Skip to main content


This webpage was last updated on November 4, 2021.

Though we have cleared most of our FAQs from the 2020–2021 school year, we have kept a few on this page that may be of current interest to families; FAQs from 2020–2021 are clearly marked. 




UPDATED – THE TRAVEL QUESTION: With Thanksgiving and the Winter holidays coming up, can you remind me what the rules are for traveling?

Currently, the SFDPH—and therefore San Francisco Friends School—is aligned with the CDC in its travel guidelines, which includes the recommendation that anyone who is not fully vaccinated should avoid non-essential travel. If they do still choose to travel, it is recommended that non-vaccinated individuals should take a viral test three to five days after returning home and quarantine for seven days, monitoring for COVID symptoms. Even if their viral test comes back negative, the CDC recommends that non-vaccinated people continue to quarantine for the full seven days. You can read more about domestic travel guidelines here

If you are planning to travel internationally, please review these CDC guidelines—they differ from those for individuals traveling within the United States. 

Please note that both the SFDPH and CDC recommend testing and quarantine. Each individual family will need to assess their own risk of exposure based on their activities, gatherings attended, distancing/masking observed and contacts made during travel. We ask that you consider this carefully as well as the impact of your actions on our community as a whole. (These considerations were also part of the Community Agreement all community members signed at the beginning of this 2021–2022 school year.)

UPDATED – THE TESTING QUESTION: Have there been any changes to the protocol for students to return to school after an illness?

The SFDPH has stated that caregivers may now use a home-administered rapid antigen COVID test for school re-entry if their child has been ill and exhibited some symptoms* attributed to COVID under certain circumstances, including:
– Their student has had no known exposure to a positive case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days.
– Their student, although experiencing some symptoms that have been attributed to COVID, has NOT experienced any loss of taste or smell.
– The caregiver is confident they have taken the swab sample from their student correctly as dictated by the at-home test instructions.

If these conditions are all met and the COVID test result is a negative, a student may return to school once they are feeling better, once they have been fever-free for 24 hours without the aid of fever reducing medicine. All COVID test results, including those administered at home, should be reported to

If your student has been exposed to a positive COVID case, a COVID test, administered by a healthcare professional, will be required for your student to return to school. You can read more here.

* COVID symptoms may include: fever (100.4°F/38°C or higher) or chills • cough • headache • sore throat • loss of taste or smell that started in the last 10 days (children may say that food “tastes bad” or “tastes funny”) • feeling out of breath or having a hard time breathing • diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting • fatigue • muscle aches or body aches. Note: Runny nose has been removed as a COVID symptom in the SFDPH guidelines and as a stand-alone condition is no longer a reason to test students prior to return.

What should I do if my student is sick? Should I contact someone at SFFS?

If your student is sick, it is important that you keep them at home and email the school at both AND Once you have contacted us via the Health Office email account, our health coordinator or another school administrator will ask you some questions to determine next steps and then provide you with instructions on how your student can return to school once they are well enough to do so (this may involve getting tested for COVID, depending on their symptoms and whether they have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID). When in doubt, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at for guidance. Thank you!

Going into the long weekend, have the travel guidelines from the SFDPH changed at all in recent weeks? Should families be quarantining after travel?

Currently, the SFDPH is aligned with the CDC in its travel guidelines, which is a recommendation that anyone who is not fully vaccinated should avoid non-essential travel. If they do still choose to travel, it is recommended that non-vaccinated individuals should take a viral test three to five days after returning home and quarantine for seven days, monitoring for COVID symptoms. Even if their viral test comes back negative, the CDC recommends that non-vaccinated people continue to quarantine for the full seven days. You can read more here.

What is the school doing to monitor air quality in San Francisco? What will you do if the air quality gets bad, considering the windows are now all open in order to promote increased ventilation during the pandemic?

The SFFS administration tracks a number of AQI monitoring resources on a daily basis. When the air quality index rises above 150 (the “unhealthy” or red zone), we will close the windows in our building and continue to run our air purifiers in every classroom (they run continuously at all times, regardless of air quality, and will continue to support our air quality in the building in the case of a smoke-related event). We also have three air-conditioned spaces—the gym, the black box theater, and the fishbowl classroom on the 1st floor)—that have been recently upgraded with Merv 13 filters, among other innovative filtration technology. Additionally, outdoor activities like recess and PE will be limited and moved indoors.. 

In the event that the air quality index rises above 200 (the “very unhealthy” or purple zone), we will close the school; if air quality is predicted to continue at unhealthy levels, we will mobilize our Friends@Home remote learning mode in order to maintain continuity in our academic program and connection for students.

What and when will families hear from the school if someone tests positive for COVID on campus?

In the case that someone in your child’s cohort (in Lower School a cohort is a class, and in Middle School a cohort is an entire grade) tests positive for COVID-19, that person will be sent home to quarantine, and the rest of the cohort—if unvaccinated—will follow what the SFDPH has termed a “modified quarantine,” wherein students may continue to attend school but will also need to fulfill certain health and safety requirements. (Vaccinated students will not need to follow the modified quarantine requirements.) You will be notified if your child is a close contact in this context. 

If someone at the school who is NOT in your child’s cohort tests positive for COVID, you will not receive a direct communication about this case, as your child will not be considered a close contact. However, we will begin tracking positive cases at school this year on an online dashboard, and you will be able to use this as a resource to see when cases at school may arise.

What should I do if my kid has a close contact who tests positive for COVID? Do they need to quarantine?

There are a few scenarios that the San Francisco Department of Public Health has shared guidance on in recent weeks:

  • If your child is a close contact of someone with a confirmed case of COVID at school and is unvaccinated, they should get tested for COVID as soon as possible and if asymptomatic follow modified quarantine guidelines, which include:
    – The child may attend school and may ride on public transportation to and from school
    – The child may NOT attend music lessons, sports practice, and/or other extracurricular activities both in and outside of school
    – The child should test twice a week for COVID–19
  • If your child had a COVID close contact at school and IS vaccinated, they should monitor for symptoms for 14 days; no quarantine is necessary if they do not develop symptoms, though a test is recommended for speedier reassurance. 
    * Please note that a “close contact” means that your student was within six feet of someone who tested positive for COVID for at least 15 minutes. 
  • If your child has a confirmed COVID close contact OUTSIDE of school and is unvaccinated, they must follow standard quarantine procedures, which include staying out of school and at home for 7–14 days, depending on whether or not they are showing symptoms of COVID. They should be tested for COVID. 
  • If your child exhibits symptoms of COVID, we will ask you to keep them at home, get them tested for COVID right away, and share those results with us. If your child does not get tested, then they must stay out of school until 10 days have passed since their initial symptoms appeared and 24 hours have passed since they last had a fever. 
  • If your child has a confirmed case of COVID, they must quarantine at home for 10 days after receiving their positive test and you must report this to the school within the hour of receiving the positive result. Your teacher and division head will work with you and your student to help them keep up with their schoolwork while they rest and quarantine at home. 
Will students and faculty/staff be required to wear masks at school this year?

While  SFDPH has stated that schools do not need to require masking outdoors, SFFS WILL require that our students and faculty/staff wear their masks both indoors and outdoors; however, community members will be able to remove their masks when eating outdoors. We decided to require masking both indoors and outdoors after careful consideration, knowing that it is helpful for our youngest Friends to see their fellow students and teachers masking at all times and for everyone to remember to mask up if it is always required. We’re all in this together!

Now that the Governor has mandated that all public school employees be vaccinated, will SFFS require this of its faculty and staff, as well?

Yes, we are happy to say that ALL of our classroom teachers and TAs have been fully vaccinated, as has the large majority of our staff. We are now working with a small number of unvaccinated employees to get everyone fully vaccinated by mid-September.

Will I need to fill out HealthTrac or a similar health screening app before dropping my student(s) off at school this year?

DPH no longer recommends use of the HealthTrac app. Data collection is its primary purpose and it hasn't proven as effective as other measures. Rather than use the HealthTrac app, we rely on what is explained in our Community Agreement. We expect that families will continue to administer their own daily symptom checks/self-screenings, and that students will stay home if they are sick or showing any COVID-like symptoms. 


Will SFFS host community COVID testing events again this year? If so, will they resemble last year’s testing events?

Yes, we are hosting our first community COVID testing event of the 2021–2022 school year on Friday, August 20 on the Front Yard in partnership with Agile Force, the same testing organization we used last year. Emails with sign-up instructions were sent out to all SFFS families earlier in the week. We will host additional testing events depending upon the COVID landscape in our city and with community safety in mind.

Will the school be offering a Friends@Home option for families in the 2021–2022 school year? 

We will not be offering Friends@Home as an option for families this year, though we will be ready to jump back into Friends@Home if needed due to a significant change in the COVID landscape and/or direction from SFDPH. We believe that our students benefit significantly from being in the classroom and our innovative program is at its strongest when delivered in person. We are committed to delivering this to our families with a mind for safety and in adherence with SFDPH guidelines.

FROM 2020–2021: What if my kid has a mild cold or cough? Do I still need to keep them home from school, even if I don't think they have COVID? 

The SFDPH continues to ask that parents keep their child home from school if they exhibit one or more of a number of symptoms, including a cough, a mild fever, a sore throat, etc. These symptoms COULD be indicative of COVID, and so if your child has any of these symptoms. we would ask you to either a) get your child tested for COVID-19 or b) keep them home for 10 days from the time their symptoms started. After a negative COVID test or after 10 days at home, and if your child has been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the aid of a fever-reducing medication, they can return to school. You can find more information about returning to school after illness here

Our Health Trac app, which you will need to continue to fill out before dropping your child off at school through the rest of the school year, will screen for these symptoms and will advise you to keep your child at home if they do exhibit any of the symptoms listed. Thank you!

FROM 2020–2021: How is the school supporting the faculty and staff in obtaining their COVID vaccine now that educators in the Bay Area are eligible to receive it?

We are communicating regularly with our professional community about opportunities and openings for COVID vaccine appointments throughout the Bay Area, and have a shared internal document, accessible to all faculty and staff, which is updated regularly with news and information about vaccine appointments. Thus far, many of our faculty and staff have already received their first dose, and we will continue to support our entire professional community in their quest to get vaccinated to the best of our ability. 

FROM 2020–2021: Who do I tell at School if my child or family member tests positive for COVID? What is the process / what are the necessary steps I need to take?

If your child, or anyone else in your household, tests positive for COVID-19, we ask that you immediately let us know in the Health Office by emailing with the subject line, "Positive COVID Test."

Our Health Coordinator will provide guidance regarding next steps, and we will ask you to keep your student home to quarantine for 10 days. 

FROM 2020–2021: Why isn’t COVID testing mandatory for all students?

While SFFS made testing after the Winter Break available for students as a service to our community, a negative COVID test is not required for students to return to school. Additionally, health experts believe that young children are not primary transmitters of COVID-19, and the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) does not actively promote the testing of asymptomatic children.  All guidance we have received from medical experts, including infectious diseases specialists, indicates that wearing masks and social distancing are the most important things we can do. Point-in-time testing is an additional tool available to help protect our community and while informative, this snapshot is a supplement to ongoing, higher impact approaches. For all adults on campus, we do require bi-weekly testing and make it available on a more frequent basis upon request. This exceeds the SFDPH requirements for adult testing. We also require masks for all adults, promote hand-washing and social distancing for both students and adults. In addition, small stable cohorts, our carefully planned daily schedule and enhanced daily cleaning routines support the health of the community.

FROM 2020–2021: What if my student gets sick at school? What is the protocol and how will SFFS respond? 

If a child falls ill at school, a teacher will accompany them to the Health Office, where our health coordinator, Allie, will conduct a health screening and take the student's temperature. If it is determined that the student is unwell and needs to go home, Allie will call the student's parents and arrange for them to pick the student up from school as soon as possible. To minimize potential risk to other community members, a student waiting for their parent or caregiver will remain in the Health Office with Allie. Once a parent or caregiver has arrived, Allie will walk the student out to their car, as we cannot allow families and visitors on campus at this time. 

If Allie has noted that a student is displaying symptoms of COVID, SFFS will request that the family have the student tested for COVID and keep them home until they have confirmation that their student has tested negative. 

FROM 2020–2021: Will my kid still eat lunch and snacks and have recess outside, even as it gets chillier and/or rainier? 

Come rain or shine, we plan to eat snacks and lunch—and enjoy recess—outside for the foreseeable future, and inclement weather will not mean that we eat inside. Our Friends should dress for the weather and wear layers so that they can stay comfortable throughout the day (please keep in mind that doors and windows remain open throughout the day, as well). SFFS has set up tents on the Front Yard so that we can eat outside—even when it's raining!

FROM 2020–2021: How are you taking parent feedback into account as you make decisions? How have you used survey results?

Parent feedback was incredibly valuable in the spring to enhance our Friends@Home programming this fall. Before the start of this school year, we surveyed parents to have a better understanding of their comfort level in sending their students back to campus before the creation of a vaccine. The majority of responses (about 75%) indicated they would be comfortable sending their students back to 250 Valencia; the remaining quarter were unsure or not planning to have their student return at that time. In addition, the comments from families helped us better understand themes of concern in the parent community (social and emotional well-being of students, health protocols, ventilation in the building, siblings, care for faculty, etc.) Our most recent survey is helping guide us on a more granular level by allowing grade level teachers to prepare their classrooms, schedules, and technology to support students both in and out of the classroom. 

In addition to formal surveys, we’ve listened carefully to parent feedback we’ve received in a host of other channels: through FriendsConnect conversations, questions in AMAs, emails to communications@sffriendsschool and administrators, and direct conversations across the community. We’re grateful for the many forms of feedback we’ve received as we navigate the complexities of this situation. 

FROM 2020–2021: What steps is the school taking to address ventilation in the building; have you considered a system that draws air outside instead of recirculating the same air around inside?

Our historic home at 250 Valencia Street has a passive ventilation system, which allows air inside of the building to be drawn in from outside through open windows and doors, and drawn up and out through one of four towers venting to the roof. We have equipped each room with an air purifier with an ionization feature that binds to smaller virus particles and allows them to be trapped in the HEPA filters of the units. For the rooms where HVAC is available (the gym, the Black Box theater, and the movement rooms), we have upgraded units with Merv-13 filters set to pull in the maximum outside air possible. In winter, our building is heated by a radiant in-floor heating system.

FROM 2020–2021: UPDATED on 10/16/20: Will the school require community members to sign an agreement or pledge to not take unnecessary risks and to continue distancing and taking precautions outside of school?

Yes, SFFS has asked all families to sign a Community Agreement, and will require that any family wishing to send their student(s) back to campus for in-person learning, sign and return this form. The agreement details the safety precautions and thoughtful behavior we expect our Friends to undertake in order to protect everyone in our community to the best of our ability, such as wearing masks in public, avoiding large gatherings and observing social distancing guidelines, etc. 

FROM 2020–2021: How will SFFS address curricular gaps from the spring and overall assessment this year?

It’s important to note that our approach is not one of “How will we help our students to catch up?” but one of “How will we work with our students to help them move forward?” Our educators will spend time on grade-level work, providing supports for students that are aimed at helping them access grade level material. 

Now more than ever, we need to be more precise in how we “address learning gaps.” The age of the student, the discipline, and which specific skills and knowledge they are acquiring are all components to understanding how we address learning gaps—we believe a combination of grade level work and filling in any gaps is the best way forward. 

For example, in math there is a clear progression of standards, so it makes sense that students will struggle if their understanding of prerequisites is not strong. No amount of support will make that issue disappear. In this case, teachers will help students fill in holes, while also helping students make progress on grade level material. In addition to classroom teachers, DS supports at each grade will play a key role in this work with students. In reading/writing and humanities, age becomes a major factor. A kindergarten student who was on the verge of sounding out letters in March is going to need help picking up where they left off in first grade this year. A middle school student who is struggling with comprehending informational texts because they missed out on vocabulary work and practice in reading for understanding in the spring is not far from the differentiation that our educators take on every day. Pandemic or not, using strategies to build up a student’s weaknesses (in this case vocabulary and reading comprehension skills) while continuing to advance the student through engaging, grade level content helps to keep students engaged and learning while also tending to the targeted skill building they need. 

Students at SFFS will continue to be given high-quality assessments, both standardized and developed, by teachers who know them best. We will continue to use reading and math assessments such as Literably, Math & Reading Inventory testing, and CTP 5 testing (ERB) as standardized assessments. And while those are important markers, formal assessments are less likely to provide the most helpful information. Quick, informal assessments done by classroom teachers and shared with families will provide us with ongoing information about where our students are, how they are progressing, and what they need to move forward.

FROM 2020–2021: I would like to hear insights from Mike and the faculty at Friends as to what if any longer-term academic effects we might anticipate for our children as they go through this coming year in a remote learning mode.

It’s difficult to answer this question and stick only to the academic side of school. When we consider long term effects, social-emotional concerns are front and center in our thinking. Our youngest students are sometimes without the language to explain their feelings, while our older students are often seeking autonomy from their parents and thus searching for connections outside of the home to share their struggles. SFFS is paying close attention to this, and will continue to for years to come. Kids are resilient, but this is a time of high emotions and stress for all of us. 

In looking at connections, emotion does impact academic performance, and we can tend to students' needs now, with steps such as outlining a personalized learning program, working with their family and therapist, and maintaining connections with adults at school throughout the year that are focused on individual support. For many students, they will learn more about themselves as learners in this pandemic than they ever would in a "normal" school year—which could have major benefits as they continue to evolve and grow. 

When thinking about longer-term academic effects — if we follow through with the correct approach to distance learning and post-distance learning, we don’t anticipate long-term academic effects from six months of distance learning. We learned a lot from post Katrina research, and all of that points to a quick recovery (in terms of academic progress) when you avoid remediation, commit to acceleration (focusing on grade level content), and pair acceleration with supports for students that are aimed at helping them access engaging grade level material.

FROM 2020–2021: Is it okay for my kid to get together for play dates or participate in other group activities with peers and friends?

At this point, we have decided to close our campus in order to implement social distancing, and all major health agencies are now urging citizens to self-isolate as much as possible. Though it is difficult and not an insignificant strain on home life, we recommend that families practice social distancing as much as they can and frequently consult the California Department of Public Health’s guidelines on social and public gatherings.

UPDATE: The school cannot assist families in creating independent learning pods, per the orders from the Governor's Office; thank you for understanding.