Too Sick for School

Keeping students’ home when they are too sick for school protects other students and staff from potential illness. If your student becomes ill at school, you will be called to take your student home. It is essential that your student's school has a phone number where you can be contacted during the day and an emergency number in the event you cannot be reached. Families can update their emergency contacts in Skyward Family Access throughout the year through the Student Info tab and request changes link.

Scroll down the page for information on non-COVID medical conditions which may require your student to stay home from school.

COVID-like symptoms

The best way to prevent the spread of a COVID-19 infection is to avoid exposure to others, especially if your student is showing symptoms of COVID-19. People who test positive for COVID-19 or those who have symptoms of COVID-19 and are awaiting test results should isolate at home away from others except to get medical care.

Students, children, and staff with new onset of respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms, such as cough, fever, sore throat, vomiting, or diarrhea, or other symptoms of COVID-19, should not attend school or childcare, should stay home, and get tested for COVID-19. Follow the DOH What to do if a Person is Symptomatic flowchart. 


Students or staff who test positive for COVID-19:
Isolate for at least five days after symptoms first appeared. Day 0 is the first day of symptoms.
Isolation can end after five full days if:

  • Symptoms are improving five days after the start of isolation, AND
  • No fever for 24 hours without use of fever reducing-medication
  • Positive COVID-19 test without symptoms: Isolate for at least five days after testing positive for COVID-19. Isolation can end after five full days if no symptoms develop. If symptoms develop after testing positive, the five-day isolation should start over. Follow the recommendations above for ending isolation if symptoms develop.

Individuals should continue to wear a well-fitting and high-quality mask for an additional five days (day 6 through day 10). If an individual is unable to wear a well-fitting and high-quality mask, they should continue to isolate for a full 10 days or follow the test-based strategy as listed below.

Individuals can further decrease their risk of infecting others by taking a test when they plan to leave isolation, no sooner than day six. They should only test if they are fever-free for 24 hours without using fever-reducing medication and other symptoms have improved. Loss of taste or smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and should not delay the end of isolation. When testing to potentially end isolation:

  • If the test is positive, the individual is likely still contagious. They should continue to isolate and wear a well-fitting and high-quality mask and wait 24-48 hours to test again. 
  • If the test is negative on two sequential tests each performed 24-48 hours apart, they can end isolation and stop wearing a mask before day 10.
  • If no additional testing is done, the individual should continue to wear a well-fitting and high-quality mask for days 6-10.

If continuing to test positive on repeat testing through 10 days, continue to wear a mask and avoid people who are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe disease until two sequential negative antigen test results are received. See the DOH guidance on What to do if you test positive for COVID-19 for more information about length of isolation and testing options to determine when to leave isolation and stop wearing a mask. Isolation and Quarantine Calculator.


Regardless of vaccination status, students, children and staff who are potentially exposed to COVID-19 should take the following steps as detailed in the DOH What to do if you were potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19 guidance:

  • Monitor for symptoms, AND
  • Test 3-5 days after exposure, AND
  • Wear a well-fitting and high-quality mask around others for 10 days after exposure.
    • If someone is less than two years of age or has a disability that prevents them from wearing a mask, other preventive actions (such as improving ventilation) should be used to avoid transmission during these 10 days.

If the exposed student, child, or staff member develops new symptoms, they should:

  • Immediately isolate at home, or where they currently reside, 
  • Get tested for COVID-19, and 
  • Follow the steps outlined in the COVID-like symptom guidance above.

Exposed students, children, and staff who do not develop symptoms or test positive may continue to participate in all in-person instruction and care, including sports, performing arts, and other extracurricular activities.

If the exposed individual tests positive, they should follow the DOH What to do if you test positive for COVID-19 guidance.

Additional non-COVID too sick for school symptoms

There are other medical conditions besides COVID-19 which may require your student to stay home from school. If your student has any of the following symptoms, please keep them home and contact their school.

  • Appearance, behavior – A child who appears severely ill, which may include lethargy, persistent crying, difficulty breathing, or a significant change in behavior or activity level indicative of illness.
  • Eyes – white or yellow drainage, vision change, and/or redness of the eyelid or skin around the eye, itchiness, pain, or sensitivity to light.  This may be a sign of “pink eye” (conjunctivitis) which needs a medical evaluation. Following a diagnosis of conjunctivitis, the student may return to school 24 hours after receiving the first dose of prescribed medication. Students can remain in school if there is only minimal redness to the white of the eye and no other signs.
  • Fever – temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Student needs to be fever free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine such as Tylenol or Motrin before returning to school. Giving a fever reducing medication just before returning to school does not make a student well. It may only mask the fever until the medication wears off. In this situation, a student needs to be home, so others are not exposed to illness.
  • Ear pain with fever – untreated ear infections may cause permanent hearing loss. Consult with the student’s health care provider.
  • Persistent nasal drainage and/or chronic cough – may need to be seen by a health care provider. A student with thick or constant nasal discharge should remain home. Very few younger children can effectively blow their noses and wash their hands afterward. A child with the above symptoms will quickly spread the illness to other children.
  • Sore throat – especially with fever or swollen glands in the neck. A student with a confirmed diagnosis of strep throat may return to school after 24 hours of appropriate antibiotic treatment. They must also be fever free for the past 24 hours without use of fever-reducing medications.
  • Diarrhea – more than one watery stool in a 24-hour period, especially if the student acts or looks ill. A student with diarrhea should stay home and return to school only after being symptom free for 24 hours.
  • Vomiting – A student with vomiting should not return to school for 24 hours following the last episode of vomiting.  
  • Rash – body rash, especially with fever or itching. Common infectious diseases with rashes are most contagious in the early stages. A child with a suspicious rash should return to school only after a health care provider has made a diagnosis and authorized the student's return to school. Exceptions are rashes due to heat, diapers, and allergic reactions which are not spread to others.
  • Open sores or wounds – discharging bodily fluids that cannot be adequately covered with a waterproof dressing or mouth sores with drooling. Consult with the student’s health care provider.

  • Lice, Ringworm or Scabies – Individuals with head lice, ringworm or scabies must be excluded from the childcare premises beginning from the end of the day the head lice, ringworm or scabies was discovered. The provider may allow an individual with head lice, ringworm or scabies to return to the premises after receiving the first treatment

  • Chickenpox – Students are infectious 1-2 days before the rash appears and until the blisters (sores) are dry and crusted. This is usually 5‐6 days after the rash appears. Students need to stay home until all lesions have crusted over and there are no new lesions in 24 hours. If your child has chickenpox, alert the school nurse.

Contact your medical provider if your student is experiencing any other symptoms that are concerning to you.

A sick student cannot learn effectively and is unable to participate in classes in a meaningful way. Keeping a sick student home and encouraging frequent handwashing allows the student the opportunity to rest and recover and prevents the spread of illness in the school community.

Updated 7/17/23.