Health and Safety Protocols Frequently Asked Questions

General Health and Safety Protocols

Last updated Oct. 12, 2021

How do I measure the risks associated with sending my child(ren) to in-person school?

Based on data released by the SF Department of Public Health, COVID-19 case rates among children and youth are low. When appropriate precautions are taken, schools are safe places that provide structured and supervised environments where children and youth can play, learn, and thrive. 

How can we help students prepare for the return to in-person learning and learn about the health and safety protocols?

Check out to review the most up-to-date information for students and families in preparation for the return to in-person learning. Families can review the Health and Safety section of the website to learn about the guidelines and protocols that will be in place for Fall 2021. 

Will hand washing stations or hand sanitizer be available?

Yes. PPE will be available at school sites, along with hand soap and sanitizer to maintain healthy hand washing habits at school.

Will visitors be allowed on school sites?

Yes. The protocol in Fall 2021 for visitors at sites, including family drop-off and pick-up and volunteers, will be same as the protocol before the pandemic. Everyone at a school site, including staff, students, and visitors will have to wear a mask when indoors. Please note that volunteers should follow vaccination requirements.

Can parents come to the school site at anytime?

Yes, per current public health guidance, family and community members may come onto school campus following the Student and Family Handbook guidelines for visiting a school as long as they follow masking and check-in protocols.  

What are some of the health and safety protocols in place for before and afterschool care providers?

SFUSD requires all service providers to be fully vaccinated. Those who qualify for a medical or religious exemption must have a negative COVID-19 test administered within 72 hours of the first time entering a school, then weekly thereafter. In addition, all service providers must follow San Francisco Department of Public Health guidelines. Service providers can learn more about these requirements at the MOU information page, and review the vaccination FAQs for service providers for more information.

The Out of School Time programs that are operated by SFUSD are also required to follow SF Department of Public Health guidelines. If you enroll your child into these programs, the Early Education Department will provide information on health and safety protocols.

If adults need to be in close contact with their students, what is the data saying about the new variants in regards to spreading COVID-19 to our medically fragile or unvaccinated students?

This includes examples such as: a 1-to-1 para supporting with and changing feeding tubes, changing diapers, needing to push wheelchairs, fix hearing aids, or keeping those students who elope within close proximity.

COVID-19 vaccines are the most effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and all known variants. Additional mitigation efforts such as mask-wearing can further reduce the risk of transmission for adults when in close proximity with students. Children with known COVID-19 contacts or some illness symptoms will still be asked to stay home. Data from the 2020-2021 school year suggests that asymptomatic children are extremely unlikely to transmit COVID-19 to an adult at school, even prior to vaccination availability for adults. 

What happens if we have to close schools again?

The decision to close schools for any reason is complex and difficult and can only be made by the Superintendent of Schools (not individual school sites). SFUSD is committed to sharing information on school closures as soon as possible in the event it is necessary to close schools, whether due to health and safety,  inclimate weather or other hazards. 

What kind of contigency plan does SFUSD have for potential surge of COVID-19 cases?

SFUSD is partnering with medical experts at the SF Department of Public Health and UCSF to inform District health and safety policies to address the impact of COVID-19. SFUSD is also working closely with SFDPH to monitor and track COVID-19 trends in San Francisco. SFUSD will adhere to local and state public health guidance and will share information with families as it becomes available. 

How will flu season impact school closures since flu and cold symptoms are so similar to COVID-19?

It is unlikely that schools will be closed due to flu season. The flu virus is also a respiratory virus like COVID-19. Therefore, in addition to preventing COVID-19 transmission, healthy habits such as frequent handwashing and mitigation strategies like masking can also reduce the spread of the flu virus. Medical experts have highlighted the importance of getting your child's immunization records up to date, including the yearly flu shot. You should work with your pediatricians to ensure that you are fulfilling the health requirements for your child(ren) to come to school. SFUSD is committed to providing free and accessible COVID-19 vaccination opportunities to all who are eligible. 

There is a rising number of students who have tested positive for COVID at schools. What are the necessary precautions taken by SFUSD to prevent more positive cases?

SFUSD continues working with the SF Department of Public Health to implement strategies such as universal masking, surveillance testing, and improved ventilation to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, SFUSD has mandated that all staff get vaccinated or get tested weekly.

Some schools do not have an assigned nurse on-site to support the COVID related duties. Are there plans to increase the number of nurses across the district, especially at sites where there aren't nurses?

SFUSD has more nurses per student than most other public school districts in California but we still do not have one nurse at every site and there is a staffing shortage. COVID protocols for schools can (and often are) implemented by school staff who are not trained health professionals. With SFDPH, SFUSD has developed a set of protocols to respond to COVID-19 related incidents. Each school has a designated staff person who is responsible for coordinating with Central office and SFDPH in the event of a positive case. SFUSD staff meet with the Health Department Schools Response Team daily, which provides an opportunity to review each case individually and provide detailed recommendations. The Health Department will also reach out to the family of a student who tested positive to offer additional resources if needed. Families can also reach out to the Nurse of the Day through the Student Family and School Resource Link for additional support and information. 

Physical Distancing and Cohorting

Last updated Aug. 5, 2021

Will protocols for stable cohorts remain in place?

Per current public health requirements, school on August 16, 2021 will look like December 2019, except with masks. While masking will be enforced, cohorts and social distancing requirements will not be in effect. 

Why are physical distancing requirements and cohorting not necessary?

There are no longer physical distancing and cohorting requirements. Studies show that masking strategies, along with vaccination and adequate ventilation, will be effective for mitigating the transmission and spread of COVID-19.

Will students be allowed to participate in sports?

Yes. Fall 2021 will look very similar to before the pandemic, with the addition of masking when indoors.


Last updated Aug. 31, 2021

What is the masking policy for Fall 2021?

Anyone on a school site, including students, staff, and visitors, are required to wear a mask at all times indoors and on school buses. Students do not have to mask when eating and drinking during meals and recess. Students with medical conditions who cannot mask are required to provide medical documentation and can be exempt.

Will the schools require students and staff to wear masks for everyone, even if they are vaccinated?

Yes. All students and staff at school sites will be required to wear face coverings except for those staff or students who have a medical exemption.

Will unvaccinated students under 12 years old be able to return to in-person learning if they wear a mask?

Yes. Masking indoors remains an important strategy for preventing COVID infections, and for preventing missed school days by students, teachers, and other staff.

Will masks be required outside?

Face masks are not required outdoors. Local and state public health guidance requires masks for all K-12 students and teachers indoors.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, you are less likely to be exposed to COVID 19 during outdoor activities, even without a mask. While the delta variant is more contagious, transmission is still less likely outdoors which is why masking outdoors is not mandatory. 

However, students can still wear masks when they are outdoors if they choose to do so. It takes all of us to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and masking is an effective way to reduce the risk of transmission. 

Will students need to wear masks when they are playing outside at recess?

Students do not have to mask when eating and drinking and when they are outdoors.

What would meal time look like?

Meals will be served outdoors where possible, and students will be taking off masks to eat or drink. Students will have to put their masks back on when not eating or drinking.

What is the masking protocol during meals?

Students will be taking off masks to eat or drink. Students will have to put their masks back on when not eating or drinking. Meals will be served outdoors where possible. 

Any mask recommendations for elementary school students? How many would you pack per day?

Per San Francisco Department of Public Health, the best mask for protection is one that you wear consistently and properly.

Students should wear a mask when coming to school, and pack another mask in their backpack. PPE will also be available at school sites, including masks, for students who do not have one. 

For more information, review SF Department of Public Health's guidance on mask-wearing.