Return to School - Layered Prevention Strategies

Returning strong and staying strong all year

Layered Prevention Strategies

FCPS uses the following layered prevention strategies to keep schools safe places for all students to learn. 

Screening Testing

The Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) COVID-19 screening testing program provides no cost testing to students and staff. For students, parental consent is required.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends school-based testing to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to keep school open safely. Screening testing identifies unvaccinated people with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic and do not have known, suspected, or reported exposure to COVID-19.


Masks are an essential tool in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting those unable to be vaccinated. To ensure a safe start to the school year, masks will be required for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, inside FCPS buildings.


The most important thing we can all do to keep our schools safe and open all year is to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as we are eligible. Vaccines are safe, effective, available, and free. 

By late October, all FCPS employees will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to routine negative COVID-19 tests, a move that reinforces existing layered prevention strategies and the division’s commitment to safety.

Beginning November 8, FCPS will require proof of full COVID-19 vaccination for any student participating in Virginia High School League (VHSL) winter and spring sports for the remainder of the 2021-22 school year. 

Proof of full COVID-19 vaccination will also be required for participation in any other activity that requires a physical. This includes dance team and step team, as well as out-of-season practices and workouts.

Screen for Illness Every Day, Stay Home When Sick

One of the most important prevention strategies guidelines is screening students daily for any signs of illness prior to leaving home for school. Any student who is ill or presents with COVID-like symptoms is to remain at home. The daily health screening questionnaire and all translated version can be found on our Health and Safety Guidance document. This document provides the details of the policies and protocols related to COVID-19, and it is continually updated to align with public health guidance as it evolves during the school year. Daily completion of the health screening is done on an honor basis and does not need to be sent to the school.

Read more about checking for symptoms and how to prepare to return to school after illness.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

Measures have been implemented to ensure that common areas and equipment, and personal workspaces, are regularly cleaned and sanitized. The Office of Facilities Management has worked closely with FCPS custodians to adjust their cleaning processes to better address current considerations. FCPS custodians are using effective disinfectant and sanitizing products to clean our facilities every day. For more detail about cleaning and disinfecting in schools, see the Health and Safety Guidance Document.

Hand Hygiene and Respiratory EtiquetteStaff member hands breakfast to a student

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. 

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow and do not spit. Throw used tissues in the trash. Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.


FCPS uses mechanical ventilation systems to provide classrooms with outside air. Fresh air is provided at an appropriate rate, and the air is filtered and conditioned before it enters the space.

This is in line with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus that advises windows be opened in the absence of outside mechanical ventilation.

FCPS meets the industry recommended standards for outside air ventilation in classrooms and offices. FCPS schools are designed to ventilate fresh outside air and mitigate the buildup of odors and pollutants.

Contact Tracing and Quarantining 

In the event of a COVID-19 exposure, FCPS will work with the Fairfax County Health Department to conduct contact tracing and determine if quarantining is necessary. Should an individual or group be directed to quarantine, plans are in place to ensure continuity of learning. To better understand the process, watch this video or read more.  View the Guidance for Parents of School-aged Children provided by the Fairfax County Health Department.  

The CDC provides a definition of "close contact." A close contact is any person, regardless of vaccination status, who is within 6 feet of a COVID-19 positive individual for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) K-12 Exception indicates that students will not be identified as close contacts if they are at least 3 feet apart and are consistently wearing masks in the classroom setting. Adults are not included in this exception.

View this short video for a complete description of a close contact. 

Protocols for Potential Temporary COVID-19 Closure

Virginia public schools are required under SB 1303 to provide five days a week of in-person instruction, as directed by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam

FCPS is committed to continuity of learning during the 2021-22 school year and the school division is using layered prevention strategies to do everything possible to ensure our schools remain safe, healthy and open. 

FCPS has plans in place to ensure continuity of learning in the event health authorities require a temporary closure to protect the health of students, staff, and the community. Find out more

Additional Return to School Safety Measures