School Planning - COVID-19

Promotion for School Reopening information for parents

COVID-19 school resources for parents

Maintaining protective health measures such as staying home when you have any COVID-19 symptoms, getting vaccinated against COVID-19, and washing your hands are important within schools to reduce the likelihood of infection and protect others.

Learn more about COVID-19 in schools

Schools must have measures in place to protect staff and student health, safety, and well-being.

The information below is to be used in conjunction with Ministry of Education, and Ministry of Health directives, guidelines, and recommendations.

School and child care screening

All staff, students and visitors must self-screen every day before attending school. Students who are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 as identified in the screening tool, must not attend school and should follow the guidance provided in the screening tool, which may include seeking appropriate medical attention as required, and/or getting tested for COVID-19. The Ministry may direct schools to confirm self-screening, such as during a period of potential higher transmission (e.g., after a holiday period).

Online COVID-19 school and child care screening
Dépistage de la COVID-19 pour les écoles et les services de garde d’enfants

Health and safety measures in schools

Learn about the coronavirus (COVID-19) health and safety measures being used in schools

Schools have the responsibility to ensure that staff and student health, safety and well-being are protected and measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are in place.

This information is to be used in conjunction with Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health and Public Health directives, guidelines, and recommendations. 

These measures are used to minimize or eliminate exposure to hazards. Learn more about eliminating/managing exposures

  • Staff and students must complete daily screening before they arrive at school.
    • Place signs at all entrances to remind people not to enter if they have any COVID-19 symptoms. Similar messaging can be communicated on voicemails and websites.
    • Ensure that you have a process in place for handling individuals who fail screening.
  • Ensure there is a process in place to validate self-screening results, if directed by the Ministry (e.g., after school holidays).
  • Promote good handwashing and cough etiquette:
    • Encourage older students and staff to carry their own hand sanitizer.
    • Provide multiple opportunities for handwashing throughout the school day (including paper towels for drying hands and lined disposal bins in prominent locations throughout school).
    • Teach proper hygiene, before and during the school day (especially before entering the school, before and after eating, and using the washroom).
    • Provide hand sanitizer where handwashing is not possible.
    • Supervise younger children while handwashing and sanitizing.
    • Video: Hand-washing heroes (Junior Kindergarten to Gr. 2)
    • Video: Wash your hands dance (Grade 3 and above)
    • Video: Wash your hands (Gr. 9-12)

As per Ministry guidelines, focus should be on regular hand hygiene to reduce the risk of infection related to high touch surfaces:

  • General cleaning and disinfecting of premises are required daily and frequently touched surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected at least twice a day.
  • More frequent cleaning and disinfection may be necessary, depending on use and soiling.
  • High touch areas include washrooms (e.g., toilet fixtures, faucets), eating areas (e.g., tables, sinks, countertops), doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, touch screens, push buttons, handrails, computers, photocopiers, sports equipment
  • Use of shared objects (e.g., gym or physical education equipment, art supplies, toys, games) is permitted. The focus should be on regular hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette to reduce the risk of infection. Shared objects should be regularly cleaned/disinfected when possible.
  • Establish roles and responsibilities, staff training where needed, and a regular schedule for cleaning and disinfection. Items/objects that cannot be well cleaned/disinfected daily or between classes should be removed until cleaned.

List of disinfectants with evidence for use against COVID-19.

As per Ministry Guidelines, ventilation is an important public health layer that can support healthy learning environments and reduce COVID-19 spread.

  • Classroom environments with adequate ventilation are associated with less likelihood of spread compared with poorly ventilated settings. 
  • Follow manufacturer’s maintenance measures for air handling systems (including inspection and replacement of filters, if applicable).
  • For schools with full mechanical ventilation (including parts of schools such as additions), school boards are expected to:
    • Have all ventilation systems inspected and in good working order before the start of the school year
    • Use the highest-grade filters possible, preferably MERV 13 filters
    • Undertake frequent filter changes through the year
    • Operate ventilation systems 2 hours or more before and after school occupancy
    • Calibrate HVAC systems for maximum air flow and increased fresh air intake
  • For schools or parts of schools without mechanical ventilation, school boards must place individual high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter units in all classrooms and learning environments. Units must be sized for the classroom or learning environment that is being used. In larger classrooms and learning environments, more than one HEPA unit may be required. 
  • In some areas, bladed and bladeless fan and portable air conditioners are used in schools. They generate air currents that could affect respiratory droplets. To increase safety:
    • Minimize their use as much as possible (e.g., lowest setting), and adjust them to direct the airflow upwards, away from surfaces and people to help gradually mix exhaled respiratory droplets while minimizing turbulence.
    • Regularly maintain these devices (e.g., surface cleaning including the blades), following manufacturer's directions for maintenance and removal of any moisture or water collected from portable air conditioners.
    • Open windows for circulation if able. Do not open windows if doing so poses a safety or health risk (e.g., risk of falling, triggering asthma symptoms, risk of bees/wasps) to students and staff and ensure that COVID-19 measures do not introduce new occupational hazards to the setting (e.g., do not prop open fire doors to increase ventilation/reduce exposure to frequently touched door handles).

For more detailed information, visit Ministry guidance and ventilation checklists for schools.

For non-healthcare settings, the use of PPE should be considered based on a risk assessment of the task, the individual and environment. All Government of Ontario guidance documents for sector-specific job duties should be followed. Public Health Ontario’s Technical Brief outlines minimum PPE expectations for care of individuals with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

  • Droplet and contact precautions are recommended for the care of someone suspected or confirmed with COVID-19.
  • Gloves are generally not needed beyond those used by staff as part of regular precautions for workplace hazards.
  • Staff should continue to follow organizational specific policies on PPE.

Resources:

What to do if a child has COVID-19 symptoms at school

  • All schools should direct staff and students to complete the daily screening tool and follow the guidance.
  • If your child has symptoms of COVID-19 at home please follow the Symptomatic Child at Home decision guide.
  • If a child becomes ill at school, they must go home. Please refer to the Symptomatic Child at School/ Child Care decision guide.
  • The school will contact a parent or guardian to arrange for the child to get home, in a way that does not include public transportation. We encourage parents to have a plan for this ahead of time.

Mental health and wellbeing

Schools should continue to support children and youth’s mental health and well-being.

  • School boards should implement a tiered approach for mental health supports that will capture all students and target intensive help to those who have been most affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • School boards should collaborate with child and youth mental health agencies to support strong connections and make the best use of mental health resources and supports across the integrated system of care.

Mental health resources and supports:

Nutrition programs

  • Nutrition/third party food programs may operate and should follow standard food handling and safety practices.
  • Proper hand hygiene (i.e., washing hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer) must be practiced before and after eating.
  • Use of shared microwaves/kitchen space is permitted.

Resources for schools

Resources for students

Contact us for school-related COVID-19 questions

Call: 905-974-9848