We have increased daily maintenance of both buildings, which includes routine and multiple-time-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 will be trained in appropriate cleaning, sanitization, and disinfection protocols for classroom supplies.
Students and staff 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, 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.
Larger gathering places are either closed to personal student use or have been repurposed as needed, following both physical distancing and maximum capacity guidelines.
GDS evaluated all supplies that students use throughout the day and removed, ordered duplicate materials, and developed 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 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.
Before returning to on campus learning, any family who travels to an area experiencing high rates of COVID-19 transmission must either quarantine for 10 days OR quarantine for 72 hours and then test negative for COVID-19. (Fully vaccinated people exempted.)
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, over the summer, a GDS Parent Public Health Panel provided input to 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 independent schools.
Q: Did you have public health professionals look at your reopening plan?
Yes, we are grateful to the 19 public health experts (who also happened to be GDS parents) who served on our Parent Public Health Panel, which made 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, all students and faculty/staff employed at GDS should stay home if a family member is ill until COVID-19 is ruled out. 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, either at night or in the morning, a member of GDS's health care team will call you to follow up. We will also ask you to contact your health care provider. Depending on the symptom(s) and other factors, testing may be appropriate or you may be advised to see your health care 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 logistical questions about the MyMedBot app. For questions about your health status related to MyMedBot, please contact your division's school nurse.
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. Read the DC Department of Health's guidance for close contacts of a person confirmed to have COVID-19.
Q. Why do I have to quarantine for 10–14 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. Your quarantine time period is determined by the Department of Health. Read the DC Department of Health's guidance for close contacts of a person confirmed to have COVID-19.
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.
Routine COVID testing is a requirement for participation in in-person activities. Check out our testing information to learn more.
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.
Q. 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?
Yes, we have a testing program for those who are on campus. Additionally, we request that anyone showing symptoms or in quarantine 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.
Community Commitments & 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 community commitments, 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: 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 community commitments.
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 per the latest DC guidance 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. 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: Will there be anyone at the school (guests, etc.) exempted from the rules?
For the safety of the community, everyone over the age of two entering the GDS campus is expected to wear a mask unless they are eating, drinking or taking an approved mask break outdoors and distanced from others.
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 teachers and nurses are working with students in age-appropriate ways to ensure safe use of masks, including how to take them off and put them on properly and to make sure they fit appropriately.
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.
Q: For in-person schooling, do students get mask breaks and what do they look like?
Given the overwhelming research around the benefits of mask wearing indoors and out, and the recommendations for both schools and within the District, GDS is not allowing mask breaks for students except while 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. Does an individual who has previously had COVID-19 need to quarantine upon subsequent travel or close contact with an individual with COVID-19?
Provided that they do not currently have any symptoms of COVID-19, an individual who has had COVID-19 within the last 90 days and has completed their isolation period does not need to quarantine after close contact with someone with confirmed COVID-19 or after travel to a high-risk state, country, or territory. Any individual with symptoms of COVID-19 must follow the existing OSSE and DC Health Guidance.
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 strives for physical distancing. Students and staff may occasionally move into each other's spaces, and we remind them to remain apart.
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 Filtration Devices 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.