• Decision Making and
  • Health & Wellness
Phases/Stages Of Reopening & Guidance

GDS identified the following eight guiding principles in order to help guide our decision making and prioritize positive outcomes for our return to campus in September 2020.

  1. Health & Safety (physical)
  2. Program Quality (virtual and/or in-person) & Coherence
  3. Health & Safety/Wellness (mental/behavioral)
  4. Financial Sustainability (institutional)
  5. Community, Connection, & Culture
  6. Faculty & Staff Sustainability & Effectiveness
  7. Accessibility (equitable access)
  8. Student/Family Convenience
Health & Wellness Measures: What’s Going To Look Different
The health and safety of our community is our highest priority. GDS has made significant investments to ensure enhanced health and safety measures for in-person schooling. The following is a list of safety measures that will be in place for any in-person gathering on GDS’s campus beginning in fall 2020. Items with an asterisk are required per DC guidelines.


Prior to coming to campus for any reason, including any Hopping Into 2020 in-person outdoor programming, we ask all community members to administer GDS’s Covid-19 Daily Self-Screening Questions (which includes recording an evening and a morning temperature and symptom checker) before coming to campus or getting on a GDS bus, using a user-friendly app (to be shared). We will administer on-site screening for contractors and anyone who doesn’t screen at home. If you do not have a working thermometer at home and are unable to get one, please contact RiskResponse@gds.org.

Face Coverings

All students and staff are required to correctly wear cloth face coverings throughout their time on campus (unless there is a medical reason for not doing so). Adults who are unable to wear face coverings are not permitted on campus. Community members are asked to bring their own face coverings (at least two per day), which should be cleaned between uses. Masks with valves and bandana masks are not shown to be effective and therefore should not be worn. If you are unable to provide your own cloth face coverings, please contact RiskResponse@gds.org.

Physical Distancing 

GDS will be enforcing strict physical distancing (minimum 6 feet) in all locations for any on-campus activities, including those held outdoors.


Our communicable disease policy will be updated to reflect new guidance from the DC Department of Health, which includes the following. Should a student or staff member have symptoms of illness, they must not participate in any on-campus activities until:
  • 72 hours after the fever has resolved without the use of fever-reducing medication (e.g., Motrin, Tylenol) and respiratory symptoms have improved; AND at least ten days after symptoms first appeared, whichever is later; OR
  • They have a negative COVID-19 test, and meet standard criteria to return to school after an illness; OR
  • They have been cleared to return per their healthcare provider or DC Health instructions.
More specifics will be included in Parent-Student Handbook and Employee Handbook addenda that will be shared in late August.

Illness on Campus

GDS intends to follow DC Department of Health protocols for responding to illness on campus, including alerting the Department of Health to any positive cases, isolating any community members who become sick, requiring follow-up with a healthcare provider, and following cleaning and disinfection protocols for any spaces and equipment in which that individual has been in contact. The Department of Health has outlined communication protocols for communicating with families in case of a positive COVID-19 test result. 

Health Considerations for High Risk Individuals

Students and staff considered high-risk for experiencing severe illness due to COVID-19 should consult with their medical provider before attending in-person activities at school. This includes, but is not limited to, people with:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Immunocompromised state from solid organ transplant
  • Obesity (Body Mass Index of 30 or higher)
  • Serious heart conditions
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus
  • Any student or staff member who has a medical condition not on this list but is concerned about their safety.

The DC Department of Health does not require GDS to get written clearance for a return to campus. Individuals falling into one of these high-risk categories, who choose to return to school, assume that risk.

Campus/Classroom Cleaning

Our cleaning company MCS is committed to increased daily maintenance of both buildings, which will include routine and multiple-time-daily cleaning  of high-touch surfaces (door knobs, faucets, countertops, desks, chairs, etc.) and high-traffic areas (bathrooms, hallways, etc.). Should we pivot to in-person learning, classrooms will be equipped with cleaning supplies and gloves for teachers to wipe-down surfaces as required and teachers will be trained in appropriate cleaning, sanitization, and disinfection protocols for classroom supplies. We will be following the manufacturer’s guidance on cleaning our new playground equipment.

Hand Washing

Whenever students are on campus, they (and the adults around them) will wash hands or use hand sanitizer at least every 90 minutes. This includes before and after moving into new spaces or activities, before and after eating (applicable for supervised distance-learning only), after bathroom use, before and after time on the playground and whenever else necessary. Teachers will regularly reinforce best practices for handwashing (including 20 seconds of washing). In addition, hand sanitizer stations will be placed throughout the building and outside; students and staff will be asked to use sanitizer before entering classrooms or other spaces.

Gathering Places

When we are able to be indoors, larger gathering places (including the Black Boxes and libraries in both buildings, the Forum and Internet Cafe at the High School, and Dining Hall at the LMS) will be closed to personal student use or repurposed as needed, following both physical distancing and maximum capacity guidelines.


GDS is evaluating all supplies that students use throughout the day and removing, ordering duplicate materials for at-home use, or developing sanitizing and cleaning procedures in line with public health guidance around cleaning or avoiding shared supplies.


Our new LMS building comes equipped with a MERV-13 filter and our HS building will be updated from MERV-10 to MERV-13. We are also adding HEPA filters in all classrooms and shared office spaces. Our maintenance teams are conducting a ventilation audit of both buildings to gauge the need for additional filtration needs.

Wayfinding & Signage

For when we are able to be inside buildings, in an effort to reduce mixing of students, some hallways and staircases will become one-way and different groups of students may be assigned different entry and exit doorways. Expect new signage throughout the building to indicate everything from where to stand to which direction to walk in the hallways, as well as reminders to wear a mask and directions on how to wash hands and practice respiratory hygiene. 


Parent Public Health Panel

Our decision-making has been meaningfully guided by our Parent Public Health Panel, made up of 16 public health experts—physicians, pediatricians, epidemiologists, and members of the public health community—who also happen to be GDS parents.