COVID FAQ's DARIEN public schools - updated 8.13.2021


What are the different tests for COVID-19?

If you want to know if you are currently infected with the COVID virus, there are two types of tests: molecular tests and antigen tests. Molecular tests (also called RT-PCR tests, viral RNA tests, nucleic acid tests) detect disease by looking for traces of the virus’ genetic material on a sample most often collected via a nose or throat swab. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers PCR tests the “gold standard” of COVID-19 testing. It may take 2-7 days to get results from molecular test. Antigen tests identify protein fragments (antigens) that live on the virus' surface.

If you want to know if you have had a past infection with COVID-19 virus, you can have a blood test to look for antibodies produced by the body’s immune system in response to the infection. A blood test cannot tell you if you have a current infection, however, it can accurately identify past infection. Research suggests antibody levels may wane over just a few months. And while a positive antibody test proves you’ve been exposed to the virus, it’s not yet known whether such results indicate a lack of contagiousness or long-lasting, protective immunity.

What type of test - an RT-PCR test or an antigen test should I request?

Each type of test has it's advantages and drawbacks. Please consult your medical provider about which test is best for you. A positive test result requires a 10-day quarantine, regardless of close contact or symptoms. In general, all close contacts who are not vaccinated (individuals who have been within 6 feet for 15 minutes) will be required to quarantine for 7 days, with no symptoms and a negative test on post-exposure day 5 or later. For students in a masked school setting, only those who are not vaccinated AND have been within 3 feet of an infected individual are considered close contacts.

What if I test positive but I didn't have a close contact and I don't have any symptoms?

If you test positive, without symptoms or exposure, you are considered a POSITIVE CASE and are required to ISOLATE for 10 days. Anyone who is a close contact should be notified and instructed to quarantine for a minimum of 7 days and seek testing on post-exposure day 5 or later.

What if a child on my child's soccer team tests positive and I am notified that my child is a "close contact?" What about my other children?

Your child is a "close contact" and required to quarantine at home for 7 days (with testing on post-exposure day 5 or later), monitor for symptoms of COVID-19, consult your medical provider and seek testing. If your child tests negative, they must continue to quarantine for a full 7 days from exposure. Your other children are considered a "contact of a contact" and do not need to quarantine and may attend school.

If your child tests positive, they must isolate for 10 days and all other unvaccinated household members must quarantine for a minimum of 7 days from date of last contact with the infected family member. Determining the quarantine dates for household contacts can be challenging. Your school nurse can help determine when household contacts are able to return to school and outside activities.


Artist: Irene Rinaldi (NY Times August 28, 2020, Updated September 18, 2020)


What are the current travel restrictions?

As of March 19, 2021, Governor Lamont’s Executive Order No.9S, Section 1 regarding travel is no longer in effect.

Connecticut residents and travelers to Connecticut should follow travel-related guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Connecticut Department of Public Health (CT DPH). Mandates and requirements are not currently in place in Connecticut.

What Will Happen If There Is A Positive Case of COVID in My Child's School?

As soon as the school is notified and has verified a positive result, the school's COVID-19 Response Team will begin identifying close contacts of the infected individual. All close contacts will be notified by email with instructions regarding quarantine and testing. The DPS COVID Dashboard will be updated with new cases on a daily basis. A summary of case information will be sent weekly.

How Will I Know If There Is A Positive Case In My Child's School?

The COVID Dashboard is currently being revised to reflect the number of cases in each school and will be updated daily. We will communicate case updates on a weekly basis. Significant changes or COVID issues will be updated in real time.

Who Should I Call If My Child Tests Positive?

During school hours (7:30 am-3:00 pm), please report a positive case to the school nurse at your child’s school.

After school hours (3:00 pm-9:00pm) and over the weekend please call the COVID Reporting Line by dialing 203.656.7440. The line will be monitored after 3:00 pm and from 9:00 am-6:00 pm on the weekends. If not answered, please leave a message with your name, phone number, child’s name, and school.

For any COVID or other health related concerns, please contact your healthcare provider for guidance and evaluation.

How Many Positive Cases Will It Take to Move a School or the School District to Full Remote Learning?

This is a difficult question to answer and there is not a specific number of cases that would require a school to close or the DPS to move to full remote learning. Factors that will be evaluated:

  • Broad community factors such as town, county and state infection rates, hospitalization rates, availability of medical resources
  • Number of cases in a particular classroom and/or school requiring isolation and the number of close contacts requiring quarantine
  • The impact the number of cases has on student and staff attendance for an individual class, school or schools
  • There is the possibility that a school could be closed for several days to two weeks allow for contact tracing and quarantine
  • Any decision to close a classroom, a school or schools, or the entire district will be made in conjunction with the DPS Medical Advisor and the Director of the Darien Health Department


What is the purpose of wearing a face covering in school?

Face coverings may help prevent individuals who have COVID-19 from spreading it to others in public settings. The use of face coverings, in conjunction with other mitigating measures, such as hand washing, physical distancing, and cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, helps reduce the spread of infectious diseases, like COVID-19. Wearing face coverings are an effective way to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19 from individuals who are infectious, even when they do not have symptoms.

Who should wear a cloth face covering?

Currently, all individuals are required to wear a face mask when in the school building or when riding on a school bus. Masks do not need to be worn outdoors.

What if my child is unable to wear a mask?

Accommodations and other mitigating strategies may be implemented in the event a student or staff member has a circumstance that prohibits wearing a face covering. The need for additional measures will be evaluated on an individual basis. Plan to contact your building administrator (elementary) or guidance counselor (middle or high school) and school nurse to discuss your individual situation. A medical note may be required.

Who is expected to wear a mask? What about when eating or drinking? What about during physical education classes and recess?

All students (K-12) and staff are expected to wear a face covering at all times when in school, except when eating or drinking or when outside. Masks are also required for anyone riding a school bus.. Physical education activities will be modified, as feasible and students will be spaced by a minimum of 3 feet to allow for proper distancing while masked in school.

Preschool-aged children are required to wear a mask. The District will work with our youngest learners to build tolerance and endurance to wear face coverings while in the school building.

What is the best kind of face covering to wear in school?

There are many different types of face coverings ranging from respirator-style masks (N95) to simple, homemade cloth coverings. For school purposes, a multi-layer face covering or mask (at least two layers) is suggested for the school setting. The mask should not be too thick and an individual should be able to breath in and out comfortably. Try different kinds of face coverings to find one you and your child like the most. Successful mask wearing begins with comfort!

Please do not use N95 masks, which are critical for health care workers in a clinical setting. Masks with a "filter valve" can spread respiratory droplets and will not be permitted in the school setting

What about neck gaiters and bandanas?

Cloth face covering or surgical masks with ear loops are preferred over neck gaiters and bandanas. Neck gaiters and bandanas will be permitted and must be multi-layered. Neck gaiters should not be stretched to thin or tight over the nose and mouth. Bandanas must be secured snuggly at the chin.

What if my child feels like they cannot breathe while wearing the mask? What about the constantly breathing carbon dioxide (CO2)?

Becoming accustomed to wearing a face mask is much like wearing a seat belt in a car, or helmet to bike ride. It can be uncomfortable at first, but encouraging and expecting regular use will help the transition. Children will follow the lead and be reassured by the confidence of a trusted adult. Start practicing now to ease the transition when it's time to return to the school building. There is no evidence to support the concern that mask wearing causes low oxygen levels. Masks are designed to be breathed through and do not interfere with regular breathing. Keep in mind, the purpose of the face covering is to limit an individual's respiratory droplets from spreading into the air and possibly infecting others. There may be an added protective benefit to the wearer, as well. Any student with shortness of breath or demonstrating difficulty breathing, will be evaluated by the nurse in their building.

Will my child be excluded from school if I do not want my child to wear a mask?

Parents are free to choose whether or not they will require their children to wear masks outside of school. The wearing of masks in school buildings however, is a public health mandate implemented through an order enacted by the Commissioner of Public Health. The Darien Public Schools are obligated to enforce the mandate. Please reach out to your building administrator or the Director of Health and Nursing if there is need to discuss further.

What if my child cannot hear their teacher through the mask?

Sound teaching practices include a variety of strategies and frequent "student check-ins" to verify understanding. The district will continue to evaluate how mask wearing affects the teaching and learning process and make adjustments, as necessary, to ensure an effective learning environment. Please reach out to your child's teacher or building administrator if your child reports he/she is unable to hear instruction.

To learn more, please use the resources listed below:


Physical distancing, also referred to as social distancing, is a strategy used to separate individuals to lower the probability that a person either infects someone else or becomes infected by someone else.

Where feasible, a 6 foot distancing strategy will be implemented for faculty and staff.

For the classroom, students will be spaced by 3 feet and masked. Faculty and staff will have a 6 foot distance, as feasible, in classrooms and throughout the building.

I've noticed a lack of social distancing in the community, especially at parties and play dates. Why are you distancing students in school? What about the bus?

Physical distancing is an important strategy to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, where feasible. The Darien Public Schools Safe Return Plan maximizes physical distance, as feasible. We will continue to encourage all members of our community to practice proper distancing in all settings, not just while they are in school. Adhering to this practice will help decrease the spread of illness, which in turn, will keep our school doors open.

The number of students riding the school bus present several challenges for schools. Distancing will be maximized as possible and masks must be worn. Students are not permitted to eat or drink while on the bus.

Hand Hygiene

How often will children wash their hands?

Students at the elementary level will be encouraged to wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds upon school entry, before and after eating, after using the restroom and outdoor play, and anytime their hands are soiled.

Students at the middle and high school level will be encouraged to wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds frequently during the school day. Encouraging, healthy hands reminders will be accomplished through overhead announcements and signage placed throughout the building.

Touch-free hand sanitizer stations will also be placed throughout all school buildings.

We encourage families to work with their children to teach proper hand washing technique. There are many child-friendly YouTube videos to help teach this at home! We will continue modeling and teaching hand washing practices at school.

What if my student has a skin condition that requires a special soap?

Please contact your school's nurse to establish a plan to address your child's individualized needs.

What is the difference between using soap and water and hand sanitizer? Is one better than another?

Traditional hand washing using soap and water for at least 20 seconds cleans hands by removing visible and invisible debris from the hands. Hand washing is the most effective way to prevent the spread of disease and is superior to using hand sanitizer.

Hand sanitizer, with at least 60% alcohol, kills bacteria and viruses on the hands, but does not remove debris or protect a user from allergens, such as nut proteins. The use of hand sanitizer is effective in preventing the spread of disease and is an acceptable alternative to washing hands if soap and water is unavailable.


The safe arrival and departure of students is critical to COVID-19 containment and daily school operations. The District conducted a survey asking parents if they plan to opt-out of bus transportation to reduce ridership and support social distancing. Those parents who opt their student(s) out would find an alternate means of transportation for their children, but would have the ability to opt back into bus transportation upon request to the transportation department.

For families who are eligible and opt for bus transportation, buses will operate at near full capacity to start the school year with all students and drivers required to wear face masks while riding the bus. Each bus will be equipped with face masks should students not have one upon arrival. Face masks are to remain in place for the duration of the bus ride.


What is the best means of communicating with my child’s teacher or school?

At this time, the most reliable means of communication is email. However, you can also call the main office of your child’s school.


What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
  • Fever > 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius)
  • New and persistent cough, with or without shortness of breath
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Nasal congestion or runny nose
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Chills, fatigue and muscle aches
What will happen if a child in my daughter's class is diagnosed with COVID-19?

When a case of COVID-19 is reported to the school, the building level response team will follow the District Notification Plan and begin school-level contact tracing. This process will include verifying the diagnosis, consulting with the Darien Department of Health and DPS Medical Advisor. The school nurse and building administrator will examine all areas (in school and on buses) where close contact could have occurred in the 48 hours prior to the onset of the student's symptoms. Parents of unvaccinated students and staff members who are considered close contacts, will be notified by email message to begin a 7-day quarantine and symptom watch period at home. A negative COVID test obtained on post-exposure day 5 will be required to return to school after a full 7-day quarantine.

The email message will contain quarantine and testing instructions. Students will transition to an online learning format for the duration of quarantine. While at home during quarantine, should your child develop COVID-19 symptoms develop, please call your health care provider for evaluation and testing.

The District Level Response Team will consult with the District Medical Advisor and Director of the Darien Health Department about further building or district level actions and communications.

(This answer is subject to change based on anticipated guidance from the State Department of Health Department and State Department of Education)

How many cases of COVID-19 will force the schools to close? How long will schools be closed?

The decision to close a classroom, a school, or the entire school district will be made in close consultation with the District Medical Advisor and Director of the Darien Health Department, and state health and education officials. The District Level Response Team will be following regional (state and county), local (town) and hyper-local (individual school and classroom) data on a daily basis. A decision to close, and subsequently reopen schools, will be informed by considering the following metrics, however, a change in one metric may or may not force action for the district.

  • Full district, individual school and classroom absentee data (kept by nurses and shared with school medical advisory team daily)
  • Dismissal data
  • Local, county and state infection rates and 7-day averages
  • Regional hospitalization rates
If I keep my child home because they are not feeling well, or because the family needs to quarantine, do they need to be “sick” from school or can they participate in class activities remotely?

Unfortunately, children get sick. In fact, the average child can have 5-10 colds per year. We generally do not provide work when children are home due to illness. Allowing children the time to rest and recover is important. Students can catch up on school work when they are feeling better.

If a child is home due to quarantine and is still able to do school work, they can participate remotely in class activities for the days they are asked to remain home from school. In this instance, please do not call your child out “sick. This will ensure our attendance records are accurate and helps our School Nurses keep track of students not physically present.


How often will the school buildings be cleaned?

Clean facilities are a priority of the District. The custodial staff operates with three primary shifts 6am to 2:30pm, 11am to 7:30pm and 2pm to 10:30pm. Typical cleaning includes trash removal, vacuuming, mopping floors, bathroom cleaning and sanitizing, cleaning of windows, stairwells, and hallways (sweeping, mopping), cleaning and sanitizing of the cafeteria during lunch waves, and cleaning accessible classrooms.

What cleaning products will be used?

The District uses Enviro Solutions disinfectant, which is a no-rinse sanitizing disinfectant used in schools, hospitals, medical and dental offices. This solution will be used with increased frequency to help facilitate cleaner and safer facilities.

How are you managing the HVAC system and air filtration?

All HVAC systems will be serviced and new filters installed. These filters will have the highest MERV rating that the manufacturer recommends. MERV, or the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, measures and evaluates system efficiency. All classroom unit ventilators will be serviced with new filters installed with plans and capacity to run continuously. Additionally, restroom exhaust fans will run continuously, when school is in or out of session. This additional work will be done through funds earmarked in American Rescue Grant.

Staff are advised not to run floor or wall mounted fans to avoid horizontal air flow in alignment with guidance from the CDC and the CT DPH. Window air conditioners, however, will operate in fresh air mode to create a comfortable environment for students and staff. As a part of daily operations, all school days will begin with a two hour purge cycle of all mechanical ventilation systems. A second one hour purge cycle will follow at the end of each day.


Will there be interscholastic athletics this fall?

The Darien Public Schools will follow the guidelines set forth by the CIAC, the governing body in the state of Connecticut. The link here provides access to the The Connecticut Interscholastic Conference 2021 Fall Sports COVID-19 Guidance dated August 12, 2021


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