This Version Posted: October 21, 2021

The Health Unit continues to work closely with local school boards and other public health units to ensure a safe return for all students, staff and families during COVID-19. Please read on for more information and resources for parents, school board staff and students.

  • NEW! – Ontario is now providing targeted COVID-19 rapid antigen testing for unvaccinated students in areas with high-rates of virus spread. Get full details here.
  • Missed out? You can still watch the video recording of Medical Officer of Health Dr. Natalie Bocking hosting a Back to Class Q&A session on September 28. Dr. Bocking provided an overview about the current COVID-19 situation, the status of COVID-19 vaccines for children and youth, and answered pre-submitted questions.
  • Support student health beyond COVID-19. Learn how to help students maintain a routine and support their mental health. Find tips on how to eat healthy, sleep well, be physically active and complete homework.

Current Situation
  • The Ontario government has provided its updated guidelines and health and safety measures for the 2021/22 school year. Among the key highlights:
    • Masks must be worn by students in Grades 1-12 indoors (including in hallways, during class and on school vehicles/buses). Kindergarten students should be encouraged to wear masks as well.
    • Teachers and school staff must wear masks (with exceptions for medical conditions). Staff working in close contact with children who are not wearing masks must use eye protection.
    • Students, teachers and school staff must self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms every day before going to school.
    • Students can take part in academic and extra-curricular activities, with appropriate physical distancing and according to provincial guidance.
    • Students can eat lunch together outdoors (without physical distancing) and indoors, including in the cafeteria, with at least  2 metres distance between students from different cohorts.
    • School boards must continue to ensure adequate ventilation measures are in place in all classrooms.

Student COVID-19 Vaccinations

At this point in time, COVID-19 vaccines for children under the age of 12 are not yet approved for use in Canada. Clinical trials for these vaccines continue, and it’s expected they may be available for use in coming months.

On This Page

For Parents
Screening Your Child for COVID-19 Symptoms
What to Do If Your Child Does Not Pass Screening
Protocols When Student/Staff Test Positive for COVID-19
High-Risk Contacts
COVID-19 Outbreak in School
Return to School Protocol for Students with COVID-19 Symptoms
Provincial Resources

Guidance documents and resources:

Local School Board Resources

Learn how your local school board is working to support a safe return to class during COVID-19:

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I have my child tested for COVID-19 before they return to school?

Testing your child before returning to school is generally not recommended if they do not have COVID-19 symptoms, unless they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

What if my child shows symptoms before going to school or while at school?

As per the Operational Guidance for Schools (2021/22), all students and staff must self-screen every day before arriving at school. If a student or staff member is experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, they must stay home from school and should seek testing and appropriate medical attention.

If a student or staff member feels sick, or develops symptoms while at school, schools will follow the following protocol:

  • Students or staff who develop COVID-19 symptoms will immediately be separated from others, and the family will be contacted to arrange pick-up.
  • Staff and students with symptoms will be directed to seek medical advice including the recommendation of testing for COVID 19 as appropriate or as advised by their medical provider. Check out local COVID 19 Assessment Centre locations, and book an appointment for COVID- 19 testing.
  • Siblings/staff of ill individual can remain in school until further medical advice is received and should self-monitor for symptoms.
  • Staff and/or students who receive an alternative diagnosis than COVID-19 can return to school if they do not have a fever and their symptoms have been improving for at least 24-48 hours for nausea/vomiting.

Can I go to work if I don’t have any symptoms but my child is ill and we are waiting on results from their COVID-19 test?

If your child is symptomatic and has been tested for COVID-19, you and your family, including siblings, should self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. You can continue to go to school and/or work if you have no symptoms.

  • If while self-monitoring symptoms of COVID-19 develop, self-isolate and be tested for COVID-19 (and no longer attend work and school).
  • If any members of your household test positive for COVID-19, you will be contacted by Public Health directly with more detailed advice.

What if there is a positive case in my child’s school?

If a COVID-19 positive case is identified in a school, staff from the Health Unit will provide further instructions on who else in the school may need testing and/or monitoring/isolation at that time. Staff/children who are being managed by public health (e.g. confirmed cases of COVID-19, household contacts of cases, etc.) must follow the instructions provided by the HKPR District Health Unit on when they can return to school.

What if a parent/guardian tests positive for COVID-19?

Parents/guardians are not required to report their test results to their school, however it is recommended. Members of your household are required to self-isolate and should not attend work or school. If your child is at school, your child should be picked up immediately. Staff from the HKPR District Health Unit will be in contact with you for assessment and provide further direction.

Who will declare an outbreak at the school?

The Heath Unit will declare an outbreak after identifying two or more lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in students and/or staff (or other visitors) in a school with an epidemiological link where at least one case could have reasonably acquired their infection in the school (including transportation and before/after school care).

Examples of reasonably having acquired infection in school include:

  • No obvious source of infection outside of the school setting; OR
  • Known exposure in the school setting

HKPR District Health Unit staff will work closely with the school to determine close contacts of the case and will provide direction on isolation and facilitate testing.

Are masks now mandatory for all students?

Mandatory masking now applies for all students in Grades 1 to 12. Mask use is also required for before- and after-school programs, as well as on school vehicles. While not required, students in Junior and Senior Kindergarten are also encouraged to wear masks.

Masks must now also be worn outdoors when physical distancing can’t be maintained.

Additional Resources

Click on the following for additional support:

For School Board Staff

Click on the following resources for guidance on safe school reopening during COVID-19:

Protocols for Individuals/Schools With COVID-19
Guidance/Checklists for Reopening Schools
School Nutrition Programs – Guidance and FAQs
  • Public Health Guidance on Food in Schools (including Student Nutrition Programs) – Updated version to come
  • FAQs: Student Nutrition Program Planning (COVID-19 and Food Safety) – Updated version to come
For School Bus Drivers/Operators

Updates on Other Health Unit Services in Schools During COVID-19
  • The Health Unit will be providing three vaccines (non-COVID-19 ones) to Grades 7 and 8 students during the 2021/22 school year. These include the Men C-ACYW-135, Hepatitis B and HPV vaccines. Read more for full details.

For Students

Check out these resources to help stay safe at school during the pandemic:

About COVID-19
Washing Hands
COVID-19 Vaccination
Mental Health Support
Fighting Germs
Wearing Masks