Reopening Schools During COVID-19

Schools Reopen in September

Ontario elementary and secondary schools will open with option of in-class or remote learning

Provincial guidelines to reopen schools

For specific reopening information and answers to frequently asked questions, visit your school board's website:

For private schools, refer to the school website.

School Cases and Outbreak

Learn about COVID-19 cases in Ontario schools and child care centres, and what happens if there's an outbreak.

COVID-19 Info-Line

For more information, call the Info-Line at 905-688-8248 or toll-free at 1-888-505-6074, press 7, then:

  • Press 2 if you're a parent or guardian
  • Press 4 if you're an educator, principal, school board representative, or other school or child care staff member
  • Or chat online in 90 different languages with auto-translate
  • Or email Healthy Schools

Prevention and Protection

The following Ontario guidelines outline the measures required to keep staff, visitors and students safe and healthy when reopening schools. The Ontario government has provided an updated screening tool for schools.

  • Screening for COVID-19

    Niagara Region Public Health recommends active screening every day before entering the school. Refer to your school board's website for their recommended screening practices.

    If anyone fails the screening questions, or refuses to answer, they should NOT enter the building. They should return home to self-isolate immediately and call their health care professional.

    Schools are recommended to place screening posters at all entrances to make sure staff, students and visitors don't enter if they have COVID-19 signs or symptoms.

  • Face coverings

    Guidance on face coverings in schools comes from the Ministry of Education.

    Students

    Students in Grades 4 to 12 are required to wear non-medical or cloth face coverings in school, including in hallways and during classes. Outdoor times like recess can be used as opportunities to provide students with breaks from wearing face coverings within their small groups.

    Students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 will be encouraged, but not required, to wear face coverings in indoor spaces.

    Students are encouraged to practise wearing face coverings and learn what type of face covering is most comfortable for them. Students may wear their own non-medical face covering, and non-medical face coverings can be made available for students.

    Teachers and staff

    Medical masks and eye protection (such as face shield) will be provided for all teachers and other staff of school boards. All school-based staff will be required 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.

    The Ontario government will provide personal protective equipment and cleaning products to school boards and will work closely to ensure appropriate supply and delivery.

    Where necessary, such as in leading classes with students who are deaf or hard of hearing, masks with clear sections may be appropriate.

    How to properly use a face covering

    A face shield is not a replacement for a face covering / mask. Face shields are intended to be worn in addition to a face covering / mask. A face covering / mask creates a complete or near-complete barrier on the sides of the wearer's face. A face shield is open on the sides, which allows some small particles and aerosols to enter.

    To learn more about face coverings and how to properly wear, fit, remove and clean your non-medical face covering visit:

  • Cleaning and disinfecting

    Cleaning products

    Products that provide both cleaning and disinfection action are preferable due to ease of use. For example, hydrogen peroxide products. Only use cleaning and disinfectant products that have a Drug Identification Number (DIN). Check the expiry date of the agents before use. These should be used according to the manufacturer's instructions.

    Cleaning program

    A program for cleaning and disinfecting schools should be developed, including reviews of:

    • Existing practices to determine where enhancements might be made, including frequency and timing of cleaning and disinfection, areas to clean and / or disinfect, choice of cleaning products, child safety, staffing, signage, and personal protective equipment  for cleaning staff
    • Inventory to determine items to be stored, moved or removed altogether to reduce handling or the challenges associated with cleaning them. For example, porous or soft items such as stuffed toys, area rugs and fabric upholstered seating.

    High touch surfaces

    Cleaning plus disinfection at least twice daily is suggested at a minimum. However, more frequent cleaning and disinfection may be necessary, depending on the frequency of use and extent of soilage.

    Examples of high touch surfaces include washrooms (toilet fixtures, faucets), eating areas (tables, sinks, countertops), doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, touch screens, push buttons, handrails, computers, photocopiers and sports equipment.

    Outdoor surfaces

    Routine cleaning of surfaces on playgrounds, including high touch surfaces made of plastic or metal requires soap and water, but not disinfectant. Cleaning of wooden surfaces isn't recommended.

    Shared objects

    Use of shared objects, such as gym or physical education equipment, art supplies, toys and games, should be limited when possible, or the objects should be cleaned between each use.

    Where an individual is suspected of having COVID-19 at school:

    • Establish a protocol for identification and communication of suspected / confirmed cases to administration and relevant staff to determine contaminated areas and carry out cleaning and disinfection, including timing, return to use, methods, personal protective equipment and waste disposal
    • Identify areas that may need cleaning plus disinfection (items used by the individual and all surfaces within two metres of the ill person) versus cleaning alone (such as a hallway or room where the individual has passed through)
    • Use disposable cleaning equipment, such as disposable wipes, where possible
    • Remove all items that cannot be cleaned (paper, books, etc.) and store them in a sealed container for a minimum of seven days

    For more information, call the Info-Line at 905-688-8248 press 7, then press 3 to speak with a duty officer or toll-free at 1-888-505-6074.

  • Steps to protect yourself

    To prevent the spread of COVID-19:

    • Stay home if you're sick
    • Clean your hands often
    • Keep a two metre distance from others
    • Cover your cough or sneeze
    • Avoid sharing personal items

    Learn more about how you can prevent the spread of infectious diseases and keep healthy.

  • Immunization

    Currently, there is no vaccine that protects against coronaviruses.

    School based clinics were cancelled this spring due to school closures and redeployment of Public Health staff.

    Contact your health care provider or walk-in clinic to discuss your child(ren) vaccination needs.

    Public Health doesn't require schools to collect and submit student vaccination records. Parents or legal guardian’s of junior and senior Kindergarten registrants and students new in Ontario are asked to report their vaccinations to Public Health.

  • Transportation

    For Niagara specific back-to-school transportation information and guidelines, visit Niagara Student Transportation Services and your child’s school board website.

    When possible, choose walking and cycling to school as often as possible. Active transportation and private transportation by parents and caregivers will ease pressure on bussing demands. Walking and cycling to school can give your child many benefits such as increased readiness to learn, decreased levels of stress and increased levels of happiness on the journey to school.

    If you need to drive, consider a safe drop-off location away from the school and let your child walk the last five minutes. This will allow them to enjoy the benefits of physical activity and help you avoid congestion around your school.

    As physical distancing may not always be possible, students are encouraged to use face coverings on buses. Confirm details about requirements for face covering on busses through Niagara Student Transportation Services.

    Niagara Student Transportation Services and your school boards are considering the following measures as required by the Ministry of Education:

    • Students should be assigned seats and a record of the seating plan should be kept to help with contact tracing in case a student or driver contracts COVID-19. Students who live in the same household or are in the same classroom cohort should be seated together.
    • Medical masks and eye protection, such as face shields will be provided for school bus drivers, school bus monitors and student aides
    • Frequently touched surfaces, such as handrails and seatbacks should be disinfected at least twice daily
    • Health and safety measures should be clearly communicated to parents and guardians of students to make sure they're comfortable with the adapted transportation system and receive their support in having students understand and follow guidelines

    Municipalities are working on measures to support your child's journey to school, such as face coverings for crossing guards. For details, visit your municipality’s website.

  • Mental health

    Mental health and well-being are core elements of the school reopening plan. Find evidence-based information and resources relevant to your role at School Mental Health Ontario.

Parents

For non-COVID related parental resources and supports, check out @NiagaraParents on Facebook or visit our resources for parents during COVID-19.

If you're looking for information about symptoms and testing, visit our Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) information.

To register for before and after school care, visit Niagara Region Child Care Registry. If you have questions about before and after school care for September 2020, email Jackie Galloway.

Students

For student resources, visit:

International students

All travellers arriving from outside Canada:

  • Require a mandatory 14-day self-isolation (or quarantine period)
  • Are required, at point of entry, to provide their contact information and where they're staying

Niagara Region Public Health doesn't have a direct role enforcing quarantine orders, but can provide support and information as needed.

Get more information for travellers without symptoms of COVID-19 returning to Canada. For questions or concerns about the emergency orders, email phac.emergencyorder-decretdurgencecovid19.aspc@canada.ca.

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