Health Guidelines

Illness at School and When to Keep Your Child At Home

West Des Moines Community Schools collaborates with the Iowa Department of Public Health, Polk County Health Department, and local healthcare professionals to provide guidelines that identify when it is safe for children to attend school.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, the guidance is modified to meet appropriate public health and safety needs for all students and families.  It is very important to notify your child’s school or school nurse of any illness or symptoms, no matter what instructional model your child is in (either learning on-site or online).    

Students with any high-risk symptom or two or more low-risk symptoms should stay home and are advised to seek evaluation by a health care provider. This is referenced from the IDPH Guidance: IDPH- Evaluating Sick Students and Staff.

  • High-Risk Symptoms are: new cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, new loss of taste or smell
  • Low-Risk Symptoms are: fever (stay home if over 100.4), headache, muscle and body aches, fatigue, sore throat, runny nose, vomiting, and diarrhea.  
  • Students with a known alternative diagnosis may return to school after 24 hours with no fever (without the use of fever-reducing medicine) and symptoms improving.  
  • Students/families with a confirmed COVID-19 case or possible COVID-19 exposure will need to contact their school nurse for further evaluation and guidance. 

Students with the following symptoms must also remain home or will be sent home from school:

  • An illness that has caused vomiting or diarrhea during the previous 24 hours.  All children need to be symptom-free for at least 24 hours.  
  • Persistent nasal congestion, reddened eyes, sore throat, cough, or headaches that disrupt the student’s learning or pose a risk of illness to others.
  • Unexplained skin eruptions or rashes.
  • Any other health condition that, in the school nurse’s judgment, is of concern for the health and well-being of the child and others.
  • Communicable illnesses for which you have been advised to keep your child out of school until cleared to return by the county health department or your child’s doctor.
  • If a student is diagnosed with COVID-19 or any communicable disease, they must be cleared by Polk County Health/IDPH prior to returning to school.  

To minimize the spread of illness among students, report communicable diseases such as COVID-19, influenza, measles, whooping cough, hepatitis A, tuberculosis, chickenpox, etc. to the school nurse immediately.

  • The school nurse or another school representative will contact you if your child becomes ill or seriously injured at school. 
  •  It is very important to provide an emergency contact and keep it updated throughout the year. If a parent/guardian cannot be reached, other individuals listed on the emergency form will be contacted. 
  • Students must be picked up within 30 minutes to 1 hour of emergency contacts being reached, unless arrangements have been made with the school nurse or administrator.  

The health and safety of our students, staff, and families is our priority; additional health office reminders will be shared by your child’s school nurse(s) prior to the beginning of the year.  


Iowa law requires a parent to verify proper immunization against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B and varicella to enroll in school. At least one dose of each immunization must be given before starting school. If your child has not received all of the following immunizations, you will need to work with the school nurse and their health care provider to set up a “catch-up” schedule.

Immunization Requirements


If it is necessary for your child to take medication at school, please observe the medication process  in effect for the West Des Moines Community Schools.

  • If your child needs to take a medication at school, please contact your school nurse to set up an appointment time to bring in the medication and fill out the medication administration form. Printable versions of the daily, as-needed (PRN), and asthma medication forms can be found on our Health Forms web page.
  • Nebulizers are not recommended to be used at school this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is consistent with the national guidelines to reduce the spread of respiratory droplets/aerosols. All asthma medications need to be administered via metered dose inhaler or dry powder inhaler. A holding chamber/spacer is recommended. A current prescription for the inhaler is required, per the WDMCS medication policy.
  • The Health Office must have a written daily or as needed authorization form from the parent/guardian. Please include the student’s name, name of medication, amount to be given, time of medication is to be given, reason for the medication, and parent/guardian signature.
  • The medication must be in the original current container (NO plastic bags or envelopes with loose pills).
  • The directions on the medication container must match the parent authorization.

ALL medications (prescription and over-the-counter) must be kept in the Health Office at all times. The only exception to this policy is if a student has authorization to self-administer asthma medications.

Health Forms Web Page