Supporting schools during COVID-19

⚠ If you have come in contact with someone who has symptoms or has tested positive for COVID-19 on a PCR test or Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) complete this self-isolation determination tool to find out if you need to self-isolate. Looking for guidance? Visit our Information for those who have symptoms, test positive for COVID-19 and high-risk contacts web page.

⚠ How to report out-of-province COVID-19 vaccines.

Last revised on May 10, 2022

On this page:

Overview

There are so many positive benefits to the overall health and wellness of children and youth when children are in school. 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 keeping schools 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.

COVID-19 Vaccination and children 5 to 11 years old

Drop-in to one of Ottawa Public Health’s clinics to talk to a public health nurse or get a COVID-19 vaccine for anyone age 5 and up! Multiple opportunities available are prioritizing children aged 5 to 11 years, their families and household members in the surrounding community. Getting your vaccination will give you greater protection against serious illness and hospitalization from COVID-19. 

Take a tour of our COVID-19 vaccination clinic!

Full list of vaccination options available

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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. 

COVID-19 school and child care screening

Download the COVID-19 screenings (available in multiple languages)
 

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 see the: You have symptoms and are concerned you may have COVID-19 infographic (pdf - 452 KB).

Self-isolation requirements

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

If you were exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, complete this self-isolation determination tool to find out if you need to self-isolate.

Calculating the self-isolation period:

To calculate your 5-day self-isolation period, consider day 0 of your isolation as either:

  • Symptom onset date
    • For example: if you began symptoms on April 18, April 18 is day 0 and your last day of isolation is April 23. You can return to school/work on April 24. 
  • Testing date
    • For example: if you do not have symptoms and were tested on July 15, July 15 is day 0 and your last day of isolation is July 20. You can return to school/work on July 21.

IMPORTANT: After your 5-day isolation period is complete, a mask must be worn in all public settings - including schools, for an additional 5 days. 

To calculate your 10-day self-isolation period, consider day 0 of your isolation as either:

  • Symptom onset date
    • For example: if you began symptoms on April 18, April 18 is day 0 and your last day of isolation is April 28. You can return to school/work on April 29. 
  • Testing date
    • For example: if you do not have symptoms and were tested on July 15, July 15 is day 0 and your last day of isolation is July 25. You can return to school/work on July 26. 

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Absenteeism

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is monitoring absenteeism rates, which schools are required to report daily to the Ministry of Education. When the absenteeism rate reaches 30 per cent or more in a school, OPH will conduct an assessment with the school and provide the necessary support and preventative or mitigation measures. If the increase in absenteeism is found to be in relation to illness, OPH will provide the school with an Increased absenteeism letter. Your child’s school will share this letter with parents and staff as required by the Ministry of Education.

OPH will work closely with the school to carefully monitor the situation to keep it as safe as possible. As per new provincial guidance, public health units will no longer be identifying close contacts in the school setting of those who test positive for COVID-19 or dismissing cohorts.  Any dismissals or closures of a school or child care will depend on operational requirements determined by the school board, school and/or child care operator.  

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Testing for schools 

This past school year, students and education staff across Ottawa's public schools have had access to Take Home PCR Test Kits whenever they were symptomatic or had a contact with someone who was positive for COVID-19. In response to the Omicron variant, the provincial approach to testing has changed significantly. Students, parents and education staff have seen a change to COVID-19 testing within their schools as the provincial government rolled out its rapid antigen test program. 

Although rapid antigen tests may be available from your school, screening remains an important first step. Please use the COVID-19 school and child care screening tool every day, follow the recommended guidance, and stay home if you are feeling unwell.

Rapid antigen testing (RAT)

Keeping with the provincial government's school testing strategy, rapid antigen tests are now available to all staff and students in Ottawa. Schools are responsible for providing rapid antigen tests to staff and students, to use when they develop symptoms.

*Sampling in both the mouth and nose may improve the ability of Rapid Antigen Tests to identify COVID-19 infections (as compared to nose-only sampling, according to the Ontario Science Advisory Table).

Take-home kits (PCR)

Take-home kits are no longer available in schools or child care, as the province has shifted its testing strategy and is now distributing rapid antigen tests. If individuals already have a non-expired PCR take-home kit, and they have COVID-19 symptoms, they may use their kit and return it to one of the testing centres during operating hours. It is important to note that these kits have an expiry date, please confirm the expiration date on the collection tube before completing the test. 

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Supporting Schools and Child Care: Frequently Asked Questions

Important public health measures in schools

The Province announced the next steps to ease public health measures starting on March 21, 2022 . These next steps indicate that masking, physical distancing, cohorting and daily on-site confirmation of screening will no longer be required in schools. Although these measures may no longer be required, we encourage parents, guardians, and caregivers to continue with the layers of protection that make them feel at ease and which can continue to decrease COVID-19 transmission, including masking. It is important to show respect for others and their individual choices, based on their own assessment of their risk – or the risk to a loved one.

Here are some important things we can continue to do to reduce the transmission and take care of our health:

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Masks

Masking has been an important part of a layered approach to limit transmission of COVID-19 in schools and in the community at large. Masks can help to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, and add a layer of protection to prevent COVID-19 transmission.  It is important for each individual to assess their own risk level, and the risk of those they live and interact with. Individuals and their families must choose how to, rather than be mandated, to best protect themselves. This will include the decision to wear a mask in indoor, outdoor or shared spaces. 

Please note that masks will continue to be required in the following situations:

  • Return from international travel
    • A reminder that under current federal travel requirements, upon return from international travel, individuals that are exempt from quarantine, AND that are not fully vaccinated must wear a mask at all times when in public spaces (including schools and child care), for their first 14 days in Canada.  Fully vaccinated returning international travelers are no longer required to mask in public settings for 14 days after arrival to Canada.
    • Important: The travel guidelines are set by the federal government and are continuously changing. Please check for current federal information at the link above and direct any questions to the federal COVID-19 information line at 1-833-784-4391 or phac.covid19.aspc@canada.ca
  • Post COVID-19 infection
    • If self-isolation is complete after 5 days, wearing a well-fitted mask in all public settings (including schools and child care) is required for an additional 5 days.
  • Asymptomatic close contacts
    • If self-isolation is required for 5 days,  close contacts coming off isolation must continue to wear a well-fitted mask in all public settings, including schools, for an additional 5 days.
    • If self-isolation is not required, the close contacts must self monitor and wear a well-fitted mask in all public settings, including schools, for 10 days.

For more information on different types of masks, how to improve the fit of your mask, FAQs, visit our Masks webpage.

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.

Monitoring for symptoms and staying home when sick

Families should continue daily screening for COVID-19 symptoms for all household members and stay home when sick. For information for those who have symptoms, test positive for COVID-19 and close contacts visit our webpage.

Roles

 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.
  • Provide setting-specific support for the implementation of infection prevention and control measures. 
  • 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
  • Develop and implement reopening plans following guidelines and recommendations from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and Ottawa Public Health (OPH).
  • Communicate with the school community about COVID-19 prevention measures, in collaboration with OPH.
  • Ensure 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.
  • Reports increased absenteeism to the Ministry of Education and OPH.
  • Facilitate 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 up to date and has received all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses, including any booster dose(s).

  • 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 person with COVID-19
  • 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 messages 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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Key messages for parents and students

Learning to live with COVID-19 doesn't mean moving on as if the pandemic is over, it means being mindful of the virus' presence in our day-to-day lives. As more public health measures are lifted, it is important to know that COVID is still present in Ottawa. There is still risk of transmission and the risk of infection and severe disease is greater for some individuals than others. It's going to take time for all of us to get used to regularly assessing our levels of risk. It's important that we respect each other during this time. Just because one person's level of risk is low enough for them to feel comfortable taking part in an activity does not mean that activity is safe for others. It is important that we all be mindful that there are members of this community who remain at higher risk for serious outcomes.

Here are some important key messages for parents and guardians to review with their child as we continue to move forward:

  • Use layers of protection based on your level of risk.
  • Monitor for symptoms and stay home when you are sick, even when symptoms are mild. This applies even if you are up to date and have received all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses, including any booster dose(s). Staying home helps prevent transmitting an illness to others.
  • Have a few rapid antigen tests ready for your household. Make sure that the tests are not expired.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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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

Posters:

School Mental Health Ontario

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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 Vaccine Booking Line

  • Monday to Friday, from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
  • Translation is available in multiple languages
  • Telephone: 613-691-5505

Ottawa Public Health COVID-19 Telephone Line

  • Monday to Friday, from 8:30 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.

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

Other Languages

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