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Returning to School – A Message from Public Health

September 2, 2021

After several months away from in-person learning, we know many students and families are looking forward to the return to school. Reconnecting with friends and teachers is important for social and mental well-being. The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit (LGLDHU) will continue to work with school boards and schools to support a safe and successful return to in-person learning.

In preparation for school, please review the following information.

COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics in Schools

Supporting your child to receive the COVID-19 vaccine not only protects your child and those around them but is key to helping our schools remain open for in-person learning. The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit will be offering COVID-19 vaccine clinics in schools. These clinics will be held as soon as possible in September offering first and second doses to students and their families. A parent/guardian letter and consent form will be distributed through the schools during the first week of September.

If you prefer your child to be vaccinated in the community, you can book an appointment or walk in to a health unit clinic or to a local pharmacy. For more information please visit the COVID-19 Protection and Vaccines section of our website.

Masks and Distancing

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. It is strongly recommended that students in Kindergarten wear masks. Please check with your child’s school board for their guidelines for Kindergarten students.

Physical distancing continues to be an important measure in combination with other measures. Students in a cohort will distance as much as possible and different cohorts will be expected to distance 2 metres from each other. Please check your child’s school board guidelines for specific activities.

COVID-19 Self-Screening Before School

It is an expectation that students, staff and visitors complete the COVID-19 School Screening Tool prior to attending school each day, and follow the guidance provided. This should become part of your morning routine.

The COVID-19 school screening tool has undergone some recent changes to make it more specific to COVID-19 symptoms.

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • For children, vomiting or diarrhea
  • For adults, feeling unwell, muscles aches, joint pain

The presence of any of these symptoms, unless related to a known medical condition, requires an assessment by a health care provider and likely testing.

If your child is experiencing symptoms not listed above and not related to a known medical condition, they should NOT go to school until symptoms are improving.

Process for a Positive Individual in a School

When there is a COVID-19 case in the school, Public Health will be involved at every step and are ready to answer questions and offer guidance related to symptoms and testing.

If a positive individual is identified at a school, the entire school community will be notified through a letter from the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit that outlines next steps. There will be two letters issued based on the Public Health investigation, one for possible close contacts in classes and other activities (high risk contacts) and one notifying the entire school about the potential exposure.

The advice is that unvaccinated or partially vaccinated high risk contacts will be required to isolate for 10 days, or as directed by public health. Generally, fully vaccinated high risk contacts, without symptoms, will not have to isolate but will be asked to self-monitor for symptoms for 10 days. It is highly recommended that all high risk contacts (despite vaccination status) be tested for COVID-19. Public Health will recommend the best time for testing. This fact sheet, Guidance for High Risk Contacts and Household Members, provides more information.

The school will also activate enhanced infection control procedures such as cleaning and disinfection of the classroom and any other affected areas of the school.

School Case and Outbreak Reporting

There is an understandable interest from the community in knowing when COVID-19 cases have been identified in schools. This information can be accessed on the Government of Ontario website. School boards report to the Government every weekday from Monday to Friday and this site provides a summary of COVID-19 activity in publicly-funded Ontario schools. Of note, cases reported on the Government webpage on Tuesdays include the total number of cases reported from Friday afternoon to Monday afternoon.

The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit provides updates on school outbreaks on the school surveillance webpage. An outbreak in a school is defined as two or more lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in students and/or staff in a school with an epidemiological link (e.g., they likely passed the virus from one to the other at school or on school transportation).

While communities will be kept informed through information on these websites, it’s important to remember that public health has an obligation to protect the privacy of individuals who are suspected and confirmed to have COVID-19.

The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit is committed to respecting children’s privacy and ask that people be kind and resist the temptation to speculate about absences or share rumours about possible cases – especially on social media.

For more information on COVID-19 and the re-opening of schools, please visit the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit’s website or call 1-866-236-0123.

To view your local school board’s return-to-school plan, visit their website:


For media interviews, contact: Susan Healey, Communications Co-ordinator, 613-802-0550 or [email protected].