Eastern Ontatio Health Unit / Bureau de santé de l'Ontario

Schools

Updated on 2022-04-28

School boards, schools and parents should visit this website regularly as information and resources related to COVID-19 are updated frequently.

On this page:

COVID-19 Screening

  • Staff and students should self-screen every day before attending school using COVID-19 School and Child Care Screening.
  • IMPORTANT! Carefully read and follow the advice provided with the screening result.

COVID-19 Symptoms

  • Refer to Poster: COVID-19 Symptoms
  • Most common symptoms of COVID-19:
    • Fever and/or chills, OR cough, OR shortness of breath, OR decrease or loss of taste or smell.
  • Less common symptoms of COVID-19:
    • Runny nose/nasal congestion, headache, extreme fatigue, sore throat, muscle aches/joint pain, gastrointestinal symptoms (i.e., vomiting or diarrhea).
  • If students/staff have one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19 or two of the less common symptoms of COVID-19, assume they have the virus and may be contagious. They must self-isolate, regardless of vaccination status (confirmation tests are NOT required).
  • If students/staff have one of the less common symptoms of COVID-19, they can return to school if it has been at least 24 hours since their symptoms started improving (48 hours for nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea) and they do not develop any additional symptoms.

COVID-19 Testing for Students and Staff

  • When available, Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) or PCR self-collection kits may be used when a student or staff member is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.  
  • If students/staff test positive on a RAT, the test result does NOT have to be confirmed with a PCR test. Parents do NOT need to report a positive RAT/PCR test to the school.
  • Negative RAT/PCR Results
    • Symptomatic individuals who test negative on a single RAT are advised to self-isolate. A single negative rapid antigen test does not mean that they do no have COVID-19 infection.
    • If two consecutive RATs, separated by 24-48 hours, are both negative, the symptomatic individual is less likely to have COVID-19 infection, and the individual is advised to self-isolate until symptoms are improving for at least 24 hours (or 48 hours if gastrointestinal symptoms are present).
    • Individuals who test negative on a PCR test (processed by a lab) must stay home until their symptom(s) have been improving for 24 hours (48 hours if gastrointestinal symptoms are present).

For Students and Staff Presumed to Have COVID-19 or Having Tested Positive for COVID-19

  • All individuals who are presumed to have COVID-19 based on their symptoms or have tested positive on a COVID-19 test (PCR, rapid molecular, or rapid antigen) should:
    • Self-isolate immediately as per the criteria in the You have symptoms and are concerned you may have COVID-19. Now what? flow chart.
      • When calculating the isolation period, the first day of symptoms or positive result (whichever is earlier) counts as day zero.
    • After self-isolation is complete, until day 10 (or day 20 for immunocompromised individuals) after the first day of symptoms or positive result, the individual must: 
      • Continue to wear a well-fitted mask in all public settings (including schools).Refer to Masking Requirement section of this page for additional instructions. 
      • Not visit anyone who is immunocompromised or at higher risk of illness (i.e., seniors).
      • Not visit or attend work in any highest risk settings.
  • If student presents with new or worsening symptoms consistent with COVID-19 at school, refer to Managing Students with COVID-19 Symptoms at School – Instructions for staff.

For Students and Staff Exposed to COVID-19

Note: Guidance below is for close contacts (high-risk contacts) who do NOT have symptoms.

  • Close contacts include those who had contact with the symptomatic/COVID-19 positive individual within the 48 hours prior to their symptom onset (if symptomatic) or within 48 hours prior to specimen collection date and until they started self-isolating; AND
    • Were in close proximity (less than 2 meters) for at least 15 minutes or for multiple short periods of time without appropriate measures as masking, distancing and/or use of personal protective equipment.
  • If the student/staff was exposed to COVID-19 ONLY while at school, generally contacts would not be considered close contacts due to the layering of health and safety measures in place.
  • If the student/staff is a close contact:

Masking Requirement

Starting March 21, 2022, wearing a mask in schools, school board offices and on student transportation is a personal choice except for a few situations where masks continue to be required. Please be kind to those who choose to continue wearing a mask. Some individuals continue to be at-risk of serious illness. Respect the risk tolerance and masking decisions of others.

The following are situations where masks should be worn at schools:

  • If a student becomes symptomatic while at school:
  • When a student/staff is returning from international travel:
  • If a student/staff is presumed to have COVID-19 (or tested positive for COVID-19):
    • Once self-isolation is complete, the student/staff should wear a well-fitted masks at school, until day 10 (or day 20 for immunocompromised individuals) after the first day of symptoms or positive result.
  • If a student/staff is an asymptomatic close contact, they should wear a well-fitted mask at school during their self-monitoring period.
    • If self-isolation is required, the self-monitoring period starts when self-isolation is complete and lasts until day 10 after the last exposure to COVID-19.
    • If self-isolation is not required, the self-monitoring period starts immediately after the exposure and lasts for a total of 10 days.

NOTE: If you wear a mask at school as per the situations above:

  • Wear a mask at all times, including outdoors during recess.
  • Reasonable exceptions include temporary removal for essential activities like eating (e.g., when eating in shared space at school/work while maintaining as much distancing from others as possible).
  • Do not participate in activities where mask removal is necessary. E.g.:
    • Playing a wind instrument in music class.
    • Participating in a high-contact and/or high-intensity activity or sport if a mask cannot be worn safely.

Reporting and Monitoring of COVID-19 Cases and Close Contacts

  • Cases of COVID-19 are no longer being reported to the Ministry of Health nor are they being published on the Ministry of Health website.
  • Parents/caregivers will NOT receive a letter from the school to advise them of a case of COVID-19 at school.
  • As of January 19, 2022, schools will report on student and staff absences to the Ministry of Education, daily through the Absence Reporting Tool (ART).
  • Schools will report high absenteeism rates (e.g., 30% above their baseline) to the EOHU and send a notification letter to parents/caregivers (from the EOHU) with information on public health measures to follow.

COVID-19 Safe Options for Planning Events in Schools

On March 21, 2022, the Ministry of Education removed all limitations on in-person gatherings and assemblies, thereby allowing schools to plan and host in-person events.

To support decision-making regarding an event, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) and Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit (LGLDHU) encourage schools to consider their absenteeism rate and their community’s COVID-19 status. Refer to EOHU Local Status Updates and Statistics.

If you choose to plan or host a school event, consider the following health and safety measures:

  • Use a well-ventilated area with plenty of space where participants can physically distance if they choose to do so. Where possible, gather outdoors for more space and good ventilation.
    • If the event is held in an indoor crowded area, encourage participants to think about wearing a mask.
  • All participants (staff, students, volunteer, family members etc.) should self-screen prior to attending the event using the COVID-19 School and Child Care Screening tool.
    • Post a sign with COVID-19 symptoms at the entrance and ask participants not to enter if they have a symptom(s). Refer to Poster: COVID-19 Symptoms.
  • Post a sign reinforcing hand hygiene and provide hand sanitizer at key locations such as at the entrance or by shared items.
  • Encourage mask wearing, particularly if older adults or immunocompromised individuals will be participating in the event to help protect them from serious illness as a result of a COVID-19 infection.
  • If you are serving food, refer to Food in Schools during COVID-19 for more COVID-19 health and safety measures.

Infection Prevention and Control

Additional Resources

Eastern Ontatio Health Unit / Bureau de santé de l'Ontario