Health and Safety

Threshold for Closing School Buildings

Decisions regarding individual school building closures will be made in accordance with our COVID-19 protocols and with New York State guidance on restrictions in designated COVID-19 Zones. You can see if your school is currently in a State-designated Orange in Red Zone using the City’s COVID-19 Zone Finder.

Building Safety

  • Learn about the ways the DOE is ensuring our buildings are safe for students and staff on our Building Safety page.

COVID-19 Testing for Students and Staff 

Beginning in October 2020, we will also begin monthly random testing of students and staff in New York City school buildings. Please see the COVID-19 Testing for Students and Staff page to learn more.

Priority Testing Outside of School

To ensure the health and safety of all students, staff, and families, we are encouraging everyone coming into our school buildings to get tested for COVID-19. It’s safe, free, and easy for everyone regardless of immigration or insurance status, and your test results are confidential. To find a testing site nearest you, visit

DOE students in grades 3k through 12 receive priority testing at 22 Health and Hospital (H+H) testing sites. DOE students are not required to bring a student ID or proof of enrollment. Parents and guardians of students are encouraged to bring their insurance card, but with or without an insurance card, there is no cost for students to get tested. Please see the Priority Testing Outside of Schools page for a list of the 22 priority sites and additional details.

Cases in a School

If a student or teacher is feeling sick, they are required to stay home and, if their symptoms are consistent with COVID-19, are asked to get tested. If a student begins experiencing symptoms in school, they will be isolated and monitored by a dedicated staff member until they are picked up by their family. Staff members who become symptomatic at school are asked to immediately leave the building.

Whether symptoms begin at home or in school, there will be a clear flow of information to facilitate fast action and prevent spread. A positive confirmed case will trigger an investigation by NYC Test + Trace and DOHMH to determine close contacts within the school. Schools will communicate to all families and students at school once a case is laboratory confirmed.

The DOE is working in tight coordination with DOHMH and the Test + Trace Corps to identify, isolate, and prevent spread of COVID-19. In the event that there is a laboratory- confirmed case in a school, all students and teachers in that class are assumed close contacts and will be instructed to self-quarantine for 14 days since their last exposure to that case.

Additionally, the DOHMH and Test + Trace Corps will begin an investigation into the risk of exposure to the school community and work with the DOE to issue clear guidance and decisions for next steps based on the outcome.

These protocols center the health of our students and staff at the very core of this school year, while pursuing the resumption of in-person learning and educational services. The City will continue to closely monitor health conditions, and if community transmission begins to rise across the boroughs, a decision may be made to close all schools and switch to full-time remote learning.

For all scenarios outlined below, all post-investigation decisions on classroom quarantines or whether full school closure is required will be dependent on the specific facts of each investigation.

Conclusion of InvestigationDuring Investigation
(for at 24 hours)
After Investigation
One confirmed caseClose classroom,
transition to
remote learning
Classroom remains closed for 10 days; students and staff in close contact with positive case quarantine for 10 days
At least two cases linked together in school, same classroomClose classroom,
transition to
remote learning
Classroom remains closed for 10 days; students and staff in close contact with positive case quarantine for 10 days
At least two cases linked together in school, different classrooms Close classrooms, transition to remote learningClassrooms of each case remain closed and quarantined for 10 days

Additional school members are quarantined based on where the exposure was in the school (e.g., the locker room)

At least two cases linked to each other by circumstances outside of school

(e.g., acquired infection by a setting and/or source outside of the school)

Close classrooms, transition to remote learningClassrooms of each case remain closed and quarantined for 10 days
At least two cases, not linked to each other, but have exposure occurred for each outside of school setting Close school building,
transition to
remote learning
School opens after investigation; classrooms remain closed for 10 days
Link unable to be determined for any of the casesClose school building,
transition to
remote learning
Close school for 10 days

Whenever a student is quarantining at home, the expectation is that they continue engaging with learning remotely if they are feeling well enough. If a school is closed, the principal will communicate by 6pm on the night before about the status of opening the next morning, based on the status of the investigation. We will not reopen a school building without confirmation from public health experts that it is safe.

Nurses in Every School Building

Nursing coverage for schools serving Kindergarten through 12th grade is being provided through a NYC Health + Hospitals nursing contract for 400 full-time, onsite nurses. Nurses will be hired and in-place by the first day of school.

The over 2,000 early childhood care programs and new Learning Bridges childcare programs require two layers of nursing coverage. 100 contract nurses will be hired to provide geographic coverage, prioritizing the zip codes hardest hit by COVID-19, for early childhood and Learning Bridges childcare programs. Additionally, the Department of Education will contract with a tele-health nursing provider to make available a hotline accessible to all programs Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM. Program leaders, Family Child Care Network staff and home-based providers could call and consult with a nurse who would be specially trained to advise program leaders on COVID-19 and other medical questions and concerns.

Food Services

Students can’t learn if they aren’t nourished. Grab-and-go meals will be available for breakfast and lunch each day, though students will also be permitted to bring their own lunch if preferred. Doing so will allow for more flexibility so students and physical distancing can be maintained during lunch time, a time when many students usually gather in one location.

  • Lunch will be in classrooms to minimize interaction between groups of students. 
  • If the cafeteria must be used, schools should maintain appropriate physical distancing. 
  • Grab-and-go meals will be delivered to students in 3K to K classrooms, and pickup points within the school will be designated for grades 1-12.

Personal Health Measures

We must promote behaviors that reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Reopening_SocialDistancePhysical Distancing

All individuals in school buildings should remain at least 6 feet apart. We will work with schools to create conditions that make physical distancing possible.

Reopening_FaceCoveringFace Coverings

Face coverings will be required inside school buildings. Exceptions will be developmentally- and age-appropriate, consistent with guidance of health agencies, and paired with increased Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for staff. NYCDOE is procuring and distributing appropriate PPE for students and staff to use when inside school buildings.

Reopening_HandWashingHandwashing and Hand Sanitizing

There will be increased access and regular opportunities for students and staff to wash hands or use hand sanitizer throughout the day.

Reopening_StayHome_StandingFigureSignage and Floor Markings

Schools will have signage that upholds NYC Health’s Four Core Actions for Prevention.

Bridge to School Plan

 The health and safety of students, families, and caregivers remains a priority. The DOE’s Bridge to School plan provides guidance, resources, and activities to support wellness, community-building, and the resilience of our school staff and students.

The plan promotes new K-12 health and safety lessons specifically designed for schools to help students make informed decisions and adopt behaviors that prevent the spread of COVID-19. Two lessons for each grade level, for remote or in-person learning, cover: 

  • handwashing 
  • face coverings 
  • physical distancing 

As part of the City and the DOE’s focus on the social and emotional well-being of all our students during the reopening of schools, the Bridge to School plan is designed to help schools create a safe, supportive learning environment centered around addressing the trauma caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

While these lessons are designed to be taught by any teacher, students should continue to practice health and safety skills throughout the year as part of their comprehensive Health Education class (opens in new window)

Watch these videos highlighting the importance of face masks and handwashing: 

Face Masks: 


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