StrongSchools Toolkit

Thank you for your ongoing partnership as we work together to keep our children learning in the classroom. As the pandemic evolves, NC Department of Health and Human Services is committed to providing the most effective and appropriate public health guidance for the current phase of the pandemic. The best tools right now are: getting vaccinated, getting boosted when eligible, wearing a well-fitting mask, testing after exposure, and staying home when sick.  

Contact tracing has been an important public health tool used to slow the spread of COVID at earlier points in the pandemic and remains important in certain high-risk congregate settings such as long-term care facilities, correctional facilities, and homeless shelters. At this phase in the pandemic, individual contact tracing in other settings and in the community is a less effective tool, due to several factors that include:  

  • Emergence of variants with shorter incubation periods and rapid transmission.
  • People with infection are most contagious prior to symptom onset and during the first few days of illness.  
  • Larger number of asymptomatic and less severe cases due, in part, to some immunity from vaccination and past infection.
  • Many infections are never identified by public health agencies because persons with asymptomatic or mild cases may not get tested as well as the increasing use of “over the counter” at-home tests. 
  • Widespread virus and low rates of case and contact identification limit effectiveness of contact tracing as a way to reduce transmission.

Together, these factors decrease the proportion of infections reported and compress the window of time for effective public health intervention after an exposure. Therefore, contact tracing becomes less effective in the general population. The impact of individual contact tracing on transmission may be particularly limited in settings where layered prevention measures are in place. Therefore, today’s update of the StrongSchools Toolkit now reflects that individual contact tracing and exclusion from school after an identified exposure are no longer a statewide requirement or recommendations in these settings. We are changing strategies in order to balance the effectiveness of our tools with the goal of keeping kids in school.


Although exclusion from school is no longer required following an exposure, schools should continue to notify potentially exposed students and staff. This is particularly important for settings that do not have other layered prevention strategies, such as universal masking, in place, and therefore have a higher risk of viral spread.  


The StrongSchools Toolkit and the Procedures for Response for K-12 Schools provides further details on different methods schools can use to make these notifications and the steps that individuals should take after receiving a notification.  The Toolkit is available now and will go into effect on February 21, 2022, giving school leaders time to plan for implementation. These changes will also apply in child care settings, with an effective date of February 21, 2022. An updated version of the ChildCareStrongNC Toolkit will be posted shortly.


We want to recognize the school staff and officials who have followed the science and used the best tools available, adapting to follow the science as the virus changes.


Thank you again for your ongoing partnership,


Geoff Coltrane

Senior Education Advisor

Office of Governor Roy Cooper

20301 Mail Service Center

Raleigh, NC  27699-0301


[email protected]

(919) 814-2024



Office of the Governor



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