How schools are operating

As of January 17, public and private schools have returned to full-time in-person learning with additional health and safety measures in place including:

  • more rigorous screening for staff and students before going to school
    • Schools will be doing daily on-site confirmation of self-screening for covid 19 symptoms.
  • school-based vaccination clinics to offer convenient access to covid 19 vaccines
  • expanded access to rapid antigen tests for schools
    • This will include two rapid antigen tests for every elementary and secondary student and school staff to use if they have covid 19 symptoms.
  • enhanced ventilation in classrooms
  • access to N95 masks (non-fit tested) for staff in schools and 3-ply masks for students
  • temporarily pausing high-contact indoor sports, high-intensity and music activities and mandatory masking for indoor sports
  • cohorting protocols to limit contacts with stricter lunch and recess cohort requirements
  • continued elevated cleaning standards at all schools

Remote learning will continue to be an option for students and families.

Students and staff must check for symptoms of illness everyday before going to school.

Use our covid 19 school screening tool.

Mandatory vaccination disclosure

For the 2021-22 school year, there is a vaccination disclosure policy for all:

  • school board employees
  • staff in private schools
  • staff in licensed child care settings

Staff who are not immunized against covid 19 must complete a rapid antigen test three times per week.

Learn more about vaccination clinics for education and child care staff.

Adjusting health and safety measures

The current health and safety measures in place for schools may be adjusted based on key public health and health care data.

We will continue to work with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and local public health units to review data to help inform and update guidance. Some public health units might require additional health and safety measures based on local public health data.

This is a summary of the health and safety measures. You can also read the complete guidance for schools.

Elementary schools

Elementary school children will attend school in-person five days per week.

Students will be in cohorts, which means they will be with the same group of children and have one teacher.

Other programming, such as physical education or French, will continue while students are in cohorts.

Secondary schools

Students in secondary schools will attend school in-person five days per week.

Starting in February 2022, school boards can move to regular schedules with four in-person classes per day unless it is not permitted by the local public health unit. Some secondary schools might return to regular timetables earlier if supported by the local medical officer of health.

Masks and hand washing

Schools will:

  • ensure students are wearing a mask when required
  • educate students on appropriate hand hygiene
  • schedule breaks for students to wash their hands
  • have hand sanitizer available at key locations throughout the school

Students

Grades 1 to 12

Students must wear non-medical or cloth masks indoors, including in hallways and during classes and on school vehicles.

We will provide three-ply cloth masks for students.

Students can remove masks indoors to consume food or drink only, with a minimum distance of two metres maintained between cohorts.

Kindergarten

We strongly encourage students in kindergarten to wear non-medical or cloth masks indoors in school, as well as on school vehicles.

Students do not need to wear masks outdoors. School and school boards can create reasonable exceptions to wearing a mask.

Teachers and staff

All staff in schools must wear medical masks (surgical, procedural) or N95 masks (including non-fit-tested)  indoors, including in hallways and during classes.

Staff do not need to wear medical masks outdoors when they can stay two metres away from other people.

We will provide non-fit-tested N95 masks for all teachers and other school board staff, including bus drivers.

Eye protection (for example, face shields or goggles) is not required for staff working with students who are wearing masks.

Learn more about face coverings, including exceptions and how to properly fit, wear, remove and clean your non-medical face mask.

Mandatory self-screening

Students, teachers, school staff and visitors must self-screen for symptoms of covid 19 every day before going to school.

Use the covid 19 school and child care screening tool to assess your child or yourself for symptoms. The results will tell you:

  • if you should go to school or stay home
  • what to do next

You can download, print or email your results through the tool.

On-site screening

As of January 2022, schools will confirm that elementary and secondary students, teachers, staff and visitors have self-screened for symptoms of covid 19:

  • before they can enter school
  • at the start of every school day

Confirmation will happen on-site at the school. It will continue until further notice and as instructed by the Ministry of Education throughout the school year.

Academic and extra-curricular activities

Students can participate in academic and extra-curricular activities with appropriate physical distancing and according to provincial guidance.

  • Elementary and secondary health and physical education classes, including high and low-contact activities are allowed outdoors. Indoor high-contact and high-intensity activities are temporarily paused. Indoor sports should be limited to activities where masks can be worn safely.
  • Clubs and other activities are allowed. Students must stay within their cohorts outdoors (for example, during recess) and indoors with physical distancing.
  • Music programs are allowed indoors but multi-cohort choirs and wind instrument ensembles are temporarily paused. Singing is allowed with masking and appropriate physical distancing in place.
  • Day trips and overnight stays are allowed with screening for symptoms of covid 19.

Read all of the guidance for academic and extra-curricular activities.

Tools and signage

Schools have:

  • signs to reinforce self-screening for symptoms of illness, hand hygiene, physical distancing and one-way foot traffic in hallways and bathrooms
  • hand sanitizer at key locations throughout the school
  • rules about how people enter and exit the school

Shared spaces and materials

Students can use shared spaces with appropriate indoor gathering measures and physical distancing in place. Shared spaces can include libraries, computer or tech labs, lockers, gymnasiums and change rooms.

Lunch and cafeteria use

Students can eat lunch together:

  • outdoors with their cohort, without physical distancing
  • indoors, including in the cafeteria, with at least two metres distance between students from different cohorts

If two metres distance cannot be maintained between students from different cohorts when eating indoors (for example, in the cafeteria or other shared lunch spaces):

  • elementary students must eat lunch in their classroom with their cohort
  • secondary schools must have a plan to limit the number of students and cohorts eating close to each other as much as possible

Assemblies

In-person assemblies and other student or school gatherings are:

  • allowed for secondary students as long as the gathering follows the public health measures and advice
  • not allowed for elementary students (virtual gatherings will be offered)

Shared materials

Students can share materials during recess, within shared spaces and indoors with appropriate physical distancing measures, regular hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette (like using alcohol-based hand sanitizer). This includes sharing computers, art supplies, books, indoor physical education equipment, and learning and play-based materials.

Visitors

Visitors can enter schools. Visitors must wear a medical mask and self-screen for covid 19 symptoms before entering the school.

Cleaning practices

Schools will continue to have enhanced cleaning practices. This includes cleaning high-touch surfaces, like eating areas, washrooms, doorknobs and desks at least twice a day.

Ventilation

School boards will continue to ensure adequate ventilation measures are in place in all classrooms. This includes:

  • increasing fresh air intake
  • running ventilation systems longer and using the highest-grade filters (for example, MERV)
  • using standalone high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter units to ensure adequate ventilation in all occupied classrooms and other school spaces, like cafeterias, gyms, libraries, music rooms and portables
  • using standalone high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter units in all occupied junior and senior kindergarten classrooms in schools with mechanical ventilation
  • increasing the frequency of filter changes

Schools are encouraged to open windows to help improve air flow when possible.

We have distributed over 70,000 HEPA filter units and other ventilation devices to school boards with 3,000 more HEPA filter units planned.

Voluntary COVID-19 testing

Rapid antigen tests

Students learning in-person in publicly funded schools will receive two rapid antigen tests from their school that students can use, if they develop covid 19 symptoms. These tests should be conducted at home and may be used 24 to 48 hours apart as per guidance in the covid 19 school and child care screener.

Take-home PCR self-collection kits

If take-home PCR self-collection kits are available, publicly funded elementary and secondary schools can offer kits to students and staff who develop symptoms commonly associated with covid 19 while at school.

Students and staff that develop symptoms at school will be able to pick up a PCR self-collection kit from school, if kits are available, collect the sample at home and drop it off at a participating location.

If someone becomes ill at school

If anyone becomes ill at a school, they will:

  • be immediately separated from others, in a separate room if possible, until they can go home
  • be provided with a medical mask
  • continue to be supervised according to the school's usual policy
  • be asked to maintain physical distancing
  • be unable to take school or public transportation

If your child becomes ill at school

If your child becomes ill at school, they must go home.

The school will contact you and you'll need to arrange for them to get home, in a way that does not include public transportation. We encourage you to have a plan for this ahead of time.

Check your school board website for more information.

Read the guidance for public health units covid 19 outbreak management in schools.