COVID-19 Info: Schools

 

As of June 11, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. Ontario is now in Step 1 of the Roadmap to Reopen. It is expected that we will remain in Step 1 for at least 21 days. During this time, we must all continue to follow the workplace and public health measures that are in place. Learn more about the Roadmap to Reopen and the public health measures, advice and restrictions in Step 1.

 All publicly funded and private elementary and secondary schools in Ontario will continue with remote learning until the end of the 2020-21 school year.  The Ontario government is enabling school boards for public and private elementary and high schools to invite students back for brief outdoor end-of-year celebrations. Any in-person school year celebrations will need to meet specific requirements such as screening, masking, and physical distancing. More details here.

There following health and safety measures are in place when schools are open for in-person learning to ensure the safety of staff and students including:

  • Students in grades 1 through 12 must wear masks or face coverings:
    • In schools, including in hallways and during class
    • On school transportation
    • Outdoors, where physical distancing cannot be maintained
  • Enhanced on-site screening protocols
    • Students, teachers and school staff need to check for symptoms of illness every day before going to school using the provincial screening tool.
    • All school staff and secondary students must confirm their COVID-19 self-screening result daily

Huron Perth Public Health (HPPH) is supporting local school administrators with the safe operation of schools under the Ministry of Education’s Guide to reopening Ontario’s schools.

This includes working with our school boards:

For private schools, HPPH has issued:

For more information, contact your child's school board or school administrator.

Many children and youth will benefit from being in school in-person. It is good for their education, for their wellbeing, and for their growth and development.

Role of parents and caregivers

Parents and caregivers should be aware of the possible symptoms of COVID-19 and must assess their children for symptoms to permit safe attendance at school each day – to protect themselves, other children, and staff. 

Complete the provincial school screening tool each day before your child attends school and follow the instructions.

COVID-19 School Screening  

If you child does not pass the school screening, use the COVID-19 Decision Tool for Parents [PDF] | June 11, 2021

Schools/Childcare COVID-19 Requirements Frequently Asked Questions [PDF] | March 15, 2021

How To Care For A Child Who Needs To Self-Isolate [PDF] | Public Health Ontario, April 14, 2021

Role of schools

School boards and schools have put measures in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19 at school. These measures include: cohorting (keeping groups together), increased hand washing and hand hygiene practices, physical distancing, enhanced cleaning and disinfection, and the use of personal protective equipment for staff, and masks or face coverings for students in grades 1 to 12. See below for more information on masks.

Role of Huron Perth Public Health

HPPH is responsible for investigating all cases of COVID-19 and for ensuring follow-up with close contacts.  HPPH will notify the school board/school of a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a student, staff or school visitor and will work with the school to prevent further spread of the virus. See below for more information about COVID-19 management in schools.

To protect the privacy of individuals, HPPH will not routinely comment if an individual case is confirmed in a school setting. HPPH will continue to report positive cases, and demographic trends of positive cases such as age, gender and municipality here: COVID-19 in Huron and Perth.

School boards and schools are required to post information if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 that involves a student or a staff member here:

To view confirmed case counts in school settings in Ontario, the province has set up a web page: COVID-19 cases in schools and child care centres

FAQs

 Screening: checking for COVID-19 Symptoms

Parents must screen their child/ren for symptoms every day before they go to school. Use the provincial tool:

  • If your child has any symptoms of COVID-19 or if they are ill, they should not attend school.
    • Follow any instructions given regarding keeping your child home, testing, etc.
    • Remember to report your child’s absence from school.
  • Secondary students must confirm their screening result when they arrive at school each day
  • Students who become ill during the day will be isolated and must be picked up from school as soon as possible.
  • Symptomatic students will not be able to use student transportation.
  • If you’re worried your child or any member of your household has been exposed to COVID-19 and that you may be experiencing symptoms yourself, use the Ontario COVID-19 self-assessment tool to assess your symptoms. You will get a recommendation on what to do next.

My child has a runny nose, what should I do?

Complete the provincial school screening tool and follow the instructions about whether your child can attend school.

Who in my family needs to be tested along with my child? 
If your child has been identified as needing a test and everyone else in the family is well, no testing of other family members is needed. If your child tests positive for COVID-19, the local public health unit will contact you/your child and make a plan for additional testing of all close contacts. 
Do I need a note from a doctor before my child goes back to school/child care or a copy of a negative test result? 
No, you do not need a note from your doctor or proof of a negative test before your child returns to school/childcare. If your child is isolating, they may not return to school until their isolation period ends.

I need more information to feel confident in my assessment, what do I do?

If you need additional information about COVID-19 or have a question specific to your child and their health, please contact your health care provider.
Does my child need to wear a mask?
  • Students in Grades 1 to 12 are required to wear a face mask indoors at school, outdoors when physical distancing cannot be maintained, and on school transportation.
  • Students may wear their own non-medical masks, and non-medical masks will also be made available for students.
  • Students in Kindergarten are encouraged but not required to wear a mask at school or on school transportation, if they are tolerated and able to wear them properly.
  • We encourage families to work with their children to ensure they are able to put on and remove their masks safely on their own.
  • Avoid the use of any mask lanyards or mask clips that could become a strangulation hazard.
  • Masks should be stored in something breathable like a paper bag, fabric bag or envelope that does not retain moisture, if the mask will be worn again.
  • Pack several masks each day and send your child to school with two bags for masks, one labelled "clean" and one "dirty."
  • Instruct your child to put their mask in the "dirty" bag if it gets wet or soiled, and to use a new, clean mask.
  • Wash the masks at the end of each day before reuse.
  • All staff in schools must wear masks. School staff who are regularly in close contact with students will wear masks and eye protection.

Mask Exemptions 

The Huron Perth and Area Ontario Health Team Physician Advisory Council has a joint statement on mask exemptions.

According to the statement, there are exceptional circumstances which do warrant consideration of a mask exemption. These include:

  • people, especially children, with severe sensory processing disorders
  • children less than 2 years of age
  • children less than 5 years of age (cognitively or developmentally) who refuse to wear a face covering and cannot be persuaded to
  • people with PTSD who are triggered by a face covering
  • patients with facial deformities that are incompatible with masking
  • extreme agoraphobia/asphyxia phobia (which is longstanding predating COVID 19)
  • people with cognitive impairment, intellectual deficiency or autism spectrum disorder for who wearing a face covering will cause severe distress or disorganization
  • people unable to apply or remove a face covering without help
  • people with accommodations under the Ontario Human Rights Code or the Accessibility for Ontarians with a Disabilities Act (that would pertain to wearing a face covering i.e. immobilization in a wheelchair would not qualify)

If you believe, based upon the above criteria, that you or your child warrant an exemption, please use this document to help you in further discussion with your school. If you have further concerns, please contact your family doctor’s office to discuss the issue with them or a trained counsellor.

Schools are discouraged from asking for proof of exemption.

 

Please Note:

  • Asthma and COPD (including chronic bronchitis and emphysema) are not contraindications to mask wearing; in fact, having asthma or COPD may put you at higher risk of complications from COVID-19 and make wearing a mask that much more important.
  • Discomfort caused by the mask is not an exemption.
  • Acne caused by the mask is not an exemption.
  • Patients wearing oxygen can wear a mask over top of their nasal cannula. It does not impair their ability to continue to wear their oxygen, nor lower their oxygen levels.  

If you choose to not wear a face covering and do not qualify for an exemption, we recommend you:

  • try different mask formats and materials, to find one you feel is more tolerable
  • try using the mask for short periods of time around home, slowly increasing the duration of wear at home until you can tolerate its use
  • see a counsellor for support, tips, advice, desensitization, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Masks with exhalation valves should NOT be used because they allow infectious respiratory droplets to spread outside the mask and thus do not protect others from COVID-19 and do not limit the spread of the virus. 

Learn more about masks and face coverings.

I’m concerned that kids in my child’s classroom aren’t wearing masks or staying 2 metres apart, who should I call?

If you are concerned about whether the proper public health precautions are being taken in your child’s class, please reach out to your child’s teacher or school principal with your concerns.

To find out what measures school boards and school must have in place, see the Guide to reopening Ontario's schools.

If you would like to find out more about public health measures that help stop the spread of COVID-19, contact us at 1-888-221-2133.

How will COVID-19 in schools be monitored?

Learn how reports of COVID-19 symptoms in staff, students and parents will be monitored and responded to.

See COVID-19 cases in schools and daycares, a list maintained by the Ministry of Education.

Please note that to protect the privacy of individuals, Huron Perth Public Health will not routinely comment about a school if a case is confirmed in a school setting. HPPH will conduct timely case and contact management and work closely with the school to determine next steps. If individuals are identified as close contacts of a case in a school setting, Public Health will ensure there is follow-up with the parent or guardian.

Further information:

Operational guidance: COVID-19 management in schools

What do I do if my child receives a positive COVID-19 test result?

You do not need to contact your school, your child’s teacher, people your child has been in contact with, or your employer if your child receives a positive result. Wait to receive direction from Huron Perth Public Health (HPPH).

If your child receives a positive COVID-19 test result and you haven't already heard from HPPH, isolate your child (keep them at home) and call HPPH at 1-888-221-2133.

HPPH will provide you with your next steps and guidance, including directions for your household members.

If you receive the results after hours or on the weekend, call 1-888-221-2133 and follow the directions to reach the answering service. We will get back to you within 24 hours. In the meantime, please isolate your child at home.

Once HPPH has spoken with you and your child, we will start our contact tracing process. This involves getting in touch with people who have had close contact with your child during the time they were potentially infectious to others.

A close contact is someone who was closer than 2 metres/6 feet for more than 15 minutes, or is living in the same home.

I heard someone in my child’s class has COVID-19. Should I keep my child home?
If your child was identified as a close contact of a confirmed case, HPPH will investigate and be in touch with you about the next steps for your child, which could include self-isolating or self monitoring for symptoms.

If you have not heard from HPPH, you may have heard inaccurate information or your child was not considered a close contact. If your child was not considered a close contact, they may continue to go to school, while continuing to practice physical distancing, wearing a mask, and washing hands often.

I’ve received a letter stating that someone in my child’s class or school has COVID-19.

If the school or HPPH communicates that someone in your child’s class or school has COVID-19, then HPPH is investigating and will provide direction as needed. Here is how the process works.

What HPPH does:

  • Public Health contacts any of the individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 along with the school.
  • Public Health determines who had close contact with the case during the time period they were potentially infectious to others and arranges follow-up.
  • HPPH provides direction to close contacts and the school to protect students and staff, and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

What the school does:

  • The school provides HPPH with information about who the case was in contact with while at school (including before and after school care and on the school bus if relevant).
  • The school cleans and disinfects all areas in the school where the individuals may have been.
  • The school works with HPPH to identify any additional ways to protect all students and staff, and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

What should you do?

  • Continue to monitor and screen your child for symptoms of COVID-19 every morning.
  • Use the Ministry of Health’s screening tool:
  • If you receive a call from HPPH, follow the guidance provided.

If a student is positive for COVID-19 will the school close down?

In general, a confirmed case will lead to dismissal of a classroom (and/or bus) cohort and will not result in a school closure. An outbreak in a school will be declared if there are two or more cases of COVID-19 in a 14-day period that have some link with each other, and with evidence that infection occurred at the school. HPPH will assist the school and families in taking measures to contain and stop the outbreak.

If an outbreak is declared in a school, HPPH will assist in determining which cohort(s) may be sent home, or if a partial or full school closure is required based on the scope of the outbreak.  If there is a partial or full school closure, the outbreak doesn’t necessarily need to be over to re-open the school.

Schools and school boards are required to communicate details regarding any closures to their school communities, so please follow any communications your child’s school or school board distributes.

Should I get my child tested for COVID-19 even if they’re not sick?

We understand that some caregivers may feel very anxious and want to test their child just to make sure they don’t have COVID-19. However, if there are no symptoms and there is no close link to a confirmed case (as decided by HPPH), then there is no practical benefit to getting a child tested. The information received from a test provides limited information about a single point in time. A negative result does not rule out that someone is incubating disease, and may provide false reassurances. A positive result in an asymptomatic person may not reflect active infection and lead to unnecessary measures. 

Getting a COVID-19 test would be appropriate and strongly recommended when:
1. Public Health has let you know that you are a close contact to someone who has COVID-19, based on a thorough risk assessment completed only by Public Health. Deciding who is a close contact is a decision that can only be made by Public Health. This decision as to who is a close contact cannot be made by your health care provider or school official(s).
2. Your health care provider has told you to get tested because you have COVID-19 related symptoms.

Supporting mental health for students, parents and educators

Please visit COVID-19 and Mental Health for resources and information to support students, parents and educators with their mental health during this time.

More information

For posters and other resources, please visit our COVID-19 response resources page.

COVID-19 and Back to School | Dr. Dawn Bodish, PHD, Canada Research Chair in Aging and Immunity