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Going to school during COVID-19

How to stay safe while attending school

Update on school reopening for the 2021-2022 school year

Peel Public Health is working closely with school board partners to support the local implementation of provincial school guidance. Refer to prevention measures in schools to learn more about our local recommendations for schools.

Back to School webinar

Peel Public Health hosted a Back to School webinar in early September with information for parents and students about COVID-19 prevention and control measures for the 2021-2022 school year. The webinar was delivered in both English and French.

If you missed the back to school webinar, use the links below to access the recording and slides:

COVID-19 vaccines for children and youth

Peel Public Health recommends that all eligible children receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccinating children and youth will not only help to protect them from severe COVID-19 outcomes, but will also protect those around them, including vulnerable populations and people who cannot receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Get details about COVID-19 vaccines for children including information on safety and effectiveness, eligibility, providing consent, and how to prepare for their appointment. Anyone born in 2009 or earlier can book an appointment to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

School vaccine clinics are also offering first and second dose COVID-19 vaccine appointments.

Other information

Daily screening is an Ontario government requirement. You must screen your child before they leave for school each day.

Refer to the Ontario COVID School Screening tool for more information.

Peel Public Health strongly recommends that school boards and schools conduct daily on-site confirmation of student, staff, and visitor self-screening results. This practice will be required during periods of increased risk (e.g., after a COVID-19 exposure or during an outbreak).

If your child has symptoms of COVID-19:

  1. They must stay home and self-isolate together with a caregiver who is fully vaccinated, if possible. Call the school to let them know.
  2. Arrange for them to get tested as soon as possible. Contact a health care provider if you believe the symptoms are due to an illness other than COVID-19.
  3. They must self-isolate at home while waiting for the test result. If they do not get tested, they must self-isolate for 10 days since the start of their symptoms. Household members, including siblings and other children in the home, should also self-isolate until a negative COVID-19 test or an alternative diagnosis is received by the individual experiencing symptoms. If household members, siblings and other children in the home, are fully vaccinated and do not have any symptoms of COVID-19, they do not need to isolate, but they should still get tested.

If your child was exposed to a person who has COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19 (including any members of their household), they must:

  1. Self-isolate together with a caregiver who is fully vaccinated, if possible, for 10 days from the last exposure to a person who has COVID-19. If the student is fully vaccinated, they do not need to self isolate; however, they should wear a mask and physically distance from others when outside the home for 10 days since their last exposure to the person with COVID-19.
  2. Get tested after 7 days have passed since the last exposure, even if they are fully vaccinated. If the student is tested between day 0 and 6 of the exposure, repeat testing on or after day 7 since the last exposure.
  3. Get re-tested if the test result is negative and the student later develops new or worsening symptoms.
  4. Household members may also be required to self-isolate, depending on their situation. Refer to household members of close contacts for full instructions.

If anyone in your child’s home has been isolating as a close contact of someone who has COVID-19:

  1. Your child must stay home for the duration of the household member’s isolation period unless your child is fully vaccinated.
  2. You must monitor for symptoms and arrange for your child to get tested if symptoms develop, regardless of vaccination status.

If your child travelled outside of Canada and has been advised to quarantine as per the Government of Canada requirements, they must:

  1. Self-isolate for 14 days from the date of return to Canada as outlined in the quarantine order. Unvaccinated children under the age of 12 who are accompanied by travellers that qualify for the fully vaccinated traveller exemption are also exempt from quarantine, but should not attend school for 14 days. Refer to the Government of Canada for more information.
  2. Monitor for symptoms and get tested if symptoms develop.

If a household member has travelled outside of Canada and has been advised to quarantine as per Government of Canada requirements, the student must:

  1. Stay home and not attend school for the quarantine period of the household member who travelled internationally unless they are fully vaccinated.
  2. Monitor for symptoms and get tested if symptoms develop, regardless of vaccination status.

If your child or anyone in your child’s home needs to get tested based on the results of their daily screening, a lab-based test should be taken to ensure the test is accurate. Rapid antigen tests (e.g. PanBioTM) should not be used in the place of a lab-based test.

Students who are not fully vaccinated and have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days should follow the instructions indicated above for fully vaccinated individuals. If an individual is immunocompromised, they should continue to follow all standard public health directions.

If you or your child cannot safely self-isolate at home, free isolation hotels are available in Peel. Our COVID-19 Voluntary Isolation Housing program provides a hotel quality room that’s private and safe. For more information call Region of Peel Human Services at 905-281-1269, or get more details.

If you have questions about your specific situation, call Peel Public Health at 905-799-7700. (In Caledon call 905-584-2216.) Our call centre is open Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Schools in Peel must follow the guidance outlined by the Ontario government for the 2021-2022 school year. Additional local recommendations for schools in Peel have also been developed in consultation with our local school board partners. Refer to prevention measures in schools to learn more.

Parents and guardians can help keep their children safe in school by following these measures.

Ensure your child has a non-medical or cloth mask to wear to school.

Students in Grades 1 to 12 are required to wear masks inside the school, including in hallways and during classes, and on the bus. Peel Public Health strongly recommends that school boards and private schools require students in kindergarten (JK and SK) to wear masks while attending school in-person and while on a school bus.

Masks may be temporarily removed indoors, with physical distancing precautions, during breaks when students are eating or drinking. Students are not required to wear masks outdoors, but physical distancing should be encouraged as much as possible. Masking outdoors should be maintained where physical distancing cannot be maintained between cohorts (e.g., during entry or when exiting the school). Refer to your school’s policy for details on masks.

  • It may be helpful to pack an extra mask for your child each day. Your child will then be able to change their mask if it becomes dirty or damp.
  • Masks can be stored in a dry, clean paper bag or container during lunch and break times. Store clean masks separately from dirty masks.
  • Learn how to choose, wear and clean or dispose of a mask.

Reasonable exceptions on the requirement to wear masks apply (e.g., those who have trouble breathing or cannot to wear a mask for medical reasons). Explain to your child that some people cannot wear masks, and to show kindness in these situations.

Hand hygiene is an important protective measure. Talk to your child about frequent hand hygiene and the safe use of hand sanitizers.

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds frequently.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers if soap and water are not available or if hands are not visibly dirty.
  • Allow hand sanitizer to dry before eating or drinking.
  • Never eat or drink hand sanitizers. Even small amounts can be dangerous or fatal.
  • Always supervise your child when they use hand sanitizer.
  • Store hand sanitizer in a safe place that’s out of the reach of children.
  • Avoid products packaged in containers that look like food or beverage containers to avoid possible confusion.

The Ontario government’s COVID-19 Guidance for School Case, Contact, and Outbreak Management outlines measures to manage exposures and cases within schools for the 2021-2022 school year. In Peel, additional local measures to manage school exposures and dismissals may be taken.

Coping with an exposure to COVID-19 can be stressful and challenging for families. Peel Public Health may work with the affected school to take the appropriate steps to keep everyone safe.

Individuals who are fully vaccinated or previously positive may have different instructions in certain situations. If an individual is immunocompromised, they should continue to follow all standard public health direction.

Managing school exposures

If a staff or student is a case of COVID-19, any classes or cohorts that were exposed to the staff or student will be dismissed. This is to lower the risk of spread.

After Peel Public Health completes an investigation, more information will be provided on the need for testing and when the class or cohort can safely return to school. Based on each situation, additional precautions may be taken.

Receiving a school dismissal letter

When you receive a dismissal letter from your child’s school this means that someone in your child’s class or cohort, bus route, or before and after school program has a case of COVID-19.

This means that your child is considered a close contact. You and your child should follow the instructions provided in the letter from Peel Public Health.

Fully vaccinated and previously positive individuals will initially be dismissed along with their cohorts.

If your child is fully vaccinated or previously positive, the dismissal letter will include instructions for what your child should do. When there is a case of COVID-19 in the school, the entire affected class or cohort is dismissed, without an assessment of vaccination status or previously positive individuals within the cohort. This helps us act quickly. Any separate instructions for fully vaccinated or previously positive individuals will be provided in your letter. This may include being allowed to return to the school or classroom.

Children who do not have symptoms and are fully vaccinated or previously positive are not required to self-isolate and may return to school as indicated in their dismissal letter. They should:

  • Monitor for symptoms.
  • Eat lunch away from others.
  • Avoid carpooling or taking the bus, as much as possible.

They should not participate in extra-curricular activities inside or outside of the school.

Individuals who are immunocompromised should follow all standard public health direction related to dismissal, even if they are fully vaccinated or previously positive.

When to begin self-isolation

Self-isolation begins the date of dismissal, not the day the person with COVID-19 was at the school.

Even though the person with COVID-19 has been at home, it’s possible that other students in the classroom or cohort, bus route or before and after school program may have gotten COVID-19 and were still attending school until the date of dismissal.

Even if these students did not show symptoms, they may have still been contagious.

By starting the self-isolation period from the date of dismissal, Peel Public Health can reduce the risk of exposure for the entire class or bus route. Learn more about how to care for someone who is isolating due to COVID-19.

Siblings and other children living at the same address

Why siblings stay home in Peel

Almost 70% of children who got COVID-19 from school or child care between February and July 2021 ended up passing the virus to their household members. Since there’s a high risk of spread within households Peel requires siblings to also stay home during the dismissal period.

All children living at the same address must stay home from school or child care for 10 days as well, if they are not fully vaccinated or previously positive. These children must not gather with individuals outside their household who are not fully vaccinated or who are not previously positive in the last 90 days.

Households have the highest risk of transmission in Peel, and this is the safest action we can take to reduce the risk of further spread and outbreaks in school and child care settings.

Adults in the home should monitor everyone in the household for COVID-19 symptoms every day. Follow these instructions if someone in your household develops symptoms of COVID-19.

When to get tested

Wait 7 days after dismissal to get your child tested if they do not have symptoms.

After being exposed to someone with COVID-19, it can take 7 days for an infected person to test positive for COVID-19. If your child develops symptoms, they should get tested right away. Ensure a lab-based test is taken for an accurate result. Rapid antigen tests, such as PanBioTM, should not be taken if your child is dismissed.

Your child should be tested even if they do not have symptoms.

As close contacts, Peel Public Health strongly recommends that all students and staff who were dismissed get tested on the date noted in the letter. There are people who test positive for the virus and never show symptoms of COVID-19.

Testing of other students and staff in the classroom or cohort, bus route or before and after school program helps determine further actions to protect others at school, home and in the community.

If your child tests negative

A negative test result and no symptoms does not mean your child can return to school.

It’s important to note that even if your child tests negative and doesn’t have symptoms, they must remain home for the entire dismissal period if they are not fully vaccinated or previously positive.

The safest action is for all children in the classroom or cohort, bus route or before and after school program to continue self-isolating for the full dismissal period, unless they are fully vaccinated or previously positive.

If your child tests positive after dismissal

If your child tests positive for COVID-19 at any time, Peel Public Health will contact you with further instructions.

Your child must continue to isolate. Household members will be recommended for testing and may also be required to self-isolate. Follow these instructions if you’re a household member of a person with COVID-19.

Let the school know as soon as possible that your child has tested positive.

School screening poster

Refer to the Ontario COVID School Screening tool for daily screening. You may also wish to reference Peel’s school screening poster:

Student caregiver toolkit

Refer to this toolkit if your child is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

Guidance documents

Mental health supports and resources

For local programs and supports refer to:

For more information and resources refer to:

School board plans and case data

Peel District School Board

Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board

Conseil scolaire Viamonde

Conseil scolaire catholique MonAvenir

Access our dashboard for information on COVID-19 cases in Peel–school outbreaks.

Related information