Last updated: November 26, 2021 at 7:45 p.m.
Read Toronto Public Health’s guidance for elementary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, and in-person instructional services.
On January 4, 2021, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health issued a Letter of Instruction to all employers in the City of Toronto permitted to be open under the Reopening Ontario Act. Employers permitted to be open are required to take the additional measures set out in this Letter to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Schools and school boards licensed under the Education Act, and schools and private schools within the meaning of the Education Act that are operated in accordance with a return to school direction issues by the Ministry of Education and approved by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health are currently exempt from these instructions due to sector-specific legislation, directives and guidelines governing COVID-19 measures in these settings.
Elementary & Secondary Schools
In-Person Instructional Services
This guidance is for operators of businesses or organizations that provide in-person teaching or instruction. Separate guidance is available for sports and recreation facilities, elementary and secondary schools, colleges and universities and other community and workplace settings.
As every organization is different, it is ultimately the responsibility of management and staff to review their own policies, procedures and site-specific circumstances, and to assess their ability to deliver services while ensuring that the appropriate infection prevention and control measures are implemented and maintained.
The aim and purpose of this document is to assist individuals and businesses with information related to the Ontario Government’s reopening framework as well as Toronto Public Health requirements to reduce the spread of COVID-19. It is important to know that breaches of some of these directions will constitute offences under provincial regulations or other public health legal requirements. While we aim to provide relevant and timely information, no guarantee can be given as to the accuracy or completeness of any information provided. This guidance is not intended to nor does it provide legal advice and should not be relied upon or treated as legal advice. Users seeking legal advice should consult with a qualified legal professional.
Stay up to date with COVID-19 Orders under the provincial Reopening Ontario Act, as well as City of Toronto orders and bylaws and Toronto Public Health (TPH) guidance at www.toronto.ca/COVID19.
Protective Measures to Keep Everyone Safe
- Get a COVID-19 vaccine.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Keep a two metre distance from people you don’t live with, when possible.
- Wash your hands often, and avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow.
- Wear a face mask or covering when you are in an indoor public setting, and outdoors when physical distancing is difficult.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Encourage COVID-19 Vaccination
- It is strongly recommended that all employers implement a workplace vaccination policy.
- Encourage students who were born in 2016 or earlier to get vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine.
Measures for all Workplaces, Businesses and Organizations
Review the Guidance for Employers on Preventing COVID-19 in the Workplace to plan and implement protocols to keep staff and students safe. Operators must also consider the following:
- Health screening for staff and participants
- Students and staff must be actively screened before they enter the facility.
- Remind staff and students to stay at home when they are ill, even if symptoms are mild.
- The person responsible for the business shall,
- record the name and contact information of every student who attends the in-person teaching and instruction,
- maintain the records for a period of at least one month, and
- provide this information to Toronto Public Health upon request.
- Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette
- Encourage participants to practice good hand hygiene before, during and after the class.
- Provide hand sanitizer with 70-90% alcohol concentration for staff and student use, if possible.
- Incorporate hand hygiene into breaks between activities and before and after snacks/ meals.
- Supervise/assist students with hand hygiene, if necessary.
- Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting
- Washrooms, locker rooms, change rooms, showers or similar amenities must be cleaned and disinfected as frequently as is necessary to maintain a sanitary condition.
- Ensure frequent cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces and objects in staff and public areas at least twice a day and when visibly dirty.
- If possible, assign staff to their own equipment.
- Encourage students to bring their own materials for personal use, when practical and possible.
- Any equipment rented or used by members of the public must be cleaned and disinfected as frequently as is necessary to maintain a sanitary condition.
- Operators must prepare and make available a written safety plan.
- The plan must describe measures/procedures that have been or will be implemented in the facility or establishment to reduce spread of COVID-19, including screening for symptoms, physical distancing, masks, cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and objects, the wearing of personal protective equipment, and preventing and controlling crowding.
- The safety plan must be posted in a visible location and be available to anyone upon request.
- Use the COVID-19 Safety Plan Checklist to develop your safety plan.
Promote proper use of masks or face coverings
- The use of non-medical masks or face coverings is required in all indoor public spaces, as per a City of Toronto bylaw and Reg. 364/20.
- Masks are strongly recommended in outdoor settings when physical distancing is not possible.
- Operators with indoor spaces open to the public are required to develop a policy on the wearing of masks. Use the Checklist on Mask By-law and Sample Policy that your organization can adapt.
- Alternative ways to provide instruction to students who cannot tolerate wearing a mask should be considered. For example, providing instruction at the end of the day, with no other students present, and keeping a two metre physical distance as much as possible.
- Staff should be trained on the mask policy, how to safely wear a cloth mask and understand who is exempted from wearing a mask. Proof of exemption is not required.
- More information is available here.
- Any indoor space for in-person teaching or instruction must be operated to enable students to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from every other person in the instructional space, except where necessary for teaching and instruction that cannot be effectively provided if physical distancing is maintained.
- The total number of students permitted to be in each indoor instructional space at any one time must be limited to the number of persons who can maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from every other person in the space, and in any event, cannot exceed 50 per cent of the capacity of the instructional space or 1,000 persons, whichever is less.
- 50 per cent capacity can be determined by taking 50 per cent of the capacity of every room in the rentable meeting or event space, as calculated in accordance with Ontario Regulation 213/07 (Fire Code), made under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997 and totalling the result.
Practice physical distancing
- All individuals must maintain at least two metres physical distancing from people they don’t live with, except where necessary for teaching and instruction that cannot be effectively provided if physical distancing is maintained.
- Consider cancelling or holding virtually in-person activities that are discretionary or for those at higher risk of COVID-19.
- Modify or cancel activities where physical distance or other appropriate controls cannot be implemented.
- Encourage instructors to use a microphone, rather than shouting.
- Stagger arrivals and departures to reduce congestion.
- Where possible, establish cohort groups consisting of the same students and instructors, rather than mixing groups.
Modify the physical space
- Walk through your space to identify areas needing modifications.
- Assign spaces for organized activities (e.g. by marking circles or squares on the floor/ground to designate where each student should stand or sit).
- Encourage students to remain in their designated space for the duration of the instruction period.
- Move equipment and other items to allow for at least two metres between users, or install physical barriers (e.g. plexiglass).
- If using a tent or canopy at least two full sides must be open to the outdoors and not substantially blocked by any walls or other impermeable physical barriers.
- Limit capacity under the tent to ensure physical distancing can be maintained.
- Arrange tables and chairs to promote physical distancing.
- Require masks or face coverings if physical distancing cannot be maintained.
Modify the use of equipment
- Where possible, use equipment and materials that can be easily cleaned and disinfected or are personal use or single use only.
- Minimize sharing and frequent touching of shared objects, equipment and surfaces.
- Encourage students to bring their own equipment and supplies for personal use.
- Provide individualized, labelled bins for each student’s equipment and supplies.
- Limit non-essential personal items brought to the facility.
- Inform staff and students about program operations and measures taken to keep everyone safe.
- Print posters for entrances and other locations, including mandatory mask bylaw.
- Encourage customers and staff to download the COVID Alert app. They may be notified if they have been in close contact with someone who test positive for COVID-19.
Download this information as a PDF.