COVID-19 Info: Schools

 

Roadmap to Reopen: Ontario, including Huron Perth, is currently in Step 3 of Ontario's Roadmap to Reopen. During Step 3 of the Roadmap, we must all continue to follow the public health measures, advice and restrictions that are in place. 

 

Huron Perth Public Health (HPPH) continues to support local school administrators with the safe operation of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.  This includes working with our school boards and private schools.

Based on advice from the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario, public and private schools are permitted to open for in-person learning with health and safety measures in place for the 2021-22 school year.

For more information, see the Ministry of Education's COVID-19: Health, safety, and operational guidance for schools (2021-2022) webpage. Or, contact your child's school board or school administrator:

Role of parents and caregivers

Parents and caregivers should be aware of the possible symptoms of COVID-19 and must screen their children before going to school each day – to protect themselves, other children, and staff. Use the provincial COVID-19 School Screening and follow the instructions. 

If your child does not pass the school screening, use the COVID-19 Decision Tool for Parents [PDF] | September 7, 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, 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.

Handwashing

Hand hygiene is an important part in stopping the spread of COVID-19, but also stopping the spread of other germs and bugs, and preventing illness. Please visit our Infection Prevention and Control page for more information and resources.

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 on individual cases associated with a school setting. HPPH will continue to report confirmed cases, demographic trends of confirmed cases such as age range, gender and municipality, and outbreaks here: COVID-19 in Huron and Perth.

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

To view a summary of COVID-19 cases associated with schools in Ontario, visit the provincial webpage COVID-19 cases in schools.

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 COVID-19 School Screening

  • 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.
    • NOTE: Your child CAN attend school if they or anyone in your household got a COVID-19 vaccine in the last 48 hours and is experiencing any of these symptoms that are mild and only began after vaccination: headache, fatigue (extreme tiredness), muscle aches, joint pain.
  • 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, or other symptoms not in the screening tool, what should I do?

If your child has one or more of the following symptoms and they are not related to other known causes or conditions (e.g. a runny nose due to allergies) they should stay home until the symptoms are resolved for at least 24 hours (48 hours for gastrointestinal symptoms, i.e. nausea, vomiting, diarrhea). 

  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headache
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • Loss of appetite

This advice applies even if your child has been tested for COVID-19 and the test result was negative. Staying home will help prevent spreading possible illness to others.

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 in school and on school transportation, if they can tolerate a mask and are able to wear one 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 COVID-19: Health, safety and operational guidance for schools.

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.

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.

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

If your child receives a positive COVID-19 test result, you will be contacted by public health, and provided with next steps and guidance, including directions for your household members.

You do NOT need to contact your school, your child’s teacher, people your child has been in contact with, or your employer until you receive direction from public health.

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.

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 day before attending school.
  • Use the COVID-19 School Screening and follow the instructions.
  • If you receive a call from HPPH, follow the guidance provided.

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

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?

If your child does not have symptoms of COVID-19, or has not been advised by public health to be tested for COVID-19, they do not need to get tested.

Your child should only get a COVID-19 test 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. Determining who is a close contact is a decision that can only be made by Public Health, not 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.
  3. Based on your child’s results from the COVID-19 School Screening, they were directed to be tested.

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.