2021-22 Back to School FAQs
The 2021-2022 Back to School Plan outlines the public health guidelines for the year ahead in Island schools. The plan is based on community transmission risk and outlines the public health measures that will be implemented in both low risk and elevated risk scenarios.
The plan is considered a working document based upon current information provided by the Chief Public Health Office. Its purpose is to inform all educational stakeholders of the plans to date. As such, it is possible that revisions may be released based on potential changes to public health advice as a result of COVID-19.
The following questions and answers are intended to help address some of the questions parents and students may have about the year ahead. The Department and two school authorities encourage parents and caregivers to share their questions with us.
Health and safety
What will define “elevated risk” and who will make this decision?
COVID-19 risk is determined by the Chief Public Health Office by assessing a number of indicators, including rates of vaccination among the eligible PEI population, COVID-19 transmission in the community, the impact of a fourth wave of COVID-19 locally and nationally, and the impact of new variants of concern.
What happens if someone shows symptoms of COVID-19 at school?
Students and staff should stay home when unwell. If a student or staff member shows symptoms at school:
- They will be asked to wear a medical mask, unless there are safety issues that prevent the person from wearing a mask.
- Parents or guardians will be notified to come and pick up their child immediately and follow public health advice regarding testing and isolation. Staff will be asked to leave immediately.
- If a student is young and requires close contact and care while isolated at school, staff can continue to care for the child until the parent is able to pick up the child. The staff person caring for the child should wear a mask.
- All items used by the individual will be cleaned and disinfected as per guidelines.
- If testing for COVID-19 is advised and students, staff, and/or visitors with symptoms have tested negative for COVID-19, they may return to school if they are feeling well and symptoms have resolved.
What happens if someone at school tests positive for COVID-19?
If there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 connected with a school, public health will lead the response and provide guidance and support. Contact tracing will be done to identify the close contacts of a positive case and inform those who may have been exposed.
If someone tests positive for COVID-19 at school, will the entire school have to get tested and self-isolate?
The Chief Public Health Office will contact those who may have been exposed and initiate testing and isolation measures when needed.
What happens if a student tests positive for COVID-19?
People diagnosed with COVID-19 are required to self-isolate for a period of at least 10 days, including 10 days after the onset of symptoms, and until they are cleared by a public health official. Public health will provide guidance as needed.
Students who are required to self-isolate will be supported with remote learning.
Will there be a screening process?
Parents, students and staff will be asked to screen for any symptoms every morning. All staff, students and visitors are required to stay home if they are feeling unwell.
Will staff and students have to wear masks?
The Chief Public Health Office recommends some mask measures remain in place as a short-term measure until at least October, including:
- Masks are recommended for staff, students, and visitors in all grades when transitioning through school buildings. Masks may be removed when seated in classrooms.
- Masks are recommended for staff in classrooms in Grades K to 6 when physical distancing is not possible.
- Masks are recommended for staff and students in all grades on school buses.
Throughout the year, masks are recommended for staff who work with students who are at higher risk of severe illness and outcomes from COVID-19 whenever physical distancing is not possible, regardless of vaccination status.
As the year progresses, mask requirements will be dependent on the COVID-19 situation in the community.
What measures are in place to protect students on the school bus?
- Parents will be asked to screen their children for symptoms before riding the bus to school. Students who are feeling sick must stay home.
- Until at least October, masks are recommended for staff and students in all grades on school buses.
- Students and staff should wash their hands before and after riding the bus.
What can I do to protect myself and my classmates?
- Being fully immunized is our best defense against COVID-19. It is recommended that eligible students, staff, volunteers and families be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
- Increase hand washing and sanitizing.
- Keep a small social circle and track who you spend time with.
- Cover your cough and sneezes.
- If you feel sick, stay home.
- If you feel sick at school, let a staff member know.
Will students be required to cohort?
In low-risk scenarios where there are minimal COVID-19 cases in the community, cohorting is not required in school or on buses. It is expected that all Island schools will begin the school year in a low-risk scenario.
In an elevated COVID-19 risk situation, cohorting may be recommended in Grades K to 6. Students will also be encouraged to sit with consistent groups on the bus and visitors will be limited to essential activities supporting learning.
Will I be able to participate in extracurricular activities?
Gatherings and events, including assemblies, extracurricular activities, and school sports can occur following current community public health measures (e.g. gathering limits of 200 outdoors, 100 if the activity includes close contact, and 100 indoors).
School administration should give consideration to hosting in-school gatherings, assemblies, and extracurricular activities in Grades K to 6 as the students in those grades are not fully vaccinated.
Will I be able to participate in music, band and physical education?
Students will have the opportunity to participate in physical education, music and other important specialty classes.
What can I do to protect my child and their school?
Vaccinating yourself and eligible children is the best measure to ensure ongoing operation of schools and in-person learning for the upcoming school year.
Other measures such as proper hand hygiene and keeping students home when sick will support in-person learning.
Enhanced measures such as masking, cohorting, and physical distancing may be recommended depending on the COVID-19 situation and recommendations may be different based on the age group or grade. Support your child in understanding these recommendations and guidelines.
What can I do to help prepare my child for the 2021-2022 school year?
- Make sure your school has your most up-to-date contact information.
- Teach and practice proper hand hygiene, physical distancing and wearing a mask when recommended.
- Access supports for student well-being and mental health when needed.
What does this mean for my child who is immunocompromised?
Students and school staff who are immunocompromised are encouraged to consult with their health care provider. Students who are unable to attend due to being immunocompromised should contact their school administration or the student services team to explore an alternative plan.
What does this mean for my child with medically complex needs?
Caregivers of children with complex medical needs should consult with their family doctor or pediatrician prior to school starting to discuss the individual needs of their child and the impact of their return to school during the pandemic. If a child is not able to return to school, we will support remote learning.
Do I or my child have the right to ask school staff if they are vaccinated?
The best measure to ensure ongoing operation of schools and in-person learning is the vaccination rate of our province. It is not about a single person but the overall vaccination rate of our communities.