Supporting schools

Last revised on January 12, 2022

Some of this content is under review and will be updated in the coming weeks as we receive new direction from the Ontario government. 

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There are so many positive benefits to the overall health and wellness of children and youth as we return to in-person learning. As we return to school, it’s important to please continue to screen your children for symptoms each day to avoid bringing COVID-19 into the schools. Screening is a very important measure that helps control the spread of COVID-19. Even if you or your child is fully vaccinated, you must continue with daily screening.

Keeping COVID-19 transmission low in the community is important to help prevent the introduction of the virus into schools. The Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, Ottawa Public Health (OPH), school boards, parents and students each have a role to play in making the return to school as safe as possible.

OPH will continue to monitor the situation in schools, evaluate and share new information as it becomes available. We will communicate COVID-19 updates to you in a number of ways, such as on our website, through social media and messages through the school boards.

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Ontario COVID-19 screening tool for school or child care

The purpose of this screening tool is to help parents and guardians make decisions about whether their child can attend school/child care. This screening tool should be completed daily before attending school/child care for each individual child separately. No personal information is requested when completing this tool, which means that you and/or your child cannot be personally identified or linked to your responses. It is recommended that you contact a health care provider if you have more questions about your child’s health. This tool is subject to change as further guidance from the Ministry of Health and evidence related to COVID-19 risks becomes available.

COVID-19 school and child care screening


COVID-19 symptoms

When assessing for symptoms, focus on whether they are new, worsening or different from your child’s baseline health status or usual state. Symptoms associated with known chronic health conditions or related to other known causes/conditions should not be considered unless new, different or worsening.  

This chart does not replace the need to complete screening each day before school or childcare. The screening tool acts as a decision guide to support parents and guardians to assess whether or not their child can attend school or childcare. Please complete daily for each child separately. 

Type Symptoms

Most common symptoms of COVID-19

  • Fever (temperature 37.8 C/100 F or higher) 

  • Chills 

  • Cough (more than usual if chronic cough) including croup (barking cough, making a whistling noise when breathing) not related to other known causes or conditions (for example, asthma, reactive airway) 

  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea, out of breath, unable to breathe deeply, wheezing, that is worse than usual if chronically short of breath) not related to other known causes or conditions (for example, asthma) 

  • Decrease or loss of smell or taste (new olfactory or taste disorder) not related to other known causes or conditions (for example, nasal polyps, allergies, neurological disorders) 

  • Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea, not related to other known causes or conditions (transient vomiting due to anxiety in children, chronic vestibular dysfunction, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, side effect of medication)

Other symptoms of COVID-19 

  • Sore throat (painful swallowing or difficulty swallowing) not related to other known causes or conditions (for example, postnasal drip, gastroesophageal (acid) reflux) 

  • Stuffy nose and/or runny nose (nasal congestion and/or rhinorrhea) not related to other known causes or conditions (for example, seasonal allergies, returning inside from the cold, chronic sinusitis unchanged from baseline, reactive airways) 

  • Decreased or lack of appetite (Not related to anxiety, constipation.) 

  • Headache that is new or persistent, unusual, unexplained or long-lasting not related to known causes or conditions (for example, tension-type headache, chronic migraines) and not related to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine in the last 48 hours 

  • Extreme tiredness, lack of energy or feeling unwell (That is unusual or unexpected (not related to other known causes or conditions or receiving a COVID-19 vaccine in the past 48 hours).) 

  • Muscle aches and pains (That are unexplained or unusual (not related to other known causes or conditions or receiving a COVID-19 vaccine the past 48 hours).) 


Other symptoms that may be associated with COVID-19 and should be monitored, include:

  • Abdominal pain (persistent or ongoing, not related to other known causes, such as menstrual cramps)
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye) (not related to blepharitis, recurrent styes)



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Rapid antigen testing (RAT) & school take-home testing kits

There have been changes to the testing strategy in Ottawa. The province will be shifting to be able to provide Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) for all students and staff, as announced on January 12, 2022.  Ottawa Public Health will also follow the provincial guidance to make PCR home test kits available in schools for symptomatic elementary/secondary students and education staff who become symptomatic while at school. The kits include a nose or nose/mouth swab that a child or adult can do themselves, or that can be done by a parent/guardian or caregiver. 

All take-home testing kits can be returned to the following Testing and Assessment Centres during operating hours:

  • CHEO Assessment Centre at Brewer Park Arena (151 Brewer Way, Ottawa)
  • COVID-19 care and testing centre - Ray Friel location (1585 Tenth Line, Orleans)
  • COVID-19 care and testing centre - Moodie location (595 Moodie Drive, Ottawa)

Forms and instructions for school take-home testing kits

Take-home kit registrations forms
Language Resource
English Take-home kit registrations form [pdf - 124 KB] (This document is currently not in an accessible format. An accessible document will be posted shortly.)

استمارة تسجيل COVID-19 خذ مجموعة اختبار المنزل ل

(This document is currently not in an accessible format. An accessible document will be posted shortly.)


Baarista Guri-u-Qaadashada COVID-19 FOOMKA DIIWAANGELINTA [pdf - 195 KB] (This document is currently not in an accessible format. An accessible document will be posted shortly.)

Take-home test kit for COVID-19 instructions
Language Resource

Take-home test kit for COVID-19 instructions [pdf - 202 KB] (This document is currently not in an accessible format. An accessible document will be posted shortly.)


[pdf - 369 KB] تعليمات COVID-19خذ مجموعة اختبار المنزل ل

(This document is currently not in an accessible format. An accessible document will be posted shortly.)


Xirmada Guri-u-qaadashada ee Baarista COVID-19 TILMAAMAHA [pdf - 242 KB] (This document is currently not in an accessible format. An accessible document will be posted shortly.) 

How to access results
Language Resource
English How to access results [pdf - 64 KB] (This document is currently not in an accessible format. An accessible document will be posted shortly.)

 [pdf - 152 KB] كيفية الوصول إلى النتائج

(This document is currently not in an accessible format. An accessible document will be posted shortly.)


Sida Loo Helo Natiijooyinka - [pdf - 71 KB] (This document is currently not in an accessible format. An accessible document will be posted shortly.) 


New changes to self-isolation (New updates January 10, 2022)

The guidelines for self-isolation have changed by the Ministry of Health. Please visit: What to do if you or your child has symptoms, has tested positive or for high risk contacts.  

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Ottawa Public Health Recommendations to School Boards

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Ottawa Public Health (OPH):

OPH supports school boards and schools in accordance with provincial standards and guidance.

OPH, in collaboration with school boards and schools, will:

  • Support the development and implementation of COVID-19 health and safety plans (e.g., protocol when a student becomes sick at school).
  • Provide setting-specific support for the implementation of infection prevention and control measures. 
  • Support and facilitate screening, testing, isolation, vaccination, and re-entry after COVID-19 exposure.
  • Support communication, engagement, and linkages within the school community, including parents/guardians and community agencies and resources.
  • Facilitate access to public health programs and services, support knowledge transfer and build capacity amongst school staff, students, and their families.
  • Conduct assessments and identify priority health topics and populations in school communities and provide support and referral as needed.

School board’s role

  • Develops and implements reopening plans following guidelines and recommendations from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and Ottawa Public Health (OPH).
  • Communicates with the school community about COVID-19 prevention measures, in collaboration with OPH.
  • Ensures accurate records of staff and students’ attendance, as well up-to-date contact information for staff and students that can be accessed in a timely manner for investigations and communications.
  • Facilitates training of school staff with respect to outbreak prevention and control measures and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Role of parent(s)/ guardian(s)

  • Using the screening tool, screen every child in your care every morning. The tool will help you decide whether your child should go to school or child care that day. Screening is important, even if you or your child is fully vaccinated.
  • Keep your symptomatic child(ren) home.
  • Call the school as soon as possible if your child:
    • Has COVID-19 like symptoms and will not be attending school
    • Tested positive for COVID-19 and is self-isolating or
    • Is self-isolating because they are a close contact of a positive case
  • Provide the school with up-to-date contact information for each parent or guardian and emergency contacts.
  • Inform the school of any medical conditions your child(ren) may have (provide appropriate documents to the school as needed).
  • Ensure your child’s immunizations are up to date.
  • Have a plan in place in the event your child cannot attend school for an extended period or is required to go home during the day.
  • Read all communications from the school and OPH and check the Supporting schools during COVID-19 web page regularly.
  • Contact the Ottawa Public Health Information Centre (OPHIC) at 613-580-6744 if you have any questions about any letter or message received from OPH.
  • Please note: Parents/guardians do not need to call OPH to inform them that a child is sick or has COVID-like symptoms. OPH will contact parents as needed. 

Useful links:

As we learn to live with COVID-19, we must continue to be social wise and recognize that all of us have a role to play when it comes to reducing the spread of the virus.

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Information for parents and students

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) has developed recommendations for additional COVID-19 protective measures for school settings for the 2021-2022 return to school. 

Here are some important key messages for parents and guardians to review with their child before schools starts:

  • Stay at home when you are sick, even when symptoms are mild. This applies if you are fully vaccinated. Staying home helps prevent transmitting an illness to others.
  • Ensure that personal belongings and food are not shared with students and staff.
  • Practise ‘no touch’ greetings with your friends and teachers at school. Let’s share a wave and not our germs.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper arm, not your hands! Throw the tissue away and wash your hands right away.
  • If you don’t feel well, tell someone.
  • Avoid touching your face. We can easily spread germs from our hands to our mask or face.
  • Bring your own water bottle from home to stay hydrated throughout the day.
  • When not wearing a mask, physical distancing is especially important to keep you and the friends around you healthy.
  • Reach out for help if you need it. It’s ok not to be ok. Check out some of our Mental wellness supports.
  • Make sure your immunizations are all up to date.
Packing healthy and safe lunches – what’s new during COVID-19? 

Packing healthy and safe food and snacks is an important part of return to school planning for your child. Children who eat well can focus longer and are ready to learn at school and eating well and staying hydrated is important to help fight off illness.

Here are some things to keep in mind if your child is returning to classroom learning:

At home:

  • Wash hands before and after preparing and handling food.
  • Wash and disinfect surfaces before and after preparing and packing food.
  • Use an insulated bag with a freezer pack or thermos to keep food cool. Chill milk or freeze drinking water to help keep food cool.
  • Pack food choices that are ready to eat and do not need to be reheated.
  • Check with your school if you should avoid packing peanut butter or foods containing peanuts in your child's lunch.
  • Use a wide mouth thermos to keep hot food hot. Pre-heat thermos with hot water before filling.
  • Wash all vegetables and fruit under cool, running water before use.
  • Pack food that your child can eat without the help from others.
  • If using a reusable lunch bag or container, make sure to wash them daily with hot, soapy water.
  • Label containers, bottles, lunch bags and reusable utensils with your child’s name.
  • Do not reuse plastic bags – they can hold bacteria.

At school:

  • Each Student should bring a full reusable water bottle labelled with their name that can be refilled throughout the day.
  • Secondary students are permitted to eat off-campus.
  • Use of shared microwaves/kitchen space is now permitted.
  • Nutrition/third party food programs and non-instructional food events (such as a pizza day) are permitted to operate.

Help your child understand they will need to:

  • Wash their hands before and after eating.
  • Remain at their own desk while eating.
  • Safely remove their mask and store it in a clean bag until ready to reuse.
  • Avoid placing food directly on their desk. Instead use an open lunch bag or place food on a clean surface such as a paper towel/cloth napkin.
  • Keep food, drinks, straws, containers or utensils to themselves (no sharing).

Healthy eating tips:

  • Use the Eat Well Plate to help build meals that follow Canada’s Food Guide.
  • Choose whole grains, vegetables and fruit and protein foods.
  • Include vegetables or fruit for every meal and snack.
  • Plan and prepare snacks and meals ahead of time to help limit use of processed foods that are high in sugar, sodium and saturated fat.
  • Choose water as the drink of choice.
  • Involve your kids with choosing and preparing food.

Helpful links:

Outdoor learning

This year, the return to school may mean your child is spending more time outside, as some classes are making their way to the school yard for learning. There are things we need to think about to make sure everyone is prepared for safe outdoor learning.  

For example: 

  • The weather: sun safety, cold weather, rain and snow 

  • The risk for tick and mosquito bites 

  • Safe play  

  • Mask use if physical distancing is difficult  

Visit our Parenting in Ottawa pages for child Safety and youth safety considerations including, sun safety, staying safe during hot weather, winter safety, protecting your family from mosquito and tick bites, walking and cycling safety as well as playground safety.  

To learn some more about nature, you can visit the City of Ottawa’s learning about nature page. 

Check with your child’s teacher or school for more about what needs to be sent to school with your child to be prepared for outdoor learning.  

Ensuring a safe return to school means we all have to be social wise to protect ourselves and others from the transmission of COVID-19. If we all take precautions at home and in the community, we have fewer opportunities for the virus to be present in our schools. Here are some important things we need to do to reduce the transmission and take care of our health:

Hand hygiene

Hand hygiene is one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of germs. Children need to be taught when and how to wash their hands properly. It is important for everyone to wash their hands often with soap and water or use hand sanitizer. Hand hygiene will be done regularly throughout the school day and will be part of the daily schedule.

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Wearing a cloth (non-medical) mask indoors helps to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 and helps protect the people around you. When you wear a mask, you are helping to protect other people. When other people wear a mask, they are helping to protect you. Students in Kindergarten to grade 12 are required to wear a mask in indoor spaces and on school vehicles (bus). Please refer to your specific school board regarding mask requirements. OPH recommends masking when indoors and outdoors when physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Masking is recommended for the following activities, and physical distancing should be maintained between individuals:

  • Outdoors
  • Low-contact physical activity
  • Singing

Physical distancing

Physical distancing involves taking steps to limit the number of people outside your household that you interact with and ensuring that whenever possible the people you interact with remain more than two metres (six feet) away. This will help to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Physical distancing helps limit the transmission of the virus when used with the other public health measures such as hand washing, wearing a mask and staying home when sick. Please refer to your school board’s reopening plan for physical distancing considerations at your school.

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School reopening plans

COVID-19: Health, safety and operational guidance for schools (2021-2022)

Please refer to your school board for their school reopening plans.

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Mental wellness supports

Take care of yourself. It’s ok to not be ok. Please know that help is available and we encourage you to reach out for support when you need it.

Mental health resources for school staff

Mental health and substance use services and resources

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Resources for school staff


School Mental Health Ontario

How to wear a mask at school

It is important to wash/sanitize your hands before putting on your mask, before removing your mask and after removing your mask.

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Other resources:

Organization Resources

Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS)

Caring for kids
Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO)
CHU Sainte-Justine
Government of Canada
Government of Ontario
Healthy Literacy Project
Kids Come First Health Team
Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies
Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child & Youth Mental Health
Ottawa Public Health
Ottawa Public Library
Public Health Ontario
School Mental Health Ontario
The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids)

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Contact Information

Provincial Vaccine Information Line

  • 7 days a week, from 8 am to 8 pm
  • Call if you have questions about Ontario's COVID-19 vaccination program.
  • Service is available in multiple languages.
  • Telephone: 1-888-999-6488
  • TTY: 1-866-797-0007

Ottawa Public Health COVID-19 Telephone Line

Regular hours:

  • Monday to Friday, from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm
  • Translation is available in multiple languages
  • Telephone: 613-580-6744 follow the prompts to the COVID-19 telephone line
  • TTY: 613-580-9656

Emergency Services

  • If you are in distress (e.g., significant trouble breathing, chest pain, fainting or have a significant worsening of any chronic disease symptoms), do not go to the Assessment Centre or a COVID-19 Care clinic. Go to the nearest Emergency Department or call 9-1-1.

See someone not respecting COVID-19 rules?

How to access help during COVID-19

  • 211 Ontario can help you find financial and social support during COVID-19
  • Telephone: 2-1-1

Related Information

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