My child doesn't feel well. Now what?

Great question. The information below will help.

This document was written to help parents whose children are not feeling well.

If your child is feeling fine, but you are concerned that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 outside of school, keep them home and contact your health care provider.

If your child was in close contact at Gordon with someone who developed COVID-19, the school and the Department of Health would let you know and help you determine your next steps.

Evaluating symptoms: who needs to stay home?

Which symptoms am I looking for?

Someone is considered a probable COVID-19 case if they have any ONE of these symptoms:

...or any TWO of these symptoms:

Anyone who is a probable caseone of the RED symptoms, or two of the YELLOW symptoms—must stay home and get a COVID-19 test.

So, if someone at Gordon meets the criteria for a probable case, does this mean there is a good chance they have COVID-19?

No. This confusion is understandable. The word probable does imply that the person will most likely test positive. Probable cases should be taken seriously, but the phrase just means that the symptomatic person has met the threshold for getting tested, and a negative result is required before returning to campus. 

The good news is that more than ninety percent of COVID-19 tests come back negative. Even if your child is a probable case, there is an excellent chance that they do not have the virus.

What if my child has just one of the YELLOW symptoms?

They should stay home for twenty-four hours. If the one symptom does not improve or they develop another symptom, contact your health care provider for advice.

Do I really need to keep them home if they have only one symptom?

Yes. Give them twenty-four hours to feel better or to see if any other symptoms develop.

If only one person in the house is sick, do I keep everyone home?

If anyone in your house is a probable case—one of the RED symptoms, or two of the YELLOW symptomseveryone must stay home.

If one of your children just has one of the YELLOW symptoms, the siblings can come to Gordon as long as they are not showing any symptoms themselves.

Next steps

How should I tell Gordon my child is sick?

Whenever your child will miss school, for any reason, you should call the front desk at 401 434-3833 and let Kim O'Donnell know.

For your ill child, and any Gordon siblings, fill out the safety app. This will alert Nurse Horton and she will be in touch if she has questions.

What if my one-yellow-symptom child gets better?

If your child only had one of the YELLOW symptoms, and they are back to their regular health, they can return to school after twenty-four hours. No test is necessary. Gordon will ask for a return-to-school form, also known as an "attestation form," to be completed and sent to school with your child; it can be downloaded at www.gordonschool.org/return.

If my children have to stay home, should I tell Gordon families we have seen recently?

At this point in your child's illness, the Department of Health does not recommend getting in touch with other families, classmates or other close contacts outside of your child's household. Even if your child needs to get a COVID-19 test, more than ninety percent of the tests come back negative. There is an excellent chance your child does not have COVID-19.

Given how the rumor mill works, it would help everyone if families would follow direction from the school and from the Department of Health regarding communication about a child’s health.

If your child has a test and it does come back positive, the school and the Department of Health will provide clear and simple instructions on what to do next, and we will follow up with the appropriate communications.

What else should I do?

Please download the CrushCovidRI app and make notes on your family's recent activities. This will help ensure that, if your child or anyone in your household tests positive, the information you give the Rhode Island Department of Health is complete.

Getting a test

How do I schedule a test?

Rhode Island has set up a testing system exclusively for Rhode Island K-12 students, faculty and staff. Non-public schools like Gordon are included in the system.

To make an appointment, call 844-857-1814, seven days a week between 7:30am and 9:30pm. If the schedulers are busy with other calls, the automated system will offer to call you back when someone is free, but families are reporting that they have had more luck simply calling back a few minutes later.

This link has an excellent summary of the testing process.

What should I tell my child about the test?

The testing process will not look like other medical procedures your child has experienced, and it is a good idea to set the scene with them in advance.

It will likely take place outdoors, under a tent, and the people doing the procedure will be wearing full length suits and face shields. These precautions are, of course, done to keep the professionals, and the test subjects, as safe as possible.

The National Guard is helping manage test facilities in Rhode Island, and they'll be in full uniform. This is perfectly normal and does not indicate the presence of danger at the site. Preparing your child for them in advance can help ease any confusion they might experience.

Much has been made about how uncomfortable the early COVID tests were. While the tests still involve sticking things in the nose, the process is nowhere near as lengthy or invasive as it was even just a few months ago.

Do I have to use the K-12 testing system?

You are welcome to use any testing system you wish. However, only a negative PCR test result will be acceptable to get your child back to school if they are a probable case.

When do I get my child tested? If they are asleep, should I wake them up and bring them in to get the test? Or wait until they are feeling better?

Book the first available test. It’s understandable to not want to take your sick child out of the house, but they should get their test as soon as they can.

Should everyone else in the house get tested too?

The Department of Health guidelines do not require that everyone in the household be tested if there is a probable case in the house. However, all household members must stay home and away from Gordon until the PCR test results are received and come back negative.

Getting test results

I heard there are two sets of results?

The K-12 testing system will perform two tests. The rapid test is faster, and less reliable, than the second test, the PCR test.

You will get results from the rapid test on the same day you take the test. The rapid test has a history of giving false negatives, so a negative result from this test is not enough to clear your child to return to school. 

Your child cannot return to school until you get results for the second test, the PCR test. Results from the PCR test can take up to forty-eight hours.

If the rapid test is less reliable, why do they do it?

If the rapid test returns a positive result, it can help the school and the Department of Health respond quickly, particularly with contact tracing and quarantining instructions. The rapid testing can produce false negatives, which is why everyone needs to wait for the PCR testing to come back.

How do I get my test results?


Calling the Department of Health is currently the most straightforward way to get your results:

The Department of Health has also contacted families directly by email and phone call when their results were available.

Your PCR test results will be posted to the patient portal at Dominion Diagnostics:

What does "not detected" mean?

The results may use the language "negative" or "not detected" to indicate that evidence of the COVID-19 virus was not detected in your child's system.

Missing school

My child will be missing more school than ever! How will they keep up?

Gordon now has simple strategies in place to help ensure that every student can remain engaged in schoolwork during an absence. More at www.gordonschool.org/absences

If the results are negative

Who do I tell?

Nurse Horton will be glad to hear the news. Email her at shorton@gordonschool.org.

When can my child return to school?

Your child can return to school when all three of these conditions have been met:

Gordon will ask for a return-to-school form to be completed and sent to school with your child; it can be downloaded at www.gordonschool.org/return.

What about siblings and other people in the household who did not show symptoms?

If the PCR test results are negative for the probable case in your household, anyone else in the household who has no symptoms and can clear the safety app can return to school the next day.

Gordon will ask for a return-to-school form to be completed and sent to school with your child; it can be downloaded at www.gordonschool.org/return.

Is a negative result from the rapid test good enough to clear my child for school?

No. You need a negative test from the PCR test. Please email the test results to shorton@gordonschool.org.

Why do they do the rapid test if it isn't good enough to clear your child to return to school?

If the rapid test returns a positive result, it can help the school and the Department of Health respond quickly. The rapid testing can produce false negatives, which is why everyone needs to wait for the PCR testing to come back.

Didn’t you just answer that question?

Yes, but like many things in the age of COVID-19, it’s worth repeating.

If the results are positive

Who do I tell?

If your child tests positive, the Department of Health will reach out to you and to Gordon. They will advise you and the school on what next steps to take.

The first concern will be your child's health and your family's privacy, and the Department of Health, the school, and your child's health care provider will all be available to support you.

Your child's illness will also mean that your family has a serious role to play in tracking, and slowing, this pandemic.

The Department of Health will ask you questions about your child’s health, symptoms and activities in the past two weeks. They will also reach out to Gordon for the contact information of your child's teachers and close contacts at school. They will take responsibility for getting in touch with anyone who needs to get tested or needs to quarantine. This process is done carefully and confidentially.

Who will Gordon tell?

The Department of Health takes the lead on communicating with anyone who needs to know about your child's illness.

As a part of their contact tracing system, the Department of Health will communicate with anyone considered a close contact of a positive case of COVID-19.  

As part of this process, the school will communicate with all families, faculty, and staff if a student, faculty, or staff member has tested positive for COVID-19, and, when appropriate, share any quarantine protocols that the school is putting into place for people who were close contacts of the affected person. The name of the affected person will not be shared.

Who needs to stay home?

If a member of your household tests positive for COVID-19, everyone in your house needs to stay home. The Department of Health will provide you with guidance on how to quarantine and for how long. The Gordon community can also be counted on to work with your family to find ways to support you and keep your children connected with the school as much as possible.

When can my child return to Gordon?

The current protocol is that your child can return to school when:

Don't you need a negative test?

No. After a person is diagnosed with COVID-19 by a positive test and has completed the recommended isolation, additional tests are not recommended and are, in fact, strongly discouraged.

Why not get another test?

There is widespread agreement in the medical community that a person who has recovered from COVID-19, who has completed isolation, and is back to normal health could have viral fragments in their system that could result in a positive COVID-19 test. These fragments are not evidence of infection but actually evidence of recovery. These fragments are not contagious. Requiring a negative test of a person who has recovered from the virus would most likely result in unnecessary and prolonged quarantining.

Other scenarios

What if my child didn't meet the criteria to get a test, but we got one anyway?

In this situation, please keep your child home until you get the results of the PCR test. In the unlikely case that your child tests positive, their case may yield valuable data for the Department of Health, but that data is only useful if they remain at home while waiting for the test.

What if my child is in a class where another child got sick?

Gordon must report all probable cases to the Department of Health, and they advise us on how to follow up with close contacts like the classmates and teachers in your child’s house. In almost all probable cases, no action is necessary for close contacts while the person is being tested.

Though not required, Gordon has made the decision to immediately clean and disinfect classrooms where a child has met the criteria for a probable case.

If your child was in close contact at Gordon with someone who developed COVID-19, the school and the Department of Health would let you know and help you determine your next steps.

What if I have two children and one of my children is sent home from school sick? Do I need to bring the sibling home too? What if my child is not at school, and one of their best friends are sent home? What about all the other scenarios that I can imagine, but haven't been addressed here?

This Q&A is meant to address the question of what to do when your child is home and isn't feeling well.

When your child is on campus with their siblings and their classmates, the possible scenarios become more complicated and harder to spell out in a document like this.

The good news, however, is that the Department of Health and the Department of Education have spent the summer playing out and documenting the various scenarios.

Nurse Horton has been sitting in on several detailed briefings each week since March, going over the myriad scenarios and internalizing the appropriate responses. It would be hard to overstate the amount of research and time that has gone into this work, both at Gordon and on a state level.

If something happens on campus that you need to know about, the Rhode Island Department of Health and Nurse Horton will be in touch with your family and advise you on the appropriate response.