The guidance in the toolkit will be adjusted over the coming weeks based on feedback and the evolving situation with COVID-19.
You are here
Encourage Safe Physical Distancing During Activities and Limit Sharing
In general, it is important to reinforce both social distancing (encouraging space between students) and cohort limiting (ensuring that the same group of students remain together). Both of these practices are important steps to take to further reduce the spread of COVID-19. The information below focuses on frequently accessed areas of a school campus by students, educators, and families. This guidance may change over time as the epidemiological data changes. Please check back for updates.
We acknowledge that all of these guidelines may not be met with 100% consistency at all times. We encourage schools and districts to follow these guidelines to the best of their abilities and whenever feasible.
Jump to a Section:
For students who get to school on a bus or through other district provided transportation, processes and protocols need to be established to ensure the health and safety through this portion of a student's day:
If screening is part of a school's disease control strategy (as is recommended here (PDF)), using the Continuum of Screening graphic above, buses should provide clearly visible signage to communicate the symptoms students should not have if travelling on a bus.
- Screening at bus stops is not recommended for several reasons. Notably, this will extend the bus stop time, thus causing issues with other vehicles, which may lead to increased number of stop arm violations and the associated safety concerns. Additionally, if a child is screened and found to have symptoms, there may not be a safe course of action available at a bus stop. The child cannot be effectively isolated from other students on the bus. If the child’s parent is not present at the bus stop, the child cannot safely be sent home. Instead screening at home is recommended, and students unable to complete screening prior to arrival at school will undergo screening at the school site.
- Executive Order D 2021 056 Mask Order , expires 30 days from March 5, 2021
- Drivers (staff) wear medical or non-medical cloth face coverings that cover the nose and mouth while working, except where doing so would inhibit that individual's health.
- Given the extraordinary circumstances associated with the COVID-19 outbreak, the CDC has recommended that buses provide clearly visible signage to communicate the symptoms students should not have if traveling on a bus. These are recommendations, not requirements. If indeed a school district, charter school, or service provider determines that they wish to provide this signage 1 CCR 301-25 (PDF), rule 26.08 outlines the requirements that must be met. Additionally, CDE has issued guidance with pre-approval for COVID-related signage as long as it is in the specified locations and meets all other requirements of the rule to this rule. This guidance is located at: http://www.cde.state.co.us/safeschools/policyguidancefromcde#transportation
- PRE-APPROVAL OF COVID-19 SCHOOL TRANSPORTATION SIGNAGE
- Assign seating to help track virus spread if a student or staff tests positive for COVID-19.
- If it is not feasible to physically distance on a bus, all students must wear cloth face coverings, unless the student has a health reason for not wearing a mask or if a child is unable to wear a mask safely without supervision.
- If physical distancing is feasible, encourage cloth face coverings over the nose and mouth for students up to age 10 years, and require cloth face coverings over the nose and mouth for students age 11 years and older, unless the student has a health reason for not wearing a face covering.
- Additional bus transit operator protections.
- Executive Order D 2020-067 I. - Drivers (staff) wear a mask/face covering.
- Request passengers avoid sitting within 6 feet of the bus driver.
- Consider assigned seating to help track virus spread if a student or staff tests positive for COVID-19.
- Load the bus from the back forward to allow the greatest distance from the driver for the longest period of time.
- Avoid touching surfaces often touched by bus passengers.
- Use gloves if required to touch surfaces contaminated by body fluids.
- Practice routine cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces, including surfaces in the driver cockpit commonly touched by the operator.
- Proper hand hygiene is an important infection control measure. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
- Key times to clean hands in general include:
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating food
- After using the toilet
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- Additional times to clean hands on the job include:
- Before and after work shifts
- Before and after work breaks
- After touching frequently touched surfaces, such as fareboxes and handrails
- After putting on, touching, or removing cloth face coverings
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
- As feasible, increase ventilation and times between groups.
- Checklist to clean rails, seats, windows, seat belts, and mop floor after every route. The CDC recommends that school buses be cleaned and disinfected according to their guidance for other bus and transit operators.
- Plan for additional routes, or divide up existing routes into smaller/shorter routes.
- Consider a communication plan to students and families that includes physical distancing while at bus stops.
- CDPHE is in the process of finalizing bus screening protocols, including parent/guardians certifying that their children are not exhibiting signs of COVID-19.
- Consider increased frequency of cleaning for buses with medically fragile or high needs special education children and their seating equipment.
- If a district needs to cut back or remove bus services, think about ways to support families who do not have access to alternative transportation or conflicts with work schedules.
- ESSER and CRF funds can be used to provide personal protective equipment for bus drivers as well as students, if needed, in addition to the masks being provided by the governor.
With many students in and out of the lunch room throughout the day, and students historically sitting very close to each other eating and talking, adjustments will need to be made.
- Per 6 CCR 1010-2, sanitize cookware, plates, cups, cutlery and food preparation, service regularly and plan for distribution that minimizes handling.
- Limit unnecessary staff and visitors in food service areas.
- Sanitize cookware, plates, cups, cutlery and food preparation, service regularly and plan for distribution that minimizes handling.
- Sanitize table surfaces between eating shifts.
- Grid off sections for common spaces and lunch areas to help students separate.
- Remove self-service, including salad bars, buffet lines, and family style service.
- Consider using disposable/compostable plates, cups, cutlery, condiment packets, etc.
- Consider closing cafeterias, if possible; otherwise stagger use and disinfect in between use.
- Consider providing lunch inside classrooms instead of the cafeteria.
Students are in classrooms for extended periods of time with each other, sharing the same air and smaller spaces. To minimize the spread of illness, the following adjustments may be helpful.
- Effective March 24, 2021 and expires 30 days, PHO 20-36 COVID-19 Dial - Pre-kindergarten through 12th grade public and private schools for the purpose of providing meals, housing, facilitating or providing materials for distance learning, and in consultation with the local public health agency providing in person learning as necessary, or other essential services to students as determined by the school or school district in consultation with the local public health agency. Such institutions are required to work with state and local public health officials and follow case and outbreak guidance for schools when cases of COVID-19 are suspected or confirmed in students or staff to determine transmission mitigation strategies, isolation, quarantine and shifting to remote learning. Maintain 6 feet of distance between students and staff, to the extent possible.
- Limit the number of people in a classroom at a time as well as the number of people in and out of the space during the day.
- Cohort: keep the same students and teachers in the same small group at all times during the school day. Ideally, changes in cohorts are timed to align with school semesters or trimesters after lengthy breaks, but even shorter blocks of time, such as two weeks, can be effective. Cohorting helps limit the number of contacts each individual has. As a result, if quarantines or dismissals are needed, they may affect fewer people, resulting in fewer disruptions to in-person learning. Students may be in multiple cohorts (for example, bus ride to school, after-school sports, classroom).
- Increase airflow in the classroom as much as possible.
- Keep each child's belongings separated from others' and in individually labeled containers, cubbies, or areas.
- Provide adequate supplies to minimize sharing of high touch materials to the extent possible (art supplies, equipment, etc) or limit use of supplies and equipment by one group of children at a time and clean and disinfect between use.
- Use signage and markings to establish safe distancing.
- "Normal" classroom routines, such as morning meetings, small groups or pair work may need to be adjusted to ensure physical distancing between students, as feasible.
- Consider assigned seating to help track virus spread if a student or staff tests positive for COVID-19.
- Consider arranging desks to face the same direction, or sit students on one side of the table, spaced apart.
- Consider adding temporary hand washing stations to classrooms or areas where sinks are not available.
- Remind students not to pass phones to each other, as this is a way to spread illness, and make sure they frequently disinfect their phones.
- Schools in smaller buildings may find it difficult to maintain physical distancing. If possible, consider alternative locations for classrooms in the community.
- Outdoor learning is a great option, whenever possible.
Arrival and departure are times when traditionally a large number of students and their caregivers are gathered in close proximity to each other. During this time, different protocols need to be put into place to diminish the risks of spreading illness and screen for any potentially contagious individuals.
Stagger arrival and drop-off times or locations or put in place other protocols to safely distance parents as much as possible and diminish the number of students trying to enter a building at the same time.
Students unable to complete screening prior to arrival will undergo screening on site. Maximize privacy and minimize exposure to others during onsite screenings.
- Schools may conduct additional symptom evaluation for students and staff who were unable to complete screening before arrival to school, appear ill, or complain of symptoms of COVID-19.
- Consider establishing drop off lines in relation to screening stations.
- Station 1 - remain in car for symptom screening
- Station 2 - remain in car for temperature screening
- Consider separate screener stations for students on buses, walkers/bikers and staff.
- Use signage and markings to establish safe distancing.
- Some students may be dropped off at campus long prior to their scheduled class start time. Consider how to accommodate them safely including supervision of an outdoor space.
- The Colorado Department of Public Safety has released emergency drill information in the COLORADO PUBLIC & CHARTER SCHOOL FIRE & EVACUATION DRILL GUIDANCE 2020 – 2021 SCHOOL YEAR.
Fire Drill Requirements
- The first drill of the school year must be conducted within 10-days of the beginning of classes. In order to ensure that all students, teachers, and staff are familiarized with the updated procedures in the COVID-19 environment, all class cohort rotations must conduct a drill within this timeframe.
- Must conduct at least one physical evacuation drill each month. If a drill is not conducted on a particular class cohort rotation for the month, an in-service or other training shall be provided to students, teachers, and staff associated with that rotation to ensure all are being refreshed on drill process and procedure each month. No class cohort rotation shall go more than 60-days without participating in a physical evacuation drill.
- Participation must include all occupants.
- Shall be conducted at unexpected times and during varying conditions.
- If the school has a fire alarm system, the drill must be initiated by activation of the fire alarm system.
- False alarms of the fire alarm system may not be substituted for a required evacuation drill.
Bus Evacuation Drill Requirements
- Per 1 CCR 301-26, rule 18.02, emergency evacuation instructions prior to departure for students on school related events is required.
- Scheduling additional time to conduct each drill.
- Practicing evacuation in a slower, more methodical process, while emphasizing appropriate personal physical distance. Wearing masks may be appropriate if concern of infection is elevated.
- Staging wash/sanitizing stations at safe locations and directing students to wash/sanitize hands prior to returning to rooms. Ensure social distancing measures so students do not gather around stations.
- Recording (with video) drills conducted by staff and emergency services using limited number of actors and utilizing video to educate students in procedures.
- Explaining procedures to students and staff with visual aids.
- Sequencing the release of classrooms in an effort to reduce the number of individuals evacuating at any given time. This may be accomplished through the utilization of available means of communication, evacuation procedures developed in collaboration with the Fire Code Official, or a combination of both.
- Closely monitoring more points along evacuation routes to limit congestion.
- Pointing out common staging areas for emergency response vehicles and explaining possible avenues of approach.
- Expanding rally points to accommodate distancing and staging handwash/sanitizing stations. Directing students to wash/sanitize hands prior to returning to rooms.
- Providing in-services or videos that outline the updated procedures and changes from pre-COVID-19 response as a supplement to the physical evacuation drills.
- Working with the Fire Code Official, identify other potential mechanisms to avoid congestion and “crossing paths.”
Active Shooter/Dangerous Intruder Lockdown Drills
- Increasing number of table-top exercises with staff to ensure procedures are understood.
- Conducting more frequent small drills with smaller groups of students/staff.
- Practicing procedures to move small groups to safe locations (if applicable) while emphasizing appropriate personal physical distance. Wearing masks may be appropriate if concern of infection is elevated.
- Walking through evacuation procedure with small groups. Wearing masks may be appropriate if concern of infection is elevated.
- Explaining procedures during local siren tests.
- Clearly announcing the drill and practicing it in a slower, methodical process while emphasizing appropriate personal physical distance. Wearing masks may be appropriate if concern of infection is elevated.
- Moving students to the shelter location one classroom or group at a time.
- Identifying “one-way” avenues or hallways to reduce congestion and “crossing paths.”
- Applying clear signage to identify shelter locations and pointing out signage on a regular basis.
Bus Evacuation Drills
- Practicing evacuations with a handful of passengers and rotating participants.
- Conducting procedures in a secure parking lot to ensure room for physical distancing.
- Providing sanitizing products for passengers and direct youth to sanitize hands during pre-determined points of the procedures.
- Consideration should be given to conducting front door evacuation drills and also providing instruction for evacuations conducted via all remaining emergency exits.
- Additional/Other Drills
- A number of other drills may be performed and can be practiced in the COVID-19 environment with the same considerations. Simply allowing students to exercise social distancing during a drill is acceptable as long as they understand the need to react with urgency in an actual emergency, thus requiring extensive vocal reinforcement during any exercise. Working with local emergency services is encouraged to provide insight from practitioners
School Sponsored Sports PHO 20-36 COVID-19 Dial- Effective March 24, 2021, and will expire 30 days.
- High School Sports that do not follow the personal recreation guidance in Appendix J, and are operating under the auspices of the Colorado High School Athletic Association (CHSAA), may resume practices and games after CHSAA submits plans to CDPHE that detail their disease prevention and mitigation strategies and receives approval.
Eliminating or Greatly Restricting Extracurricular Activities:
While extracurricular activities have value for participants, they are not integral to the core educational mission of schools, and should not be prioritized at the expense of in-person learning, the health of school community members, and transmission of COVID-19 in the wider Colorado community.
Schools should recognize the additional risk posed by extracurricular activities, whether these activities are directly affiliated with schools or not. Even if conducted with optimal risk reduction measures in place, extracurricular activities present another venue in which COVID-19 transmission may occur. Further, schools may have less control of risk reduction measures in these activities. Large outbreaks associated with sports teams have resulted in the suspension of in-person learning for entire school districts in Colorado.
Physical Education during COVID-19
Physical Education supports the well-being of students, and the school community. These factors contribute to the physical, mental, and emotional safety of our children. This information is intended to support schools and districts as they make local decisions in regard to physical education in response to COVID-19. Districts may choose to share their plans with their local public health agency or the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) for feedback.
Because no single tactic can completely eliminate the risk of disease transmission, those listed below are intended to work together. The contexts of physical education are specific to the local school/district community and grade level, requiring that school leaders develop a plan specific to their local circumstance.
- Select an available location where there is enough space for physical distancing guidelines of 6+ feet apart.
- Ideally, select an outdoor location for instruction if available and conditions (e.g., safety, weather, air quality, etc.) allow and avoid the use of playground equipment, benches, or other permanent structures.
- If indoors, consider using fans in combination with opening windows and doors when indoors to increase ventilation. See additional: Ventilation and HVAC System Guidance
- Do not use locker rooms or require students to change clothes for physical education.
- Whether indoor or outdoor, students and staff should maintain physical distancing of at least 6+ feet apart.
- If the instructional space does not accommodate for physical distancing with a full class, the number of students should be appropriately adjusted to allow for everyone to be 6+ feet apart (e.g. cohorts, staggered scheduling, etc.).
Students and staff should properly wash and/or sanitize hands as they enter and exit class.
Students and staff should engage in appropriate and consistent use of cloth face coverings or masks, especially when indoors, for all individuals aged 3 and over who are able to wear a mask safely. Younger children should be encouraged to wear ear-loop style masks during physical activity to avoid strangulation risk. There is a state public health order that individuals 11 and over are to wear a mask/cloth face covering.
Equipment Safety, Sanitation, & Disinfection
- Avoid sharing or passing of equipment among students in physical education.
- Distribute equipment in a way to avoid student crowding, such as spreading it around the activity perimeter.
- Avoid using any cloth or porous equipment or materials, if they cannot be properly cleaned and disinfected.
- All equipment that is touched by students and staff should be properly cleaned with soap and water and disinfected using an EPA-approved disinfectant with the school-specific equipment manufacturer and follows CDC Cleaning and Disinfecting guidance.
- Focus on individual activities rather than team-based activities.
- Select activities that require no physical contact or close proximity to one another.
- Practice routines with students to ensure proper entry/exit equipment. usage/cleaning/gathering/returning, and movement protocols in the learning space.
- Allow for enough transition time between groups of students to clean and disinfect highly touched surfaces/areas and/or equipment that was used.
- Provide remote/hybrid instruction to certain classes (e.g., teach in-person for one-to-two classes, and provide remote instruction for others).
- When teaching indoors when ventilation may be poor, focus on strength or flexibility rather than cardiovascular training to decrease aerosol generation.
- Consider incorporating visual markings (e.g., cones, poly spots, floor tape) and signage (arrows, rules, etc.) to assist students with maintaining physical distance of 6+ feet and keeping directional flow.
- Consider consulting with the school nurse or COVID-19 team on proper protocols for students wearing face coverings during moderate-to-vigorous physical activities, particularly for those with chronic health conditions.
- Consider using proper equipment, assigning students their own equipment to be used for the entire class period and clean/disinfect between class periods and keep extra materials available if equipment becomes dirty or unsanitary during the lesson.
- Consider establishing equipment collection routines, including clean and dirty collection bins, which then must also be cleaned and a place for cleaned and sanitized equipment .
- Consider rotating equipment so that every other class uses it, providing time for cleaning and drying of equipment.
- Consider assigning equipment to specific cohorts.
- Collect used equipment in a specific, marked bin or area of the teaching space until it can be disinfected.
- Consider adding more frequent breaks and adjust the intensity of activity for students, particularly those with chronic conditions.
- Consider using a microphone to speak, as the face covering may make it difficult to hear.
- Consult with your school/district nurse to determine how to further make the instructional environment safe and supportive for those with chronic health conditions.
CDPHE has released graduation guidance - COVID-19 Graduation Guidance Spring 2021
At times, during the school day, and especially in secondary schools, hallways may be very crowded with lots of students very close together. This is a prime environment for the spread of illness.
- Consider establishing one-way hallways to reduce contact with others.
- Consider physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks and signs on walls, to ensure that staff and children remain at least six feet apart in lines and at other times (i.e., guides for creating “one way routes” in hallways).
- Consider keeping students in class and rotating teachers instead.
- Consider staggering passing periods by cohorts in grade level or by class if students must move to classes.
- Identify an isolated health room/area for students and staff exhibiting COVID-19 signs and symptoms.
- Contact parents/guardians using your district/school parent/guardian contact procedures.
- CDPHE does not require or recommend disinfecting books in school libraries or other settings, although good hand hygiene is recommended. If possible consider keeping books within cohorts.
- A 72 hour period between book use, may be the best option and practice for school settings.
- 6-foot between-student spacing reduces disease transmission risk and should be preferred.
- Teachers and other adult staff should make the greatest effort to adhere to 6-foot distancing, as their risk and disease transmission potential is higher than students.
- It is recommended that schools eliminate the use of locker rooms and the requirement that students must change into a physical education uniform for participation in physical education. Instead of using lockers, consider keeping each student’s belongings in a separate, safe and clean space, such as baskets to hold individual student belongings if lockers are not available.
- If a school chooses to use locker rooms and lockers, assign lockers for physical education classes or athletics, skipping every two lockers so there is 6-feet between students' lockers.
- Discourage sharing of lockers that are difficult to clean or disinfect on a routine basis.
- Assign lockers that face in the same direction, rather than facing each other.
- Use arrows along the floor so that entry into locker areas is one-way.
- Use a staggered entry with an adult at the entry controlling the number of students in the locker areas to reduce crowding in entrances and walkways.
- Showers should not be used due to the potential of spreading aerosol droplets.
- Discourage the use of locker rooms to outside organizations that share or use the school facilities
- Sanitize all high touch surface areas between class periods.
- Develop a schedule for increased, routine cleaning and disinfection.
- Post signs that encourage every day protective measures (properly washing hands, wearing a cloth face covering, physical distancing) in highly visible locations (e.g., locker rooms)
- Consider not allowing the use of lockers. Instead allow students to bring belongings to the classroom and place in a personal cubby or container.
- If locker use is needed, create processes for fewer students to access their locker at the same time, and ensure that students are at least 6 feet apart when accessing their lockers.
- Consider scheduling students to eliminate any open periods, or assign students to a designated safe area during open periods.
- The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has released the following COVID-19 Prom Guidance.
- Recess may occur outside. Playground equipment may be used by small groups of students as long as they wash their hands upon returning into the school.
- Indoor gym equipment may be used, if the equipment is disinfected after each group of students' use. Consider staggering recess times for each class/cohort.
- Consider designating separate areas in open spaces; use floor marking in teaching spaces (student sections/workstations).
- CDPHE Rules and Regulations Governing Schools in the State of Colorado 6 CCR 1010-6 6.76 L (PDF) - Soap and single service towels shall be available for all lavatory facilities, except that mechanical warm air dryers may be used in lieu of towels. Ensure adequate soap is available.
- If students are cohorted by the same hallway/floor, designate a restroom for the cohort.
- Display signage in the restrooms illustrating proper hand washing and hygiene. Ensure adequate soap is available.
- Consider systems to reduce simultaneous, multiple users and thus contact with others.
- Consider increasing cleaning and disinfecting high touch areas, such as door handles, faucets, and paper towel dispensers.
- Restrict nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving other groups in order to minimize interaction with additional individuals.
- Consider health protocols for community members that use building space.
- Follow the Increase Cleaning, Disinfecting, and Sanitizing guidance of shared materials and spaces.
- Develop art exhibition alternatives or substitutes that meet ‘Presenting' state standards, following national guidelines.