposure on the playground does not outweigh the benefits of play for children. The most important factor is to wear masks, avoid touching your face and either wash hands or use hand sanitizer when finished playing. See our Return to Sports Guidelines for how to stay safe when playing sports.
Yes, but use good practices to physically distance students. Buses or vans create a close environment where viruses can be spread.
- It is important that students wear a mask when traveling in a school bus or van.
- If weather permits, keep the windows on the bus open to allow for good flow of air.
- Seating should be limited to 50% occupancy or one student per seat in a school bus.
- Students should board and exit the bus in an organized manner allowing six feet spacing between students in the aisle.
- Students should wash hands or use hand sanitizer after exiting the bus.
- The bus should be cleaned after each trip to include seats, handles and windows.
If your child becomes sick, you should notify your school so they can determine when your child can return to school and monitor your child’s class/cohort for signs of illness.
Do not send your child to school if he/she has any of the following:
- Fever (100.4°F)
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Is not well
Children less than 10 years old appear to be less likely to spread the COVID-19 virus, but we are learning more each day as children return to camp, daycare and school. If your child is exposed to a person who is sick, monitor your child for fever or other symptoms. If fever or symptoms develop, contact your child’s health care provider. In addition, your school will inform you if any additional monitoring or self-quarantine needs to occur.
Children need to be protected against vaccine-preventable diseases. Well-child visits and vaccinations are essential services and help make sure children are protected. Children who are not protected by vaccines may be more likely to get diseases like measles and whooping cough. It is extremely important for children and family members to obtain your flu shot this year.
The Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 has been granted emergency use authorization for children ages 5 and up. The COVID-19 vaccine offers the best protection against COVID-19 infection, severe illness, hospitalization and death. Learn more about the vaccine.
Our online resource directory, called DC Health Matters Connect, can help you search and connect with an array of free and reduced cost social service programs throughout the D.C. region.