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Going to school during COVID-19

How to stay safe and what to do if there’s a case in the school.

Student COVID-19 vaccination webinar recording

Peel Public Health recently hosted a webinar for students, parents, and guardians to talk about the COVID-19 vaccine, its safety and effectiveness in youth.
Access the webinar video recording.

Wearing masks at school

Students in Grades 1 to 3 are required to wear masks at school. There is also now a requirement to wear masks outdoors at schools, where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Peel Public Health strongly recommends that school boards adopt masking policies for kindergarten students starting in junior kindergarten. Implementation may vary across schools and school boards. Check with your school or school board for more details.

Reasonable exceptions on the requirement to wear masks continue to apply. Learn more about masks and other ways to stay safe in schools.

Daily on-site confirmation of self-screening

Schools are required to conduct daily on-site confirmation of self-screening for secondary students, all school staff (elementary and secondary) and all visitors before entering school or at the start of the school day.

Contact your school or school board to learn more about how on-site confirmation of self-screening is being implemented in your school.

All students (or parents on their behalf), staff (including teachers, office staff, custodians, and, bus drivers), and visitors should use Ontario’s online COVID-19 school and child care screening before attending school or child care every day.

Refer to daily screening section to learn more about daily screening.

Other information

If your child has 1 or more symptoms of COVID-19 they need to stay home and not attend school. Symptoms may be new, getting worse, or different than usual. Look for the following symptoms, even if they are mild:

  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • fever or chills
  • loss of taste or smell
  • sore throat or difficulty swallowing
  • stuffy or runny nose
  • unusual or long-lasting headache
  • nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • feeling unwell, muscle aches or tiredness

Before leaving for school each day, you must screen your child for:

  • Any COVID-19 symptoms (even if mild).
  • Close contact with a person who is sick with COVID-19 symptoms, or who has tested positive in the past 14 days.
  • If anyone in your child’s home has been isolating as a close contact of someone who has COVID-19
  • Recent travel outside of Canada by the child or anyone in the household (except for exemptions such as cross-border essential workers)
  • If instructions from public health or the COVID-19 Alert app require the child to stay home or self-isolate at home

Refer to additional resources for our daily screening poster for students and children, it's available in different languages.

Student has 1 or more symptoms and did not pass the daily school screening

If they have symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, decreased or loss of taste or smell, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, stuffy or runny nose, unusual or long-lasting headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, extreme tiredness or muscle aches):

  1. They must stay home and self-isolate for 10 days together with a caregiver. Call the school to let them know.
  2. They should arrange to get tested as soon as possible. Contact a health care provider if they believe the symptoms are due to an illness other than COVID-19. Refer to the when to return to school for what to do if the student does not get tested.
  3. They must self-isolate at home while waiting for the test result. Household members should also self-isolate until a negative COVID-19 test or an alternative diagnosis is received by the individual experiencing symptoms.

Student does not have any symptoms of COVID-19 and did not pass the daily school screening

If they were exposed to a person who has COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19, they must:

  1. Self-isolate together with a caregiver for 14 days from the last exposure to a person who has COVID-19.
  2. Arrange to get tested if symptoms develop.
  3. If the test result is negative and the student later develops new or worsening symptoms, arrange to get re-tested.
  4. Household members may also be required to self-isolate, depending on your situation. Check the full instructions for household members of close contacts.

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.
  2. Monitor for symptoms and arrange to get tested if symptoms develop.

If they travelled outside of Canada, they must:

  1. Self-isolate for 14 days from the date of return to Canada as outlined in the federal quarantine order.
  2. Monitor for symptoms and arrange to get tested if symptoms develop.

If a household member has travelled outside of Canada, the student must:

  1. Stay home and not attend school for the 14-day isolation period of the household member who travelled internationally.
  2. Monitor for symptoms and arrange to get tested if symptoms develop.

If anyone in your household has 1 or more symptoms of COVID-19, they should self-isolate and get tested. Everyone in your household (including siblings) must stay home and self-isolate until the sick person has received a negative test or has been diagnosed with another illness by a health care provider.

Refer to how to care for your child at home to learn more about how to self-isolate with a child.

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, Caledon 905-584-2216. Our call centre is open Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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. Masks are also required outdoors where physical distancing cannot be maintained. Wearing a mask by kindergarten students is strongly recommended by Peel Public Health and may be required by your child’s school. Refer to your school’s policy for details.

  • 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. For example, those who have trouble breathing or are unable to wear a mask for medical reasons. Explain to your child that some people are not able to wear masks, and to show kindness in these situations.

Talk to your child about the safe use of hand sanitizers.

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers if soap and water are not available.
  • 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.

If there’s a person with COVID-19 at your child's school, Peel Public Health will work with the school to take the appropriate steps to keep everyone safe. Coping with an exposure to COVID-19 can be stressful and challenging for families. Read this section to learn more about school exposures and dismissals.

How school exposures are managed

Case counts and exposures in schools and other settings are high in Peel. Because of this, Peel Public Health will dismiss classes if a student or staff in the class is positive for COVID-19, to minimize the risk of spread.

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

What to do when you receive a school dismissal letter

When you receive a dismissal letter from your child’s school this means that someone in your child’s classroom, bus route or before and after school program has tested positive for COVID-19.

This means that your child is considered a close contact. We understand that this can be stressful and challenging for families.

You and your child should follow the instructions provided in the letter from Peel Public Health. Refer to a summary about what to do if your child is dismissed from school or child care. (Also available in French)

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, 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 a child at home.

Other children living at the same address will have to stay home from school or child care for 14 days as well

When all children living at the same address (e.g. siblings or cousins) stay home from school and child care, it reduces the risk of further spread and outbreaks in school and child care settings. Households have the highest risk of transmission in Peel, and this is the safest action we can take to protect the community.

Adults in the home should monitor everyone in the household for COVID-19 symptoms everyday. If anyone develops symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19, everyone in the household must self-isolate immediately and get tested.

Wait 7 days after dismissal to get your child tested

After being exposed to someone with COVID-19, it can take 7 days for an infected person to test positive for COVID-19.

Your child should be tested even if they have no 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, regardless of whether they have symptoms. 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, bus route or before and after school program helps determine further actions to protect others at school, home and in the community.

A negative test result and no symptoms doesn’t 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.

This is because it may take up to 14 days after being exposed for someone to show symptoms and become contagious.

The safest action is for all children in the classroom or bus route to continue self-isolating for the full 14-days.

If your child tests positive after dismissal

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

Your child must continue to isolate, and household members would also be required to self-isolate and will be recommended for testing.

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

Have a plan in case your child is showing symptoms and must stay home or be picked up from school

The student will need to be picked up as soon as possible from school if they’re sick. Book an appointment for the child to get tested for COVID-19 or consult with a health care provider if you think the symptoms are due to an illness other than COVID-19.

How to care for a child sent home from school

If your child has been dismissed from school, they will be required to self-isolate, whether they have symptoms or not. This is important to prevent the spread of COVID-19. If the child is symptomatic or tests positive for COVID-19, everyone in the household must self-isolate for a period of 14 days starting from the last day of exposure to the child.

A caregiver should isolate with the child for emotional support and to support daily living, including bathing, feeding, and clothing. Learn more about precautions to take while caring for your child and when you should seek medical attention. Additional advice on how to care for a child who needs to self-isolate is also available from Public Health Ontario.

As a caregiver isolating with a child who either has symptoms or has tested positive for COVID-19, you're considered a close contact and must also self-isolate for a period of 14 days after your child’s self-isolation period is complete. The self-isolation period for caregivers should begin either 10 days after your child’s symptoms began or 10 days after your child was tested.

Learn what to do if you can't self-isolate in your home.

If your child has been dismissed from school, be sure to follow the instructions in your child’s dismissal letter for when they can return to school. Refer to School exposure and dismissal for more information.

If your child has symptoms and does not pass the daily school screening, testing for COVID-19 is strongly recommended

If the test result is negative for COVID-19, the student can return to school if all the following apply:

  • They do not have a fever (without using medication)
  • It has been at least 24 hours since their symptoms started improving
  • They were not in close contact with someone who currently has COVID-19
  • They have not travelled outside of Canada within the last 14 days

If symptoms do not improve, consult with a primary health care provider for diagnosis of another illness.

If the test result is positive for COVID-19:

  • The student must continue to self-isolate. Public health will call and give instructions on what to do before returning to school.
  • Household contacts (including siblings) must self-isolate immediately and get tested. They must isolate for 14 days from the last exposure to the person who has COVID-19.

If a health care provider diagnosed the student with another illness (not COVID-19), the student may return to school if:

  • It has been at least 24 hours since their symptoms started improving.

If the student does not get tested for COVID-19

If the student was assessed and diagnosed with another illness by a health care provider and it has been at least 24 hours since their symptoms started improving, they can return to school.

If testing is recommended and the student does not get tested, the student must self-isolate for 10 days at home from the start of their symptoms and pass the daily COVID-19 screening tool before going back to school. Household members (including siblings) must self-isolate for 14 days from the last exposure to the student with symptoms.

Refer to how to care for a child at home to learn more about how to isolate with a child.

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.

COVID-19 related translated posters
Print and post translated COVID-19 posters in your school

School and child care screening poster

Display the school screening poster in your school.

Resources for parents and caregivers

Student return to school form

Fill out form if your child has been absent due to COVID-19

Tools for school administrators

Guidance documents