Q: I’ve looked through this list of questions and can’t find an answer to my question. Who can I contact?
Email RiskResponse@gds.org and we’ll do our best to get back to you within about 3 business days.
Q: When is GDS planning on opening in-person?
In October, GDS launched its HyFlex program in the Lower School, which allowed for in-person, indoor learning. In early November the program expanded to the Middle School, and by mid-November High School students have the opportunity for in-person, indoor learning. All of our plans for returning to campus are contingent on regional public health. Any meaningful change in COVID-19 cases locally or within the GDS community will necessitate our return to GDS Virtual Campus. We fully expect that we will need to pivot back and forth between virtual and in-person instruction for the remainder of this school year.
Q: Under which circumstances does GDS choose between distance and in-person instruction?
GDS may decide between distance to in-person learning based on our Decision Making Matrix, as well as one or more of the following:
- The prevalence of COVID-19 within our community, as defined regionally by whether cases are increasing or decreasing, test positivity, and new cases per 100,000 people.
- Most recent research related to viral spread among children and in schools.
- Cases within the immediate GDS community.
- Availability and turnaround time of testing in the community.
- The success and availability of a vaccine.
- DC Department of Health directives.
- Feedback from our Parent Public Health Committee, our Leadership Team, and/or our Board of Trustees.
Depending on where we are on the decision-making matrix, we might experience learning in any of our scenarios, with families being able to opt-in or out of on-campus activities.
Q: How is GDS thinking about risk in reopening?
We have worked and continue to work with our Parent Public Health Panel, our Board of Trustees, our legal and insurance teams, as well as the approximately 110 members of our reopening committees to think through: the risks of opening, public health metrics that we should be watching that help direct our on- and off-campus strategies, and mitigation strategies to put in place to help reduce risk of transmission on campus. We also recognize that we cannot eliminate all risks.
Q. How are families and faculty involved in decision making?
One of our considerations is "How safe does the community feel?" We have surveyed faculty and families on their comfort in returning to campus prior to making the decision to do so. Survey results have been used to inform decision making, along with other metrics we are tracking.
Q: How can we prepare for in-person schooling?
Practice wearing a mask for long periods of time and practice taking it on and off. Per our Community Commitments, avoid travel in the two weeks prior to returning to school. (Note that, per DC guidelines, GDS is requiring that anyone who has traveled to a high risk area quarantine for at least 14 days prior to attending school, regardless of the reason for travel). Get in the habit of taking your temperature or your child’s temperature before bedtime and in the morning. Let us know if you need help obtaining masks and thermometers by emailing RiskResponse@gds.org.
Q: Are visitors allowed on campus?
We are not accepting non-essential visitors to campus. All guests who must be on campus go through an on-site screening process. Parent meetings are conducted through Zoom.
Q: Has the Parent-Student Handbook been updated?
Yes, GDS distributed an addendum to our Parent-Student Handbook to families electronically before the start of the school year. It did not require new signatures; by attending school (whether in-person or distance), families agree to the updated policies indicated in the new addendum. Log into MyGDS to view the handbook and addendum on your child's division resource board.
Q: Have teachers been involved in the reopening process?
Yes. We invited all faculty and staff to join our reopening committees, which made recommendations to the school’s Leadership Team around all aspects of our return to school. In total, 110 employees engaged in the reopening process by serving on 14 different committees.
Q: Are gatherings taking place?
Yes, events will still take place. Our online calendar reflects all updates to events, acknowledging that we will likely be holding many or most events virtually until we reach phase 4.
Q: What is HyFlex?
HyFlex is in-person learning with streaming capabilities for students at home.
Q: How quickly can GDS pivot between distance learning and in-person/HyFlex?
If individual cohorts are required to move to GDS Virtual Campus for quarantine, distance learning will begin on the next school day and students will be able to return to HyFlex programming on the first day they are permitted to return. If the whole school moves to GDS Virtual Campus mode from a HyFlex mode, we will allow at most two school days to complete the transition.
Q: How are you making sure substitutes are trained in the various protocols and that they are healthy when they come in?
During in-person schooling, all members of the GDS community are asked to complete daily health screenings prior to arrival at school and each evening before bed, including potential substitutes. In addition, GDS is making all of its pre-service trainings a requirement for all staff, including substitutes.
Q: Are students using lockers?
Students do not have access to lockers or locker rooms until we enter phase 4. This is in an effort to reduce crowding and ensure distancing in shared spaces.
In-Person Schooling Questions
Q: Will siblings be grouped together?
One goal of cohort creation is to ensure siblings are on campus on the same days as much as possible. For twins, our goal is to cohort them together, though at the High School level, where they may have different classes, this may not always be possible.
Q: Can I request that my child be cohorted with friends?
Principals looked at a number of things when determining cohorts, including public health considerations, diversity, and recommendations from our mental health and SEL committee, which did include friends.
Q: Why did GDS focus on providing the in-person model for younger students first?
There are several reasons we focused on more time on campus for our younger students first. We know that online learning is the most difficult for younger learners who may still be learning the ins and outs of technology; younger students also require more support from in-person adults. Additionally, the PK-4 model at GDS is focused on the homeroom model, in which students stay with mostly one adult all day; upper-level middle school and all high school students participate in a schedule in which they normally interact with up to a dozen adults in one day. This made adapting the schedule for students in grades 7-12 to a cohort-only model in-person more challenging, with distance learning allowing more curricular and programmatic flexibility.
Distance Learning Schooling Questions
Q: What did you doing to plan for GDS’s Virtual Campus (i.e., distance learning)?
Our amazing teachers delivered a successful emergency distance learning experience in the spring of 2020. As we planned for an online GDS experience this year, we used the lessons learned from that experience and many more to inform our work. Schedules include a mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning. Synchronous experiences focus on those activities that we do best socially—relationship-building, discussion, debate, providing real-time feedback to redirect misunderstandings, etc. Asynchronous learning allows for content acquisition, creative exploration, and independent practice and application of concepts and skills. We continue to schedule regular individual touchpoints between teachers and students across the school, as these sessions proved invaluable to supporting students in their learning and continued connection to the school.
Our Teaching and Learning committee focused on how to build on and advance our distance learning programming as well as our HyFlex model. Our HS and MS faculty participated in the study of online and project-based learning at The Global Online Academy and PBL World, respectively. In order to further develop skills to engage and assess our youngest learners online, Lower School teachers attended Fountas & Pinnell workshops for literacy and reading and workshops with Shelly DuBose for mathematics, with a specific focus on teaching young children in these areas through a virtual platform.
Q: How are you ensuring that in-person and distance-learning activities are complementary and building on each other?
Knowing to expect the reality of pivoting between different approaches to instruction, GDS teachers have planned for that possibility and will ensure a smooth continuity of learning. In their planning this year, teachers are being mindful of what's essential to student learning versus “worth being familiar with” in order to make sure that the essential through lines in student learning are maintained no matter where students are.
Q: Will classes take place outside? Will GDS create outdoor classroom spaces?
GDS has reviewed which outdoor spaces may be used as learning spaces. When we invited small groups on campus for relationship-first activities in September and October, we used our fields, playground, LMS terrace, and our LMS garage for all outdoor programming. The most useful outdoor spaces in this environment can be used regardless of the weather and can accommodate distancing within our cohorts. As an urban school, we’re not blessed with land, so when we’re in a HyFlex model, we’re also looking at options like keeping windows open in the HS, whether we can retrofit screens to doors in the new LMS, and ensuring that we have efficient ventilation and HVAC systems in place.
HyFlex Instruction Questions
Q: What safety considerations are being given around performing arts for in-person learning during COVID-19?
Our performing and visual arts committees are looking at a number of studies around singing, drama, and instruments and the aerosols they produce. Our Leadership Team is weighing these considerations and studies with the public health and OSSE (Office of State Superintendent of Education) guidance around performing arts classes. There are currently no final decisions for in-person performing arts. Our schedule, access to outdoor space, and the need to cohort students will determine the degree to which the instrumental courses can happen live versus virtually.
Q. What is being done about field trips?
We are sorry to say that all overnight trips and field trips are cancelled from August through January 1, 2021. We will make a decision regarding other field trips every two months.
Q. What is happening with athletics?
High School and Middle School interscholastic athletics have been cancelled until January 1, 2021, including through our leagues ISL and MAC. However, GDS believes that athletics plays an important role in the wellbeing of our students, and so we have developed virtual skill and conditioning periods for each season from September 8 through January 1. Competitive seasons will launch January 1.
Q: Which guidance is GDS following?
GDS is primarily following the guidance and recommendations of the DC Department of Health and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). These guidelines are heavily tied to those from the CDC, tend to be more conservative and detailed, and are mandated only for public and public charter schools. In addition, should Mayor Bowser issue any decisions about schools, we will follow her guidance as it applies. Our regional associations, AIMS and AISGW, as well as national associations, NAIS and NBOA, have all issued guidance on a number of fronts as well. Lastly, our Parent Public Health Panel provides inputs that support our decision-making process.
Please see the Office of the State Superintendent of Education's Return to School Criteria.
Q: Does the DC Government need to approve or accept the GDS reopening plan?
No, as a private school, the DC government does not have to approve the reopening plan. We do, however, have to follow any District mandates that explicitly apply to all schools.
Q: Do you have public health professionals looking at your reopening plan?
Yes, we are grateful to the 19 public health experts (who also happen to be GDS parents) on our Parent Public Health Committee, who have been making recommendations for the health and safety of our entire community. They come from a variety of backgrounds and include pediatricians, epidemiologists, and members of the public health community.
Q: What does health screening look like at GDS this year?
Any GDS community member who is coming to campus or riding on a GDS bus must submit the MyMedBot health screening questionnaire the night before and morning of their time on campus. We are administering on-site screening for contractors and anyone who doesn’t screen at home.
Q: Does an entire family have to stay home if our GDS student gets a headache, has a loose stool, or shows any of the other symptoms of COVID-19? What’s the policy? Added 9/14/2020
Yes, for the safety of our community, you should all stay home until we can gather more information. One of the concerns with COVID-19 is that the symptoms mirror those of other illnesses, and we don't want to take any chances. If you have a positive screening on the MyMedBot app, a member of GDS's health care team will call you to follow up. We will also ask you to contact your healthcare provider. Depending on the symptom(s) and other factors, it may be appropriate to be tested or you may be advised to see your healthcare provider to rule out alternative causes.
Q: If someone is sent home sick or because they failed the screening, where will they wait? What will this process look like?
GDS has set aside an isolation room in each building for community members who may develop symptoms during the school day. For regular school attendees, screening is done at home, and should a community member fail the screening, they may not come to school and should follow up with both their doctor and the divisional nurse for next steps. Any essential visitors who fail the screening are asked to leave the premises immediately, and any individuals in contact with those visitors will be subject to further screening.
Q: How will people who report symptoms of COVID-19 be directed to report and manage?
Per OSSE and DOH guidance, should a student or staff member fail a screening or begin to show signs of COVID-19, they will be expected to contact their personal physician for guidance and evaluation upon returning home (or before coming to school). Our health staff will follow-up within 24 hours to get an update. In order to return to school, the student must be cleared by their appropriate medical provider and meet all return to school requirements (specified by DOH and shared forward from the nurses).
Should an individual receive a positive test result, the physician or DOH will notify the individual of the instructions around self-isolation, return to school parameters, etc. GDS’s COVID-19 "point of contact" will follow up with the student to answer questions about self-isolation and return to school guidance. At that point, the DC Department of Health will also provide guidance around contact tracing and further community quarantines.
Q. Who do I contact with questions about MyMedBot?
Please reach out to Erica DeMille with questions about the MyMedBot app.
Illness & Testing
What happens if a student has symptoms on campus? Added 9/15/2020
A student who shows signs or complains of symptoms while at school will be evaluated by an on-site health care professional. If it is determined that the student needs to go home, the student will wait in a safe place and a parent must pick up their child within one hour of being called. The parent will be given instructions for next steps, which may include seeing the child's health care provider.
What happens if a GDS student has COVID-19? Added 9/15/2020
If a GDS student tests positive, they will not be allowed on campus until cleared. We will work with the DC Department of Health to determine which other students/staff need to be quarantined based on their level of contact with the student.
What happens if a student's family member has COVID-19? Added 9/15/2020
If a student's family member tests positive or is presumptive positive, the student must remain home. If the student can be completely separated from the family member, they will be quarantined for 14 days. If they can't remain completely separated, they will be quarantined for 14 days from when the family member is cleared.
Q. Why do I have to quarantine for 14 days after exposure even if I have a negative COVID-19 test?
There is an incubation period for the virus, and an infected person can test negative during the incubation period as viral levels are increasing.
Q: If someone refuses to get a COVID-19 test, what are the protocols and how long does someone need to stay home?
Any community member showing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 must not return to school until
- they completed the appropriate isolation period: 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.
Individuals refusing to get tested or get cleared by a physician will be expected to wait out the isolation period before returning to school.
Q: What are the symptoms that would mean a student or teacher has to stay home?
Please reference the most up-to-date list of COVID-19 symptoms on the CDC website. GDS requires students with temperatures of 100.0ºF or higher to remain at home.
Q: How will the community be notified if someone goes home with COVID-like symptoms but without a positive test result?
Because many of the symptoms of COVID-19 are also associated with the common cold, allergies, influenza, food poisoning, and other illnesses, GDS will follow its normal communications protocols and alert families when there is a confirmed communicable illness on campus. In the meantime, all individuals should constantly monitor for signs of illness and stay home if unwell.
What is your notification policy of COVID-19 on campus? Added 9/15/2020
We have a communicable disease notification policy that we follow, in conjunction with guidance from DC DOH, around notifying families in the case of a positive COVID-19 test and will work closely with the DC DOH for contact tracing.
Q: What will contact tracing look like on campus?
Contact tracing will largely be dictated by the DC Department of Health. (Read more.) As much as possible, an individual’s identity will remain confidential according to general health practice. GDS and the Department of Health will collaborate to contact anyone who might have been exposed during the 48 hours preceding symptom onset. This means that teachers, cohorts, and possibly pods will be asked to remain home as recommended by DC DOH and likely up to 14 days. During this time, students will continue to engage in classes either through HyFlex instruction or GDS’s Virtual Campus.
Q: Do you require testing when we are participating in in-person schooling?
We have a testing program for those who are on campus. Additionally, we'll request that anyone showing symptoms get tested at a non-GDS testing site. We require, as part of our screening process, that anyone who has been in close contact with someone who is awaiting COVID-19 test results or who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 to stay home.
Social Contract & Personal Responsibility
Q: When we are in-person, how seriously will the school take mask wearing, distancing, cleanliness, hygiene measures, and staying home when sick?
As part of our social contract, some of these elements are non-negotiable, and some, we realize, may take time to get used to. Because these distancing and hygiene procedures are essential to the health and well-being of our community, when we are in-person, we will teach, enforce, and reinforce mask wearing, maintaining at least 6 feet of distance, hand washing and sanitizing regularly, as well as refraining from sharing toys and program supplies. We know that enforcement and reinforcement will look different at different age levels, and we will adjust responses accordingly. We require individuals to stay home when sick. Our cleaning company, MCS, also takes cleanliness very seriously and we have hired additional staff to ensure that high-touch surfaces are cleaned frequently throughout the day.
Q: Will there be anyone at the school (guests, etc.) exempted from the rules?
Students with medical conditions may request an exemption from the face mask policy.
Q: Are we going to have to sign waivers?
No. The new Parent-Student Handbook addendum does not require new signatures, but by attending school (whether in-person or distance), families agree to the updated policies indicated in the addendum. Additionally, we are asking all community members to adhere to our social contract.
Q: Is it okay for my child to sign up for club sports, travel soccer, gymnastics, dance, etc? Added 9/8/2020
A: We discourage participation in any activity where distancing and masking cannot be easily maintained. We are asking families to join us in reducing the risk of being exposed to COVID-19 so that we can return to on-campus programming and stay open. If appropriate precautions cannot be taken in an outside-of-school activity, we recommend that families not participate.
Q: If we are planning on opting out of in-person programming and want to spend several months out of state, does that violate the travel policy? Added 9/8/2020
A: The travel policy is intended to reduce unnecessary travel by families who might be participating in in-person programming. This policy is in place because we are trying to reduce the possibility of COVID-19 in our community so that we can more easily return to in-person programming and stay open. If your child is not participating in on-campus programming, traveling does not contradict our policy, provided that there is an understanding that we will ask you to quarantine for 14 days upon return and before participating in on-campus programming.
Masks & Safety Equipment
Q: Are masks required all day? Updated 10/22/2020
When on campus, students and staff are required to correctly wear face coverings throughout the school day. (Students with medical conditions may request an exemption.) Masks may be removed when eating or drinking, and when taking sedentary, physically distanced mask breaks outside. Adults may remove masks when they are alone in a space with the door closed; as soon as they leave the space or another person enters the room, masks go back on. 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. If you are unable to provide your own cloth face coverings, please contact RiskResponse@gds.org.
Q: How are you making sure my child is properly wearing his/her mask?
We know that masks are one of our most effective tools against the spread of the virus, along with distancing and hand washing and hygiene practices. Our school nurses have videos and presentations around what proper mask wearing entails for staff and for students. In addition, they have trainings on how to make sure masks fit properly and how to properly take them on and off during meal times.
Q: Are the youngest children required to wear masks? How do you get young children to follow distancing protocols and mask wearing?
Yes. Teachers are working with students in age-appropriate ways to ensure safety. We are aware of the SEL implications on this, and we are addressing this further.
Q: For in-person schooling, do students get mask breaks and what do they look like?
Yes. We have incorporated mask breaks into in-person programming. Current guidance is that mask breaks should be taken outside and socially distanced whenever possible. Students are not required to keep masks on when eating or drinking.
Q: How many masks are needed per day or week?
For in-person schooling, we recommend that students have two clean masks per day plus one extra in their backpack or cubby should one get dirty or wet. We encourage students to switch masks after lunch.
Q: What does GDS consider a high-touch surface and how often are they cleaned?
We have increased daily maintenance of both buildings, which includes routine and multiple-times-daily cleaning of high-touch surfaces and high-traffic areas. Classrooms are equipped with cleaning supplies and gloves for teachers to wipe-down surfaces as required and teachers are trained in appropriate cleaning, sanitization, and disinfection protocols for classroom supplies.
Q: What cleaning protocols are in place generally?
Our goal is hourly disinfecting of high-touch surfaces in common areas during the day. The evening shift again disinfects all high-touch surfaces in common areas as well as thoroughly cleans and disinfects the entire facility including desks, chairs, and classroom spaces. For everyone’s health and to avoid having students and staff interacting with cleaning chemicals, our cleaning company MCS does not enter classrooms during the daytime. Evening cleaning includes the use of electrostatic sprayers.
Each classroom is assigned a comprehensive cleaning matrix. Cleaning and disinfecting protocols are different for each different type of furniture, depending on what type of finish each has, as disinfectant can cause damage on certain types of furniture and in some cases cannot be used at all without harming the finish with repeated disinfecting.
Teaching and non-teaching staff are provided with microfiber wipes that they can use in their spaces throughout the day to clean their own desks, keyboards, mouse, and telephones. Each classroom also has disinfecting wipes available, as well as sponges/microfiber, a small pail, and either Dawn or Joy soap as the CDC is encouraging the use of soap and water in cases where disinfectant is not available. Disinfectant is not safe for students or teachers to use unless they have been trained or have proper PPE.
Q: Are desks facing in the same direction?
Yes, whenever possible, desks are turned to face the front of the classroom. In some cases, students may sit at tables with partitions between themselves and anyone else at the table, with a minimum of 6 feet between students.
Q: How much space is allocated to each student and teacher?
We’ve planned for a minimum of 7 feet of distance between each student’s desk and the next. In many cases, because we are also limiting the number of people in each room, more than 7 feet is possible. (We reference 6 feet throughout our planning to allow for literal wiggle room.)
Q: What distancing protocols are in place generally?
GDS enforces physical distancing (minimum 6 feet) for any on-campus activities, including those held outdoors.
Q: Do all classrooms have sinks or sanitizer? Have extra sinks been added to the school?
All classrooms have either sinks or hand sanitizer. We have added extra hand-washing stations where necessary in both buildings and in outdoor spaces to facilitate regular handwashing.
Q: How often do students and staff wash their hands? What are the protocols around when students wash or use sanitizer?
Students and staff 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, after bathroom use, before and after time on the playground, and whenever else necessary. Teachers regularly reinforce best practices for handwashing. In addition, hand sanitizer stations are placed throughout the building and outside.
Q: What has been done about ventilation? What sort of air filtration systems are in place?
Our new LMS building comes equipped with a MERV-13 filter and our HS building has been updated from MERV-10 to MERV-13. We also added HEPA filters in all classrooms and shared office spaces. Our maintenance teams conducted a ventilation audit of both buildings.
Q: How do you manage distancing and crowding in large spaces, including hallways?
In an effort to reduce mixing of students, some hallways and staircases have become one-way and different groups of students are assigned different entry and exit doorways. There is signage throughout the buildings 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.
Larger gathering places are either closed to personal student use or have been repurposed as needed, following both physical distancing and maximum capacity guidelines.
Arrival, Dismissal & Transport
Q: What should I know about arrival and pick-up?
Please see our current plan for on-campus logistics.
Q: Can I drop my child off alone?
Our traffic management responsibilities don’t cease due to the pandemic. However, recognizing the need for families to decide their own comfort with various modes of public transportation and carpooling with others, GDS has relaxed the carpooling requirement until we return to a full, on-campus school experience. We still recommend and request that families use environmentally sustainable modes of transit, following health and safety measures, whenever possible.
Q: How are bus options affected for getting to and from school?
GDS is running limited bus service. Bus ridership is capped at 12 students sitting in alternating rows and students must complete screening prior to boarding. Students are required to sanitize hands prior to loading and to wear cloth face coverings on the bus. Families requiring bus transportation in order to attend GDS receive registration prioritization and should contact ImproveMyCommute@gds.org.
Q: Do you allow staff or students to take public transit? What safety precautions do you recommend for people taking public transit?
We recognize that some in our community continue to rely on public transit to get to and from school. GDS continues to facilitate student and staff transit cards while also providing additional guidance about how to ride transit most safely. With questions, please email ImproveMyCommute@gds.org.
Q: What is the schools' stance on carpooling?
For many families at GDS, carpooling is a great way to allow children to be around each other, share the responsibility of getting to and from school, and reduce the number of cars on the road. Many families carpool to school, and we have some recommendations for how you can do so safely:
- Complete the daily MyMedBot screening before entering the carpool.
- Print a placard with all carpool participants' names so we know which students are in the car.
- All occupants of the vehicle should wear masks throughout the trip.
- Keep windows open when possible.
- Wash hands or use hand sanitizer before entering and after exiting the vehicle.
- Use disinfectant to clean and sanitize frequently touched surfaces (door handles, seat belts, buckles)
Q: What extended day and after-care options are offered for families? How do you maintain cohorts in an extended day format?
GDS 360 programming is taking several forms during the 2020-21 school year. All enrichment classes (chess, financial literacy, debate, dance, etc.) are taking place in a virtual format throughout the year. In addition, families requiring childcare for their students after-school on HyFlex days will be able to register for clubhouse or homework center programming. To meet public health guidelines and recommendations, registration is only provided to students needing programming on all days they are on campus. We are unable to accommodate drop-ins or students who only wish to attend a few days a week. Students are grouped by grade and seated at least 6 feet apart from other students in their daytime cohorts, and may be grouped with other cohorts, with at least 10 feet of distance between students of different cohorts. GDS 360 cohorts will be limited to 12 students per grade.
Q: Do you host the Early Grasshopper program?
We have not made any final determinations on if we will host the Early Grasshopper Program.
Q: Do we get a tuition discount when we move into distance learning?
Our biggest expense is salaries and our teachers are working just as hard if not harder teaching on our Virtual Campus.
We recognize that some costs (dining/transportation) may decrease for the months they are not used this year. We also anticipate that other costs (PPE/technology/air purification/cleaning products/health-screening app/added classroom supplies/added personnel/emergency financial aid) will increase.
At this time we are not planning for a discount or rebate. Recognizing that this crisis may cause financial hardship for some families, our Board and school leadership are making additional funds available to support families to the extent that we can.
Q: Are we looking at cost savings (e.g., no sports, travel) or cost increases (e.g., more cleaning, more teachers, more administration) from COVID-19 that is now expected to result in higher tuition in 2021–22?
GDS will experience some modest cost savings by deferring some activities like the food part of dining services and transportation with reduced travel. GDS will also incur unexpected cost increases related to operating in HyFlex or distance-learning modes. The largest increase is related to outfitting the classrooms with remote audio/visual equipment, increasing staffing appropriately, providing personalized supplies to each student (rather than shared classroom supplies) and purchasing requisite PPE.
Q: How will GDS’s ability to provide financial aid be impacted by COVID-19?
GDS is committed to holding our community together. Because GDS has received generous contributions to the One GDS Community Crisis Fund and will be fully enrolled in the fall, we are able to honor our financial aid commitments while also responding to families who are in need as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Questions we commonly receive when a new case is reported within our community:
Q. What is considered, by GDS, to be close contact?
The CDC definition of close contact specifies that anyone who spends a cumulative 15 minutes with six feet within a 24-hour period. Upon learning of a new case within the community, GDS, in an abundance of caution, will recommend quarantine for the entire classroom group and will subsequently work with the DC Department of Health on contact tracing.
Q. Are you sending the whole class home?
For quarantine and contact tracing purposes, if a student or classroom teacher tests positive, GDS will send the entire homeroom, advisory, or room where a student stayed for a class home to quarantine. In the event that that student or staff member rides the GDS bus or participates in extended day programming, they too will be sent home. GDS will engage in additional contact tracing in partnership with the DC Department of Health and may send additional individuals home as well.
Q. If I was notified that my child is a close contact and must quarantine for 14 days, do my other children also have to stay home?
No, they are not close contacts. They are welcome to come to school. If your child who is a close contact becomes symptomatic or tests positive, then your other children become close contacts of your symptomatic/positive child and must stay home.
Q. Can I still bring my quarantined child to GDS for testing?
No. we are set up to test only asymptomatic individuals who are not quarantining. Please consult your child's physician about testing.
Q. Why does the person who tested positive have to quarantine for 10 days while my child has to quarantine for 14?
As outlined in Table 1 of the Health and Safety Guidance for Schools, 14-day quarantine is required in cases in which an individual may have been exposed to COVID-19, through either a close contact with COVID-19 or through travel to a high-risk area. This represents the “incubation time” for COVID-19, or the time by which individuals with an exposure to COVID-19 would be expected to develop symptoms if they had become infected.
For individuals with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, the quarantine period is 10 days. This represents the “infectious period:” for someone with COVID-19, or the time during which an individual is contagious to others.
Regarding testing at GDS
Q. What is the purpose of testing?
We are doing testing to track whether there are cases of COVID-19 in the GDS community. Testing alone is not enough to keep the community safe; we must continue to mask, distance, wash hands, and adhere to the community commitments. We know that testing will reduce the possibility of cases of COVID-19 on campus, but it will not eliminate the possibility of cases.
Q. What if my child tested positive for COVID-19 in the past?
We will ask your child to participate in our baseline testing and for you to provide confirmation to our nurses of your child’s past positive COVID-19 test. We will not require additional regular testing for 3 months from the original test unless your child is demonstrating symptoms. Please reach out to the school nurses with questions (Elizabeth McDermott, RN or Connie Crowley, RN).
Q. Should I send my child to get tested at GDS if they wake up not feeling well or with any of the symptoms of COVID-19?
No. Testing at GDS is intended to reduce the possibility of asymptomatic or presymptomatic infection. If your child has any of the symptoms of COVID-19, please keep them home and contact their regular physician. Sending a child to school with symptoms of COVID-19 is a violation of our community commitments and will result in removal from in-person programming and possible additional consequences up to separation from our school community.
Q. What kind of testing will you be doing (nasal, saliva, etc.)? Updated 10/22/2020
For the testing with Children's, families will have a choice of nasopharyngeal or saliva testing. The Mayo Clinic has released a helpful video for supporting your child during COVID-19 nasal swab testing. Testing with CIAN Diagnostics will involve either an anterior nares or mid-turbinate nasal swab.
Q. What sort of communication will I get from Children's National after my child's COVID-19 test?
With COVID-19 tests, no news is good news! Children's National will reach out to anyone who tests positive as soon as the results are received. Children's will NOT reach out to individuals who test negative. They will confirm with GDS that all tests have come back. We will update this section with regards to CIAN's process by 11/22.
Q. What if I don’t want to get tested?
As part of our short-term plans, we are requiring anyone planning to return to in-person programming to participate in our testing plan. If you prefer not to have your child tested, they will remain in our virtual campus program.
Q. What if I don't want to get tested at school?
We allow families to elect to test off-campus as long as they adhere to our testing cadence, parallel to on-campus testing. GDS only accepts PCR testing. GDS will not pay for off-campus testing.
Q. Who at GDS sees the results of the testing?
The only members of the school community who will receive the results are the school nurses. GDS is also required to alert the Department of Health whenever there is a positive test and to engage in contact tracing. As part of contact tracing, your family’s privacy will be protected and your child’s name will not be shared as being the child who tested positive. We also ask that families not make conjectures around who may have tested positive or not.
Q. Will we know if someone tests positive?
Yes. If the individual who tested positive is determined to have been on campus when they would have been contagious, there are several levels of communication:
- In the same cohort: Information about quarantine requirements and symptoms to watch for
- In the same grade: Note that someone in the grade tested positive though not in your child’s cohort
- At school: Notification about which building the positive test came back in AND note in the ongoing school communications via a dashboard
Q. What happens if someone tests positive?
The parents of the child who tests positive or the employee who tests positive will receive guidance from the DC Department of Health and a recommendation to contact your primary care physician. We will be following OSSE’s return to school criteria following a positive test.
The cohort will be moved to GDS Virtual Campus and required to quarantine for 14 days. They will also receive guidance from the DC Department of Health.
Anyone who is determined to be a close contact of the individual who tests positive will be moved to GDS Virtual Campus and required to quarantine for 14 days. They will also receive guidance from the DC Department of Health.
Q. Who pays for testing?
Children’s National Medical Center has advised that they will bill initial testing fees to each individual's insurance and will bill GDS for anyone who is not insured. If you subsequently receive a bill for the testing, please reach out to RiskResponse@gds.org. GDS covers the full cost of testing with CIAN Diagnostics.
Q. What if I can’t make it to GDS for testing?
If you cannot make it to GDS for testing and you intend to return to campus, we ask that you arrange your own testing, with the note that you will be responsible for any related fees. There are some requirements related to the testing:
- We require PCR testing.
- Tests must be conducted no more than 3 days prior to the return to campus.
- Test results must be received within 48 hours and shared back to the school nurses.
- Test results must be received by our school nurses prior to your child’s return to campus.
We recommend that you go to a county testing site or contact your pediatrician about the best way to get tested without taking up a well-child visit.
Click on one of the following for local COVID testing information:
- Montgomery County
- Prince George's County
- Virginia Department of Health
- PM Pediatrics (various locations; will also see adults; you can start with a telemedicine visit)
Q. When will regular testing take place?
Initial baseline testing will be on campus outside of the school day. Ongoing testing will take place at school as part of the school day.
Q. If I receive a negative test, can I skip the quarantine requirements related to travel or following close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19?
No. Per DC law, individuals must follow Department of Health mandates around quarantining and remain home for the full 14 days or for 72 hours plus a negative COVID test.