COVID-19 Protocols

Telra Institute COVID-19 Protocols

Version:  October 18, 2021


COVID-19 presents an evolving challenge for schools, businesses, and other institutions. While the disease environment, treatment options, and public health guidance are in flux, we understand families want some clarity on expectations for the new school year so that they can prepare. With that in mind, Telra Institute has established this protocol to guide our school opening plan.


Our primary goals in establishing this protocol are:

  • Health and safety of our students and staff

  • Continuity of in-person learning in the Telra model

  • Allowing a “normal” school experience as much as possible

These goals naturally involve trade-offs, and our challenge is to find the right balance among these goals as community conditions and data about COVID-19 change.


Tier System (on hold)

Note: On Aug 23, Mecklenburg County put in place a face-covering mandate which supersedes the Tier System. 

Telra’s evaluation of the COVID contraction risk faced by its students and staff will be informed by a version of the NC COVID-19 County Alert System applied to the residence areas of our enrollment. This system uses three metrics—case rate, the percent of tests that are positive, and hospital impact—to gauge the degree of community spread and assigns a color-coded tier:

Red: Critical Community Spread

Orange: Substantial Community Spread

Yellow: Significant Community Spread

Light Yellow: Moderate Community Spread

Green: Low Community Spread

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Implementation Detail on Key Protocols

Face coverings

  • Telra encourages teachers to use outdoor time to provide students with frequent mask breaks and to enable mask-free time each day. We will use opportunities during recess, lunch, PE, and outdoor learning (as lesson plans and weather permit) to maximize “face” time. 

  • In circumstances where face coverings are required, individuals should follow the mask specification guidance provided by the CDC. i.e., a 2+ ply fabric worn over the nose and mouth.

  • Face coverings are required on school buses by CDC Order.

  • Students with a bona fide medical or behavioral condition that prevents proper mask usage can be exempted from wearing a face covering. Securing an exemption requires the completion of a Telra Face Covering Exemption form, signed by a medical authority, and reviewed and approved by the School Administration Team.

Physical distancing

  • Telra classrooms are configured such that grades K-1 will typically have ~3 ft of spacing while grades 2-3 will have 5-6 ft of spacing.

  • However, children do move around and this distancing cannot be guaranteed at all times, which is why we employ multiple layers of protection

  • Students will be assigned seats in classrooms and at lunch tables to minimize exposure to nearby classmates


  • All Telra classrooms are outfitted with HEPA air purifiers capable of 5-6 air changes per hour.

  • Teachers are instructed to crack windows and doors to increase ventilation, but they have the discretion to close them if it interferes with a comfortable classroom environment

Sanitization and hand washing

  • High-touch surfaces are cleaned and disinfected regularly.

  • Proper and frequent hand washing will be modeled and encouraged.

  • Water fountains remain, for the time being, closed. We ask all students to pack enough water for the day, including extra if they participate in an afterschool program.

Stay at home if you are sick

  • Students or staff should not come to (and will not be allowed on) campus when they are sick or showing symptoms of being sick. Students or staff who present symptoms consistent with COVID, including congestion, fever, cough, sore throat, vomiting, or diarrhea, will be required to leave school until they meet the return to school criteria defined in the NC Strong Schools toolkit:

    • Option 1:  A negative test for COVID-19 or an alternative diagnosis. (A negative antigen test may be used to satisfy this criteria if the person has a low likelihood of COVID-19 infection, e.g., no known or suspected exposure, fully vaccinated, or recent COVID-19 infection.)

    • Option 2:  10 days since the first day of symptoms and at least 24 hours since the person had a fever and other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving

  • Telra will require all staff and families to complete an attestation that they understand the symptoms of COVID-19 and that they must inform the School Administration Team if the staff member or student has exhibited these symptoms, tested positive for COVID-19, or been in proximate contact with anyone who has tested positive for or had symptoms of COVID-19 in the past 14 days.

  • School staff will check student temperatures with a quick forehead scan upon arrival by car or bus. We will monitor this operation and make adjustments if necessary.

Quarantine and return to school

  • Positive individuals:  If a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, they will be required to quarantine away from school. The return to school protocol will be determined based on the StrongSchoolsNC toolkit (or other updated health guidance). Currently, this protocol requires all of the following

    • At least 10 days from the start of your symptoms (or the date of test if you don't have symptoms)

    • and - It has been 24 hours since your fever is completely gone (without using medicine)

    • and - Your symptoms are improving.

  • Exposed individuals

    • Consistent with the most recent StrongSchoolsNC toolkit, vaccinated staff members are exempted from quarantine in the event a colleague or student tests positive for COVID-19. Similarly, students are exempted from quarantine if a classmate tests positive, provided all students were wearing face masks.

    • For this reason, it is imperative that all students wear face coverings consistently and properly. COVID-19 cases are inevitable, and we want to minimize the number of children impacted by any quarantines.

    • Outside of the exemptions described above, quarantine duration guidance for "close contact" depends on which of the following situations applies best:

      1. 14 days from the last exposure, if any COVID-type symptoms have been reported during quarantine

      2. 10 days since last exposure, if no symptoms have been reported during daily monitoring

      3. 7 days since last exposure, if no symptoms and a negative COVID-19 antigen or PCR test taken no earlier than day 5

      4. Immediate return to school (no quarantine), if no symptoms, a daily negative COVID-19 test is reported for a 7-day period, and the individual is participating in the Test to Stay program.

Close contact

  • Close contact is typically defined as within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes cumulatively over a 24-hour period

  • In a school environment, children are not considered close contacts if they are properly masked

  • The guidance does not distinguish between indoor and outdoor for these purposes. Individuals in close proximity for extended times, even outdoors, can be considered close contacts.

  • A few common outside-of-school situations are presumptively close contacts:

    • Living in the same house

    • Ridesharing in the same vehicle

    • Playdates without masks


COVID-19 Testing



Telra Institute offers no-cost COVID-19 testing for our students and staff. Participation in testing is entirely optional and requires parental or guardian consent, however we recommend families and staff opt-in to the testing program to support our goal of keeping kids in school, in-person, as much as possible. We know that making a COVID-19 testing appointment or finding a home test kit can be harrowing, time-consuming, and expensive. Offering free, on-site testing is one more way Telra strives to serve and protect our community.

Testing Situations

Telra does not have a random screening program. We perform COVID-19 tests only in the following situations:​​

1.  Symptomatic individuals – Students or staff who present symptoms associated with COVID-19 can, in many cases, avoid being required to leave school if they can present a negative test result.

2.  Close contacts – Students identified as close contacts can:

(a) shorten the duration of their required isolation by demonstrating a negative test taken no earlier than the 5th day since their last exposure. (Potential to return on day 8, rather than day 11 or day 15.)

(b) eliminate quarantine entirely if they participate in the Test to Stay program. 

3.  Family request – Telra will perform a COVID-19 test on a student upon request of their parent or guardian. This may be desired upon return from travel or just for piece of mind following a suspected possible exposure.

Testing Types and Consent Forms

Telra offers two types of on-site COVID-19 testing. Both tests are simple, comfortable, and non-invasive. Collections are done with what is called a lower anterior nasal swab, which is a collection swab about the size of a Q-tip that is placed just into the lower part of the nose and swirled around 3 times to collect the sample. This approach is much more comfortable and is not the collection method where the swab is placed deep into the nose. Adults can self-administer the test, but Telra’s young students will require a trained staff member to collect the sample.

  • Rapid Antigen Test – This Abbot BinaxNOW test provides a result in 15-20 minutes and is the recommended technique when we need to quickly screen a symptomatic individual to rule out COVID-19.

    • Fill out COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Testing Consent Form (one form per student)

    • Return the form via email to

      • Please include COVID-19 testing consent in the email subject line

      • Include the student name(s) in the body of your email

    • We ask parents to complete this consent before you need it. If your child is symptomatic, they will have to pulled out of class and isolated while we call you to ask you to complete this form. Help us keep them learning!

  • PCR Test – The polymerase chain reaction technique is more accurate than the rapid antigen test, but it requires sending the sample to an external lab for analysis. Results are generally available in 24-36 hours. This test is recommended when we have more time, such as at the end of an isolation period. Note that this is a “pooled” test, meaning an aggregation of samples from 5-24 Telra community members is tested first as a pool. Only if the pool shows positive would the individual samples be further analyzed to identify the positive individual(s).

    • Register your child with our lab partner here: Register

    • Select “North Carolina” from the drop down and hit “Continue”

    • You can then select Telra’s location from the pull down (807 Trade St.) or by clicking on our pin on the map.

    • Select “staff” or “student” and provide information to complete the registration process.



Test To Stay

Telra Institute is one of the first schools in North Carolina to partner with Duke University's ABC Science Collaborative on a pilot of the Test To Stay protocol. This protocol builds off of a randomized trial study published in the Lancet that found that daily testing of school-based contacts was equivalent to self-isolation for control of COVID-19 transmission in school. A number of U.S. States and districts have already implemented Test to Stay. In North Carolina, Telra's participation in Test to Stay has been approved as a research pilot by NCDHHS and Mecklenburg County Public Health.

Protocol – Telra's Test to Stay protocol requires daily COVID-19 rapid testing over a period of 7 days post exposure. Individuals who remain symptom free and continue to test negative can stay in school over that period.




This protocol will continue to be updated as we deploy additional tools and resources to reduce risk and maximize flexibility and resilience of our learning model.


If you have questions or comments, please reach out to us directly at