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School Decision Tree for COVID-19 Cases


The purpose of the School Decision Tree below is to assist administrators in knowing what potential steps to take for cleaning and notifications regarding P-12 schools with confirmed COVID-19 cases. It is important to check with state and local health officials and other partners to determine the most appropriate actions while adjusting to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the local community.

ALL Schools Regardless of Community Spread. Confirmed person with COVID-19 in building. Assess Risk. Short (potential 2-5 day) building dismissal to clean/disinfect/ contact trace in consultation with local health officials
No Community Spread, Prepare, Teach and reinforce healthy hygiene, Develop information sharing system, Intensify cleaning and disinfection, Monitor for absenteeism, Assess group gatherings and events, consider postponing non-critical gatherings and events, Require sick students and staff to stay home, Establish procedures for someone becoming sick at school  Monitor changes in community spread.
Community spread. Minimal to Moderate: Coordinate with local health officials, Implement multiple social distancing strategies for gatherings, classrooms, and movement through the building, Consider ways to accommodate needs of children and families at high risk. Substantial: Coordinate with local health officials, Implement multiple social distancing strategies for gatherings, classrooms and movement through the building WITH EXTENDED SCHOOL DISMISSALS, Consider how to accommodate needs of at-risk children
Guidance provides recommendations for “how to” implement a statute or rule. These recommendations in this toolkit are based on best practice and provide direction for how to operationalize the requirements set forth in various executive orders and public health orders. All efforts should be made to follow the recommendations when feasible.
  • Districts and schools may also connect to CDPHE for COVID-19 related issues and concerns.

If Executive Orders and Public Health Orders allow schools to reopen to versions of in-person learning in the fall, districts and schools should consult with their local county health department to share their plans.

Schools should be prepared for COVID-19 outbreaks in their local communities and for individual exposure events to occur in their facilities, regardless of the level of community transmission.

If there is a case in your school:

Then CDPHE or the local health department will notify the school. If the school becomes aware of a case before it is contacted by the CDPHE or the local health department, the school should immediately notify local health officials. These officials will help administrators determine a course of action for their schools.

The purpose of a closure is twofold:

  1. To provide opportunity for environmental cleaning and disinfection
  2. To provide opportunity to coordinate the public health response with respect to case investigation, contact tracing, isolation, quarantine, etc.

Cases and Outbreak Guidance​ 

  •  PHO 20-36 COVID-19 Dial (effective February 13, 2021, and will expire 30 days)
  • Prepare to shift to remote learning (2 - 14 days) when school closures or cohort dismissals occur in the event of a confirmed COVID-19 case among students or employees.

  • CDPHE has provided Cases and outbreaks in childcare and schools guidance.

  • Preschool 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.

Contact Tracking

  • Close contacts are determined based on 48 hours before onset of symptoms for symptomatic positive and suspect cases. For asymptomatic positives, it's determined based on 48 hours before the test was conducted.   
  •  You can find the "definition" of a close contact here:  Public Health Guidance for Community-Related Exposure

School Level COVID-19 Tracking

  • Some schools and districts are tracking COVID-19 cases and sharing the information with their communities through their school or district website.  We are thankful to the American Academy for sharing their template as an example --  COVID-19 Tracking Dashboard Template

Put communication systems in place for:

  • Consistent with applicable law and privacy policies, having staff and families self-report to the school if they or their student have symptoms of COVID-19, a positive test for COVID-19, or were exposed to someone with COVID-19 within the last 14 days in accordance with health information sharing regulations for COVID-19  and other applicable federal and state laws and regulations relating to privacy and confidentiality, such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  FERPA specific guidance for school officials concerning the disclosure of personally identifiable information from students’ education records to outside entities when addressing the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is addressed in the document linked here.
    • Notifying staff, families, and the public of school closures and any restrictions in place to limit COVID-19 exposure (i.e., limited hours of operation).
    • Communicating with staff and families if there is an exposure at school.
    • See Communications section within Planning and Communication framework for sample templates in mid to late July.
  • Ensure signs and messaging are provided in alternative formats to successfully communicate information to individuals whose primary language is not English, and to individuals with hearing or vision impairment.