FAQs for Families

The following answers to questions on
Health & Safety were prepared last school year. Please see the 2021-2022 plan for UPDATED ANSWERS TO HEALTH FAQS and the most recent COVID PROTOCOLS FOR ISOLATION AND QUARANTINE.

Additional FAQs covering
Building Maintenance, Teaching and Learning Models, Student and Family Supports, Afterschool ProgramsTransportationNutrition Services and Remote Start to the School Year are available at the links provided here and are being updated regularly. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) also provides a very useful FAQ. See DESE FAQ.

Health & Safety

Q: “What is COVID-19 and how is it spread?”

A:  Coronavirus, or COVID-19 is a new respiratory virus, not previously seen in humans.  The severity of illness ranges from mild to severe, and is primarily spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, or a person comes in contact with a surface that has the virus on it and then touches their nose/mouth/eyes.

Q: “What are the symptoms of COVID-19?”

A:  Symptoms include:  Fever over 100℉ orally and/or chills, cough, shortness of breath and/or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache (in combination with other symptoms), new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, nasal congestion or runny nose (in combination with other symptoms), nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.

Q: "Where can I get a COVID-19 test?"

A:  This link provides information about testing, including this interactive map which is a test site locator.

Q: "Can you tell me more about the different types of COVID-19 tests that are available?"

A:  Below is some information on the different types of COVD-19 tests that are available.



Molecular Test

Antigen Test

Also known as...

PCR test, Diagnostic test, viral test, molecular test, nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT), RT-PCR test, LAMP test

Rapid diagnostic test

How the sample is taken...

Nasal or throat swab(most tests) Saliva (few tests)

Nasal or throat swab

How long it takes to get results...

Varies 1- 2 days on average.  Tests can be rapid, but this is not as common.

One hour or less

Is another test needed...

Typically accurate and usually no need to be repeated

Antigen tests are less accurate than molecular tests and should be confirmed with a molecular test within 2 days.  If an antigen test is positive, and a molecular test is performed within 2 days and is negative, the molecular test would supersede the antigen test which would be considered to be a false positive.  If no PCR test is done within 2 days of an antigen test, and the antigen test is positive, the individual will be considered to be positive for COVID-19

What it shows...

Diagnoses active coronavirus infection

Diagnoses active coronavirus infection

What it can’t do...

Show if you ever had or were infected with coronavirus in the past

Definitively rule out an active coronavirus infection. More likely to miss an active coronavirus infection compared to molecular tests

Per the Massachusetts Department of Public Health a molecular diagnostic test to detect the presence of the virus by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or other nucleic acid amplification methodology is the gold standard and is the preferred test type. A second method to detect the presence of viral proteins is a diagnostic antigen test. Although these newer diagnostic antigen tests are faster to run, they are less sensitive and less specific and antigen test results should be confirmed by a PCR molecular test.  If a molecular test is not done within two days of the antigen test, the results of the antigen test will be followed.

Q: "If I want to get a COVID test within 72 hours of returning to Massachusetts after traveling to a non-exempt state, does it matter which test I get?"

A:  Yes. You must get a PCR/molecular COVID-19 test. If you took a test prior to your arrival but have not received your negative result, you MUST quarantine until you receive the negative result. You may also obtain a test after your arrival in Massachusetts, but you must quarantine until you obtain a negative PCR/molecular COVID-19 test result. Serology tests will not be accepted. See this website for more information.

Q: "If my family travels out of state during vacation, what are the rules about returning to school?"

A: Individuals who leave Massachusetts for greater than 24 hours should follow the Massachusetts Travel Advisory.

Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated Individuals:

If you travel in the United States, you do not need to get tested before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel.

If you travel to an international destination outside the United States

-    You should still get tested 3-5 days after international travel.

-    You do NOT need to self-quarantine after arriving in the United States.

Recommendations for Unvaccinated People:

After you travel, get tested with a viral test 3 to 5 days after travel AND stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel.

-    Even if you test negative, stay home and self-quarantine for the full 7 days.

-    If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.

If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.

Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, whether you get tested or not.

Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.

Follow all state and local recommendations or requirements.

Q: “Are you requiring students and staff to be tested for COVID-19 prior to beginning school this fall?”

A:  No - we are not requiring testing prior to returning to in-person school.

Q: “What things can I do to prepare my child for school?”

A:  Students should practice the following skills at home before the start of school:

      Mask application and removal

      Proper storage of their mask when not in use during a break and/or eating

      The importance of not touching their nose/mouth/eyes

      Proper disposal of their mask

      Hand washing

      Social/physical distancing of 6 feet

      Not to share food/drinks/cups

      Cough/Sneeze hygiene

      Not socializing with students who are not in their cohorts outside of school

    Parents/Guardians should:

      Ensure there is a working thermometer at home

      Ensure that your child’s immunizations/physical examinations are up to date (Please note that there is a new Massachusetts requirement for all students in grades PK-12 to receive the influenza vaccine (flu shot) before December 31, 2020.)

      Purchase a reusable water bottle

      Check with your child’s healthcare provider to substitute any aerosolized medications

      Secure your emergency contacts (at least 4) who are able to pick your child up promptly in case of illness

Q: “What supplies will my child need from home for school each day?”

A:  Please send your child with the following supplies each day:

      Labeled water bottle (water fountains will be turned off to minimize exposure)

      Two face masks, in case one becomes soiled during the school day; masks should be clearly labeled with your child’s name/initials and cloth face coverings should be laundered each day; plus Brown Paper Bag labeled with your child's name for mask breaks

      Change of seasonal appropriate clothing

Q: “Why does my child have to wear a face mask?”

A:  Face masks are an important measure to take to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and are effective, especially when used in combination with social distancing and proper hand washing.  Some people are infected with COVID-19 and don’t have symptoms (asymptomatic); face masks help reduce the spread by containing the infected person’s respiratory droplets from traveling to other people.

Q: “Is there a specific kind of face mask that my child should have?”

A:  There are no specific brands of face masks that are recommended; the important factors are to find face masks that fit your student properly (covering the nose and mouth), and are comfortable so that your child is more likely to keep one on. Cloth face masks should have multiple layers (2-3) for the best protection. Face masks that have an exhalation valve, gaiters and/or bandanas are prohibited.

Q: “Can my child wear a face shield instead of a face mask?”

A:  No. Face shields alone do not provide the same level of protection, so a face mask must be worn in addition to the face shield.  

Q: "Will NPS have face shield for students and teachers?"
A:  The Needham Public Schools will provide face shields and a reusable face mask to all teachers, as well as other types of PPE (such as gloves and gowns) for those staff in close physical contact with students. Parents are asked to provide face masks for students, although the School Department will have a supply of extra replacement masks available for staff and students in need.

Q: “What if my child can’t wear a face mask?”

A:  All students in grades Preschool to 12 are required to wear a face mask. If your student is unable to wear a face mask due to disability or safety concerns, please contact your child’s school nurse. 

Q:  "Does Needham Public Schools have a policy re: face masks/coverings?"

A:   On September 1, the School Committee approved the following policy.

Q: “What should we do at home before my child goes to school each day?”

A:  Please perform a symptoms check on your student each day before your child leaves for school.  This includes taking your child’s temperature, and checking to see if your student has any of the symptoms of COVID-19 as listed above.  If any symptoms and/or fever are noted, please keep your child home, and notify your student’s school nurse and healthcare provider.

Q: “My child sometimes needs a nebulizer treatment; can I bring one in if it’s needed at school?”

A:  Due to the potential increased risk of transmission of COVID-19 with the use of nebulizers, school nurses will not be able to administer nebulizer treatments at school.  The use of a multi-dose inhaler (MDI) with a spacer is a safer and effective alternative when used correctly.  Please work with your child’s healthcare provider in order to obtain a MDI if needed.

Q: “Why is it important for my child to avoid socializing with friends who are in other cohorts?”

A:  The purpose of cohorting is to limit the potential exposure and spread of coronavirus by keeping groups of students as small as possible and lowering the risk of wide-spread transmission.  Cohorting also makes it easier to identify close contacts and do contact tracing if a case is confirmed within the cohort. 

Q: “What should I do if my child is experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19?”

A:  If your child is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, please keep your child home from school and call their healthcare provider to be referred for a COVID-19 test, and/or further evaluation.  If your child has symptoms that are suspicious of COVID-19, they should remain home until they receive the results of their test.  If positive, the Needham Public Health Department and/or school nurse will follow up with more instructions for isolation.

Q: “What happens if a student/staff member becomes ill at school (or is home sick with) symptoms that are suspicious of COVID-19?”

A:  If a student becomes ill at school with symptoms that are suspicious of COVID-19, the student will be brought to a designated isolation area/medical waiting room and will be assessed by the school nurse.  If the nurse determines that the student has symptoms that are suspicious of COVID-19, the parent/guardian will be called for dismissal, and will be asked to pick up their child within 45 minutes.  Instructions will be provided re: referral to their healthcare provider for testing, and the student will be asked to isolate at home until their test results are available. We will follow up according to the result.

If a staff member becomes ill at school, he/she/they will notify their supervisor and will be instructed to leave the building immediately and follow up with their healthcare provider for testing and further evaluation.

Q: “If there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the Needham schools in the coming year, how will this be handled?”

A:  If a case is diagnosed at school, contact tracing will be implemented to identify that individual's close contacts. Those close contacts will be notified, either by the Needham Public Health Department, Contact Tracing Collaborative, or the school nurses, who will let them know that they have been identified as close contacts of someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19. Close contacts will need to quarantine at home for 14 days, and will be asked to call their healthcare provider to be tested.

Q: “How will you identify which children have been exposed?” 

A:  The Needham Public Health Department and/or school nurses will work with the individual who was diagnosed with COVID-19 to identify their close contacts and will do contact tracing and notify the families of those children who were exposed. It is very important to answer the call so that we can minimize the spread of COVID-19. 

Q: “How will Needham Public Schools contact families of children who have been exposed?” 

A:  The Needham Public Health Department and Needham’s Director of School Health Services will be in regular communication to exchange information on new cases. Our Director of School Health Services will work with school nurses and the Needham Public Health Department to contact families of those students who are identified as close contacts, and will provide those families with information on quarantine/testing guidelines.

Q: “If my child is diagnosed with COVID-19, will his/her/their privacy be maintained?”

A:  Yes.  Your child’s name will not be revealed if diagnosed with COVID-19.  Close contacts will be notified and told that they have been exposed to someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, and will be provided with information about quarantine and given further instructions.  No personal identification will be given to others.

Q: “What is the protocol for children who have been exposed to return to school?”

A:  The Needham Public Schools will follow the guidelines issued by the Needham Public Health Department for students and staff who have been exposed to COVID-19. These guidelines are: 

      Students/staff who are identified as close contacts will need to remain home for 14 days and quarantine, and should call their healthcare provider to get tested. 

      If the test is negative, the student/staff/family should monitor their health over those 14 days, and if they develop symptoms, they should be tested, or retested (if already had a negative test).  If all tests are negative, and the student or staff member does not develop symptoms within those 14 days, we will follow up with them for return to school. Even if a close contact has a negative test in quarantine, they still need to remain home for 14 days during that period of incubation.

      If the student/staff ends up testing positive, they become a confirmed case, and will need to isolate for 10 days AND be fever free for 24 hours AND have improvement of symptoms from the date of the positive test, or date of onset of symptoms.   If the individual continues with a fever and/or symptoms beyond the 10 days, the period of isolation will continue until symptoms/fever resolve for 24 hours off of fever reducing medications.  The Needham Public Health Department will follow up to determine when the period of isolation is concluded.

      **Please note that these guidelines are subject to change according to updated data that we receive from CDC, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Needham Public Health Department

Q: “If my child becomes sick at school, why do I have to pick him/her/them up within 45 minutes?”

A:  If a student is assessed and found to have symptoms that are suspicious of COVID-19, it is very important to have your child picked up in the 45-minute timeframe so that other students and staff aren’t exposed, and potential spread can be contained.  In addition, ill students will be monitored in a designated isolation room, and that room will need to be cleaned thoroughly and made available for other students. 

Q: “How can I plan for my child to be picked up when ill?”

A:  You will receive an Emergency Card on the first day of school.  It is very important that you fill it out completely, and we appreciate you listing all numbers that you can be reached at, as well as providing 4 emergency contacts who would be available and able to pick your child up within the 45 minute timeframe.

Q: “Why is it important for me to call my student’s school nurse when they are home sick?”

A:  Communication with your child’s school nurse(s) about your student’s illness is very important so that nurses can track illnesses in the school and community, maximize the health and safety of all students and staff, and provide you with updated information.  

Additional FAQs covering 
Building MaintenanceTeaching and Learning ModelsStudent and Family SupportsAfterschool ProgramsTransportation, and Nutrition Services are available at the links provided and are being updated regularly. 

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