Updates from the Government of Ontario on what to expect as schools reopen for the 2020-2021 school year.

Elementary schools: K-8

Elementary schools will be equipped to reopen with enhanced health and safety protocols, provincewide.

Elementary school children will attend school 5 days per week. Students will be in cohorts, which means they will be with the same group of children throughout their school day, with limited exposure to multiple teachers or a wide variety of classmates.

Secondary schools: 9-12

All secondary schools will open with enhanced health and safety protocols. All secondary students will see different timetables in this school year that are designed to keep them in a small cohort of students.

Secondary schools in school boards designated by the province will open on an adapted model, with class cohorts of approximately 15 students, with schedules that would represent in-person attendance for at least 50% of instructional days.

Secondary school students in an adapted model would be assigned curriculum-linked work on remote learning days and, where possible, would participate in synchronous learning with their teacher and classmates for a period of each school day.

Approximately 70% of secondary students would begin the 2020-2021 school year on this schedule.

This direction will be reviewed regularly by the province in consultation with public health officials, and these boards will be supported in transitioning to daily attendance models.

Secondary schools in non-designated school boards will be permitted to open with conventional delivery. Secondary schools in these boards typically have fewer students, fewer schools and smaller high schools.

In-person attendance is voluntary

For both elementary and secondary students, in-person school attendance will be optional for the 2020-2021 school year to ensure parents can make decisions that work for their children and family.

School boards will offer remote learning for all students who choose this option.

Students may need to pre-register

School boards may require students to pre-register for in person attendance by a certain date. If students miss the deadline, they may be wait-listed and offered remote learning until an appropriate class placement can be provided.

Daily screening for symptoms

Students, teachers and school staff must self-screen for symptoms of COVID-19 before leaving home.

Students and staff who are unwell must stay home from school.

If a student has a pre-existing medical condition, parents are advised to talk to the family’s health provider before returning to school.

Protection strategies

Multiple protection strategies, informed by public health advice, will be used to ensure schools are healthy and safe environments for students and staff. This includes:

  • All staff and students must self-screen every day before attending school.
  • Signs to reinforce self-screening, hand hygiene, distancing and one-way use of hallways, adjustments to entrance and exit practices, adjustments to the use of playgrounds and school grounds, signage in bathrooms and availability of hand sanitizer.
  • Training students on appropriate hand hygiene.
  • Scheduling breaks to allow students to wash their hands.
  • Students in Grades 4 to 12 will be required to wear non-medical or cloth masks indoors in school, including in hallways and during classes. Students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 will be encouraged but not required to wear masks in indoor spaces.
  • Medical masks and eye protection (i.e. face shield) will be provided for all teachers and other staff of school boards. All school-based staff will be expected to wear masks, with reasonable exceptions for medical conditions.
  • School-based staff who are regularly in close contact with students will be provided with all appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Schools will significantly limit or even prohibit visitors, including parents.

Monitoring and responding to reports of COVID-19 symptoms

The Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health and Public Health will work closely with school boards to monitor and respond to reports of COVID-19 symptoms.

Student or staff with symptoms at school

Any student or staff member who develops COVID-19 symptoms while in school should:

  • be immediately separated from others, in a separate room where possible, until they are able to go home
  • not take student or public transportation
  • be supervised after they are isolated
  • maintain physical distancing
  • wear personal protective equipment that is consistent with health guidance

Parents, guardians and staff with symptoms

If you are a parent, guardian or school staff with symptoms, use the online self-assessment tool and follow the instructions.

If you test positive for COVID-19 at an assessment centre, you cannot return to school until you are cleared according to public health guidance. After your initial positive test, when you retest negative, you can return to school after you are symptom-free for 24 hours.


Schools must keep records of:

  • classes
  • seating charts
  • bus cohorts
  • daily visitors who are approved to enter the school

Visitors might include supply teachers, occasional teachers and custodians.

Schools will maintain these records and the records will be readily available for public health for contact tracing purposes.

Reporting suspected and confirmed cases

Schools must immediately report any suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the school to the local public health unit. Schools must provide any materials (for example, daily attendance and transportation records) to public health officials to support contact tracing and other activities in accordance with all applicable legislation, including the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Public health officials will determine any additional steps required, including but not limited to the declaration of an outbreak and closure of classes and/or schools. Every day school boards must report suspected and confirmed cases within the school community to the ministry.

Principals must:

  • communicate about the status of COVID-19 cases in their schools in keeping with ministry guidance and relevant privacy legislation.
  • maintain a dedicated contact in the local public health unit and a list of the locations of the closest COVID-19 assessment sites.

To see full article from the Government of Ontario website as well as access the guide to reopening schools. Please follow this link below: