Last updated: September 18, 2020 at 5:45 p.m.
Read Toronto Public Health’s tips on how to prepare for school during COVID-19 and what parents need to know if there is a case of COVID-19 at school.
Also read Toronto Public Health’s resources for schools JK to Grade 12.
Children need structure to learn, to socialize and to maintain good mental health. Here are some ways to prepare children for back to school, safely.
Following public health measures in schools will keep students and staff safe. The most important measures continue to be physical distancing as much as possible, wearing a mask, staying home when sick, and washing hands. Schools will be doing enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch areas, and using barriers such as plexiglass to prevent the spread.
Everyone needs to make decisions that are best for their children and family. Factors to consider include:
If someone at school contracts COVID-19, Toronto Public health (TPH) will conduct an investigation to determine who had close contact with the individual. Public health will then contact each person who had close contact. Due to privacy of personal health information, the name of the person who has COVID-19 will not be shared. Care must to be taken to avoid stigmatizing students and staff. Schools should continue to be welcoming, respectful, inclusive and supportive environments for all.
There is no set number of COVID-19 infections to determine if a school will need to close. It is not always necessary to shut down the entire classroom or school if there is a case of COVID-19 in the school. In addition, if the infection rate in the broader community increases, it may impact the number of people who get COVID-19 in schools. For the safety of everyone, there may be a time when schools need to close again.
Toronto Public Health is establishing a team of more than 70 nurses who will support schools as they reopen. These nurses will form the school COVID-19 response team for TPH. They will support schools with COVID-19 prevention measures, mental health and well-being promotion. They will also conduct outbreak management, case investigations and contact tracing if someone at the school develops COVID-19.
Some children may have a chronic runny nose or cough because of a health condition. They can still attend school. If the symptoms are new or getting worse, they will need to stay home and get tested. Speak to your health care provider for more support.
For children with symptoms of COVID-19, even if they are mild, keep them at home. Call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000, your health care provider, or an assessment centre for testing. Children can often get a throat swab or swab in the front of their nose (instead of at the back of the nose), so the test will not be uncomfortable.
COVID-19 testing is very important to help determine when a student can return to school. In general, if the student:
There are no clearance tests or doctor’s note required for return to school. Public health will advise on the clearance date.
COVID-19 is a new disease, and we are still learning about the long-term effects. This is why we must take every precaution to prevent the spread of infection.
Yes, we encourage everyone to use the COVID-19 Alert app. The more people using the app, the better for everyone. If someone gets COVID-19, they will enter a key in the app which will anonymously alert others who may be close contacts to go for testing.
There is less risk of COVID-19 transmission outdoors. There is more open space to maintain two metre distancing. And with more natural airflow, the respiratory droplets will fall to the ground faster. Students are less likely to touch contaminated surfaces outdoors. When children are outside, they move more. Outdoor play is fun, good for physical activity and is important for healthy growth and development.
What parents need to know when someone tests positive for COVID-19 in their child’s school or class cohort (designated group):
Parents will be notified by Toronto Public Health if there is a positive case in the school. The identity of the person who tested positive for COVID-19 will not be shared as this is personal health information. It is important to remember that not all students are at-risk if there is a positive case in the school. The main concern is for close contacts of the person who has COVID-19.
Toronto Public Health will follow up with the person who tested positive to find out where they may have gotten the infection, and who they may have exposed to the virus. We will work with the school, to find out who they were in contact with at the school while they were contagious. When a person with COVID-19 is first identified, all students in the same class cohort will likely be told to self-isolate at home. This may change as Toronto Public Health finds out more information through the investigation.
If the source of the infection was outside of the school, and the person was not contagious while they were at school, then the class cohort will not need to self-isolate.
If someone was contagious while at school, all students who are identified by Toronto Public Health as close contacts of that person will be instructed to:
As Toronto Public Health completes the investigation, if it is determined that students or staff did not have close contact with the person who had COVID-19, they will be allowed to return the classroom.
Other students in the school should also monitor for symptoms if there is a positive case in a school. But if they have not been told by Toronto Public Health that they are a close contact, they do not need to self-isolate.
Toronto Public Health will advise students who have been asked to self-isolate when they can return to school.
Toronto Public Health is responsible for declaring an outbreak, and for providing directions during an outbreak. An outbreak is two or more positive COVID-19 cases in a school, within a 14-day period, with at least one infection traced back to the school environment. This may include transportation to and from school or before and after school care. An outbreak can be declared for a class, grade or school.
If someone at school tests positive for COVID-19, parents will be notified. Not all students will be at-risk for potential infection. If your child is not a close contact, they don’t have to self-isolate. Monitor your child for symptoms for 14 days.
When visiting your health care provider or going to an assessment centre, try not to use public transit. If you use a taxi or ride share, wear a mask, sit in the back seat and keep the windows open.
If your child has one or more (new or worsening) symptoms of COVID-19, they should stay at home, self-isolate, and get tested. Call your child’s school to let them know that your child has COVID-19 symptoms.
Household members should monitor for symptoms for 14 days. They can go to school or work if they do not have symptoms and the child with symptoms has not tested positive for COVID-19. This includes while you are waiting for the test results. If the child has symptoms and was a close contact of someone who had COVID-19 then household members should stay home and self-isolate.
Contact your child’s health care provider if you have questions about testing. Find an Assessment Centre near you to get tested. Children can often get a throat swab or swab at the tip of the nose so it is more comfortable than a deep nasal swab.
When going to an assessment centre, don’t use public transit. Drive your child if you can, ask for a ride, or use a taxi or ride share. Wear a mask, sit in the back seat, and keep the windows open.
You can check your test results at covid-19.ontario.ca by clicking on “check your lab results.” Results can take a few days.
If your child has COVID-19 symptoms and did not have a COVID-19 test, they must stay home and self-isolate for 14 days from the day the symptoms started. Even if their symptoms get better sooner, they will need to stay home for 14 days. Household members will continue to self-monitor for 14 days. Household members can continue to attend school or work as long as they do not have any symptoms.
Sometimes children are sick for other reasons. If your health care provider has ruled out COVID-19, your child may return to school once they are free of all symptoms for 24 hours.
Please contact Toronto Public Health at 416-338-7600.
Toronto Public Health provides free immunization to Grade 7 and 8 students for the following vaccines:
This year, Toronto Public Health will offer free immunizations through community clinics. Students who missed their vaccinations last year due to school closures are still eligible for the free vaccines.
Parents can visit tphbookings.ca to make an appointment for their child to be vaccinated at a public health clinic beginning in October, or ask their health care provider to order the vaccines from Toronto Public Health.
Toronto Public Health’s review of immunization records for all students is cancelled for the 2020-2021 school year. Routine vaccinations are an essential health service, and are available from a student’s health care provider. Vaccines provide individuals with protection from non-COVID-19 diseases. Students visiting their health care providers for scheduled or urgent visits should not delay vaccinations at this time.
Read Toronto Public Health’s September 9, 2020 letter to parents and guardians for more information about school health services during COVID-19.
Below are links to resources that may be helpful for parents/caregivers and students in JK to Grade 12. Please check the links often as the information is updated on a regular basis.
|Resource Type & Source||Resource Link|
|Toronto Public Health||Back to school Fact Sheet for Parents|
|City of Toronto (video)||Helping your child wear a mask at school|
|Toronto Public Health||COVID-19 School Protocol|
|Toronto Public Health||What Parents Need to Know if Someone at School Tests Positive for COVID-19 (infographic)|
|Toronto Public Health||Talking to Kids About Going Back to School (infographic)|
|Toronto Public Health||Preparing Your Child for School (infographic)|
|Toronto Public Health||10 Ways to Greet from 6 Feet (infographic)|
|School Mental Health Ontario||COVID-19-Parents and Families|
|Children’s Mental Health Ontario||COVID-19 Resources|
|Sick Kids||About Kids Health-COVID-19|