COVID FAQs for Students and Parents

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There are some things you can do to help make the finish of this school year as effective and uninterrupted as possible. You are they key to finish the school year strong!
Do I or my student need to wear a mask at school?

At this time wearing a face mask on campus is not required in most cases. The ultimate decision continues to rest with students and families. It is important to keep in mind that there are different situations each student or staff member may consider when deciding whether to wear a mask.  These may be personal, such as having a family member or someone close to them who is at risk for severe disease.  These may be situational, such as if COVID risk starts to rise in the community.  

You can find out about the COVID risk in the community here: COVID Risk Level 

There are situations where it is important to wear a mask at school.  If you are positive for COVID-19 or had been exposed and developed symptoms, after you stay home for at least 5 days, upon return you should wear a mask days 6-10.   In addition, if you know that you have been exposed, you do not need to quarantine but you should wear a mask for 10 days from your last exposure. More details on what to do in either of these situations are below.

For the last couple of months, students and staff who have been exposed do not need to quarantine. We still hear about potential exposures in classrooms and extracurricular activities. What do we do based on this information?

School administrators may send out communication to exposed or potentially exposed students and/or staff members, so that you and your families are aware of the exposure. This may mean that there was an exposure to COVID among a group such as a classroom, but no detailed contact tracing identified specific close contacts.

In this case, it is important to:

  • Watch yourself or your student closely for any symptoms (see below).
  • When you become ill after being exposed, stay home (isolate) for at least 5 days even if you test negative for COVID.
  • Consider getting a COVID test 5 days after this potential exposure.
What do I or my student do if we know for sure we have been exposed to COVID, either at school, at home, or in the community?

Siblings and/or staff members who have a household member with a confirmed Covid Positive test, or other known exposure, and do not have any symptoms, do not need to stay home (quarantine). They can continue to come to school and should wear a well-fitted mask for 10 days from the last day of exposure to their positive household member. COVID testing after an exposure is not required, but it is strongly encouraged anywhere after 5 days from the day you or your student were last exposed to COVID.

When should I or my student stay home from school?

If your child is showing ANY of the potential signs of Covid-19, please do not send them to school. These include sore throat, fever, stuffy nose, sneezing, general congestion, cough, nausea/upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, increased tiredness, head and/or body aches, loss of taste and/or smell. Whether these signs represent COVID or another illness, staying home from school until better is a good idea, and supports the student or staff member’s health.  COVID testing around 3 days after symptom onset is strongly recommended.

How long should my student stay home from school?

If a student/staff member has any of the below symptoms and/or have a confirmed Positive Covid-19 test ideally done at least three days after symptom onset, they should stay at home (isolate) for a minimum of 5 days from the day symptoms started. Symptom onset is day zero, and the following day is day 1.

  • Cough 
  • Temperature of 100.4o F or higher or chills
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing 
  • New loss of taste or smell
How do I get a COVID test to take at home?

If you are in need of a COVID at-home test, please reach out to your student’s school. The school may have tests to send home with students.  Tests are also available to have on hand through the local public health department, by calling 503-397-7247.

What communication do I or my student need to have with the school about COVID?

It is important that your school knows if your student has symptoms related to COVID.

  • Cough 
  • Temperature of 100.4o F or higher or chills
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing 
  • New loss of taste or smell

It is also important that your school knows if you have tested positive for COVID.

You should let the school know when you are positive with either an at-home test or through a testing site or medical provider.  

Please update the school with any new symptom or test information, while you or your student is home and also when you or your student returns to school. 

This information helps the school determine your date of return. Providing updated information also helps the school to know when groups of staff and students get COVID and to take steps to prevent further spread in the group.

What questions should I ask my school?

How they prefer you communicate with them about COVID and illness

How to receive at-home test kits

How they are continuing to minimize potential exposures, such as:

  • Keeping groups small
  • Keeping 3 feet of distance where possible
  • Assigning seating groups
  • Testing exposed cohorts that include individuals at increased risk of severe COVID
Public Health Quick Links
General Information
Phone Numbers
503-397-7247 24-hour Reporting 503-397-7247
Fax: 888-204-8568
Emergencies: Dial 911
230 Strand St.
Columbia County Courthouse Annex
St. Helens,

Monday - Friday
8:30 a.m. to 4:30


Columbia County Public Health is committed to improving the quality of life and protecting the health and well-being of all residents by addressing social, economic, and environmental conditions. Our goal is to ensure that all people in Columbia County have the opportunity for a healthy life.