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COVID-19 and Schools

August 2021 Update: Youth age 12–17 are eligible for their first and second dose of Pfizer vaccine (ensure 21 days between doses). Youth who get their first dose by August 3 will be eligible to receive their second dose and be fully protected by September 7. If you missed this deadline – don’t worry – get fully protected as soon as possible by booking or walking into any Leeds, Grenville and Lanark clinic. Check here for more details.

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Returning to School – A Message from Public Health

COVID-19 School and Child Care Screening Tool

*Note: This online and hard copy provincial screening tool should be updated soon to reflect the changes for those who are fully vaccinated.

You must screen for COVID-19 every day before your child goes to school. Answer the questions in this provincial screening tool to help you decide if your child should or should not go to school today.

Local School COVID-19 Outbreak Surveillance

Parents, students and staff have an understandable interest in knowing when a COVID-19 positive case has been identified in their school. This page will provide information on COVID-19 activity in a school setting. Outbreaks* and notices of any closures of classes, cohorts or schools will be included on this page. The Government of Ontario provides information about COVID-19 cases in schools and child care centres.

In the interest of privacy, information about an individual with COVID-19 will not be provided, nor details of the class or grade affected. We kindly ask that if you know details to refrain from posting these publicly. We all deserve to have our personal health information protected.

Ontario’s Plan to Re-open Schools

The province has a comprehensive website outlining the details.

We have been working with the local school boards on their re-opening plans.

Key messages from the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario – Dr. Kieran Moore:

  1. In September, Ontario’s students will be returning to daily in-person learning.
  2. In-person schooling is critical to support the academic success, personal development, and overall mental health and well-being of our children and youth.
  3. We have taken a balanced approach to reopening schools, to maximize health and safety and work to ensure that schools remain open for the full school year. We want our students to go to school and stay in school.
  4. This means that students in Grades 1–12 will be required to wear masks while indoors and on student transportation, and measures including proper hand hygiene, cohorting, and distancing remain important to support healthy and safer school environments.
  5. As the public health situation evolves over the coming months, we will adjust health and safety requirements and update guidance based on the best available data and evidence.

For specific school re-opening information, visit your school board’s website:

For Parents

In addition to the many FAQs below – here is some parent-specific information that might be helpful.

Frequently Asked Questions

COVID-19 Screening

What are the expectations for parents/guardians to conduct COVID-19 screening on their children?

Parents must screen their children for COVID-19 every day before getting on a school vehicle or attending school. Parents will be provided with a COVID-19 screening tool to help them make decisions about whether or not to attend school and what to do next. The ministry may direct school boards and schools to perform daily on-site confirmation of self-screening, such as during a period of potential higher transmission (for example, after a holiday period).

What are the COVID-19 screening expectations for school staff?

Staff must self-screen before attending work using an acceptable COVID-19 screening tool, such as COVID-19 screening tool. Staff (even if fully vaccinated) who are experiencing new or worsening symptoms consistent with COVID-19 must not attend school and should seek appropriate medical attention as required, including getting tested at a COVID-19 Assessment Centre. The ministry may direct school boards and schools to perform daily on-site confirmation of self-screening, such as during a period of potential higher transmission (for example, after a holiday period).

If my child gets sick with allergies, cold, or other symptoms similar to COVID-19 will they be required to get tested and isolate?

The province has developed a COVID-19 screening tool to provide guidance to parents/guardians on whether or not it is advised to go to school along with next steps. Parents/students are advised to complete this tool daily before going to school and follow the advice. Tip: bookmark this tool online and set a phone reminder to help make it part of your morning routine.

COVID-19 Case Management and Contact Tracing

What happens when a staff or student tests positive for COVID-19?

Close contacts/high risk exposures must self-isolate for 10 days and be tested as per Public Health advice. Those who are determined to be a low risk exposure may continue to attend school and must carefully self-monitor for symptoms. At the first sign of possible COVID-19 symptoms, they must self-isolate and go for testing. Note: If an individual is fully vaccinated or previously positive within the last 90 days different guidance applies. For more information, please review the Guidance for High Risk Contacts and Household Members.

If there is a student or driver who tests positive for COVID-19 on a school vehicle, does the entire bus have to self-isolate for 10 days?

If a student or driver tests positive, Public Health will initiate an investigation and review the bus seating charts and will identify and follow up with contacts as per the Public Health assessment. On a school vehicle, high risk exposures will be those who are less than a 2 metre radius from the positive person. On a large bus not everyone may be deemed a close contact or high risk exposure. Only close contacts are required to self- isolate for 10 days. All others on the bus will be considered a low risk exposure and must carefully self-monitor for symptoms for 10 days. At the first sign of possible COVID-19 symptoms, they must stay home from school/work and go for testing. Note: If an individual is fully vaccinated or previously positive within the last 90 days different guidance applies. For more information, please review the Guidance for High Risk Contacts and Household Members.

Masks/Face Coverings

Are all students expected to wear a mask/face covering?

Students in Grades 1 to 12 are required to wear properly fitted non-medical or cloth masks indoors in school, including in hallways and during classes, as well as on school vehicles and in before and after school care. Check with your child’s school board for their guidelines for Kindergarten students. Staff or students with sensory or breathing difficulties may be exempted by the school principal, guided by school board policies.

Does the local mandatory mask instruction apply to schools, school board offices and school board field sites?

No. The Medical Officer of Health Mandatory mask instruction for enclosed public spaces does not apply to “Schools under the Education Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.2, as amended”. This exemption applies to public spaces in individual schools, school boards offices and field sites.

The Ministry of Education has mandated that staff, and students in grades 1 to 12, wear masks. Students in grades 1 and up will be required to wear non-medical or cloth masks/face coverings on school vehicles and indoors in school, including in hallways, and during classes. Reasonable exceptions on the requirement to wear masks will apply. Students in kindergarten will be encouraged, but not required, to wear masks.

However, the Health Unit is highly recommending that students in Kindergarten wear non-medical face coverings/masks while traveling on school vehicles. Check with your child’s school board for their guidelines for Kindergarten students. All school-based staff will be required to wear medical/procedural masks, with reasonable exceptions for medical conditions.

Which types of masks are required for students, staff, and visitors to the schools?

Students are encouraged to wear non-medical or cloth masks/face coverings. Staff and visitors are required to wear medical masks (i.e. surgical or procedural). For more details on what to look for when making or choosing a cloth face covering visit our Face Coverings/Masks section.

What’s the difference between non-medical (e.g. cloth) masks/face coverings and medical masks?

Non-medical masks/cloth face coverings and medical masks do not offer the same protection. Non-medical masks/face coverings are used for “source control” meaning they protect the people around the person with the mask and not the person themselves. They act to keep an individual’s own respiratory secretions contained within the cloth face covering. Medical masks (i.e. surgical or procedural) are personal protective equipment. They provide protection from both the respiratory secretions of others as well as protecting others from their respiratory secretions. Procedural and surgical masks are not N95-Grade equipment, which is a specific device reserved for Aerosol Generating Medical Procedures.

When can students remove their masks/face coverings?

Outdoor times like recess can be used as opportunities for students to have breaks from wearing masks. Masks may be temporarily removed indoors to engage in physical activity or to consume food or drink. While masks are off, minimum distance of two metres is to be maintained between cohorts and as much distancing as possible within a cohort.

If you have additional questions about what the school environment will look like, please refer to your child’s school board re-entry plan.

Supporting Resources and Guidance Documents for Schools and School Staff

Posters for Schools