Supporting schools

Last revised on November 3, 2021

Some of this content is under review and will be updated in coming weeks. The content will be made current for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year.

On this page:

Information for parents: Child care and COVID-19


New: Letter to Parents - October 15, 2021 [pdf - 215 KB]

We recognize that this is a difficult time due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the decision to send your child(ren) to school is not easy. Each family should assess their own individual situation especially if your child(ren), family and household members are at higher risk for serious outcomes due to the COVID-19 virus. You may also want to consider your child’s health condition, their learning needs, your family’s ability to find childcare and resources to assist in providing home schooling. Each family should choose what is best for them.

There are so many positive benefits to the overall health and wellness of children and youth as we return to in-person learning. With the many protections in place in our community and schools, we can have confidence about a return to in-person learning.  With the support of the COVID 19 vaccine, and other public health measures, the community has done a great job keeping the rates of COVID-19 low and this will help our schools as well.

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 and testing are very important measures that help control the spread of COVID-19. Even if you or your child is fully vaccinated, you must continue with daily screening and testing if you or your child have one or more COVID-19 symptom.

Keeping COVID-19 transmission low in the community is important to help prevent the introduction of the virus into schools. Parents, OPH and school boards each have a role to play in making the return to school as safe as possible.

Ottawa Public Health 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, messages through the school boards and notices home.

Ottawa Public Health Return to School Letter for Parents (pdf - 241 KB) (available in Arabic and Somali) (This document is currently not in an accessible format. An accessible document will be posted shortly)

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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 screening tool for school or child care

  • COVID-19 screening tool for schools/child care - Hard Copy (pdf - 175 KB) (This document is currently not in an accessible format. An accessible document will be posted shortly), available in Arabic (pdf - 361 KB)
    • This tool is meant to be shared with households who do not have access to a web version and need a hard copy in order to complete COVID-19 screening. This tool does not replace the electronic tool on the web page.
    • Schools and or child care centres may print this tool and share with households who need it.
COVID-19 symptoms in children

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

  • Symptoms most commonly associated with COVID-19 infection
  • Children with one of the listed symptoms, should stay home, isolate and get tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible
  • 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, wheeze, 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 knows 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

  • Children with one or more of these symptom(s) must stay at home and isolate. 
  • Children who are high-risk contacts* must get tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible. 
    • Household contacts (including siblings) who do not have symptoms and are fully vaccinated* do not need to isolate. Household contacts who have symptoms OR who are not fully vaccinated need to isolate.
  • Children who are not high-risk contacts, do not need to get tested but must stay home until symptoms are improving for at least 24 hours.
    • Household contacts (including siblings) who do not have symptoms do not need to isolate and can leave the home (regardless of vaccination status).   
  • 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) 

  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye) (Not related to blepharitis, recurrent styes.) 

  • 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).) 



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School take-home testing kits

Ottawa Public Health (OPH), along with our partners at CHEO, is offering free take-home COVID-19 testing kits for students and staff at some schools. These kits are offered to students and staff who develop symptoms of COVID-19 or are identified as a high-risk contact. The take-home test kits include a combined mouth and nose swab that a child or adult can do themselves, or that can be done by a parent/guardian or caregiver. These kits will be provided using a phased approached with the goal of expanding to all schools throughout the fall. You will receive more information from OPH and or your school, when the program is available at your child(ren)’s school. 

All take-home testing kits can be returned to the following Testing and Assessment Centres during operating hours in addition to your child’s school during school hours, where the test was provided:

  • 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)

Note: if your child’s school was closed as part of an outbreak, please return the school take home kit to one of the locations above.

Forms and instructions for school take-home testing kits

School testing letters
Language Resource
English School testing letters [pdf - 204 KB]

[pdf- 144 KB] COVID-19 الموضوع: خذ الى المنزل اختبار

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


UJ: Baadhista COVID-19 ee Gur-u-Qaadashada [pdf - 144 KB) (This document is currently not in an accessible format. An accessible document will be posted shortly.)

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.) 

Provincial Antigen Screening Program, Rapid Antigen Testing, and Take-Home PCR kits - Frequently Asked Questions

New changes to self-isolation for fully vaccinated people (New updates September 17, 2021)

If your child has COVID-19 like symptoms: household contacts that are fully vaccinated, and do not have any COVID-19 symptoms, do not need to isolate while waiting for the symptomatic child’s test results.

Note: Fully vaccinated means that it has been at least 14 days since you received:​

  • the full series of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., 2 doses of Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca/COVIDSHIELD, OR 1 dose of Janssen [Johnson & Johnson]) or any combination of such vaccines, OR​
  • one or two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Sinopharm) followed by one dose of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) OR​
  • three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Abdala).​

If you do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 and were fully vaccinated at the time of your high-risk exposure to someone with COVID-19, you do not need to self-isolate at home or in the community. However, there are some exceptions

If someone is fully vaccinated and develops symptoms of COVID-19, they are still required to self-isolate and seek testing.

For more information on what to do if you are high risk contact of someone with COVID-19 visit COVID-19 High Risk Contacts for more information.

Process when a person tests positive for COVID-19

Ottawa Public Health’s (OPH) goal is to prevent further transmission of COVID-19 and to keep children and school staff safe. If someone tests positive for COVID-19 in a school, OPH will work in collaboration with the school to reduce the risk of COVID-19 by implementing some or all of the following measures:

  • Communicating regularly with the school
  • Reviewing and confirming important practices to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 including:  
    • Screening children and staff for exposure to or symptoms of COVID-19
    • Staying home when sick
    • Cohorting (grouping and separation) students and staff 
    • Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces 
    • Using personal protective equipment when appropriate (e.g., masking)
    • Ensuring proper hand hygiene
    • Posting signage of appropriate public health measures (e.g., hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene)
    • Maintaining physical distancing 
  • Doing a site visit to the school and provide further advice, when indicated 
  • Providing recommendations on testing, as per provincial guidelines 
  • Assessing whether school operations can continue and if any additional measures are needed  
  • Identifying people who may have been in contact with the person(s) who tested positive for COVID-19  
  • Contacting those affected directly to provide guidance  
  • If school operations were interrupted as part of outbreak management, determining when operations can safely resume 
  • Helping the school ensure important practices remain in place long term  

Protocol When Staff or Students Test Positive for COVID-19 (pdf - 254 KB) 

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School decision guides, safety plan checklist and sample letters to parents/guardians

School decision guides

Letters to parents/guardians

شهادة بالعودة إلى المدرسة / دار رعاية الطفل بعد المرض

Sample letters to parents/guardians

  • When an individual who attends or works at a school has tested positive for COVID-19, all families at the school will receive this letter ( Individual has tested positive for COVID-19 identified at school (pdf - 216 KB) This document is currently not in an accessible format. An accessible document will be posted shortly) as a notification. This does not mean you or your child is a high-risk contact. If you or your child are identified as high-risk contact(s), OPH will contact you directly with an automated message (emails, phone messages, text messages).

For more information on ‘high-risk contacts’, contact tracing and important isolation information, please visit the COVID-19 High risk contacts page. If you or a household member have been identified as a high-risk contact, you will be asked to review the information.

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Ottawa Public Health and the COVID School Support Team’s role:

Each school in Ottawa will have a dedicated Public Health Nurse (PHN) working to support the health and well-being of staff, children, and youth in the school community. 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 including school site visits by PHNs
  • Support and facilitate screening, testing, isolation, vaccination, and re-entry after COVID-19 exposure.
  • Work with other OPH teams to manage staff and students  who have tested positive for COVID-19 to ensure they are on isolation.
  • Ensure staff and students who were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 are notified in a timely manner and provided next steps and supports. Provide guidance to schools on confirming and controlling outbreaks.
  • 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.
  • Communicates with the school community about COVID-19 prevention measures and how those who have tested positive for COVID 19 and outbreaks will be supported, in collaboration with OPH.
  • Support OPH and other stakeholders as appropriate, with the identification and follow up of people with COVID-19, their contacts and places experiencing outbreaks of COVID-19.
  • 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.
  • Have your child tested for COVID-19 based on recommendations of screening tool, health care provider or Ottawa Public Health (OPH).
  • Keep your symptomatic child(ren) home while waiting for COVID-19 test results and/ or if they are a high risk contact of a positive COVID-19 case. Fully vaccinated, asymptomatic high risk contacts are not required to isolate unless otherwise told by OPH.
  • 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, has COVID-like symptoms, or has a negative COVID result. 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. New this year, masks are not required outdoors, Students should still practice physical distancing when outside. 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 social circle and 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

  • Monday to Friday, from 8 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

Other Languages

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