Back to School FAQs
We know that students, parents and guardians will still have questions about school this fall. The Department of Education and Lifelong Learning and two school authorities encourage parents and caregivers to share their questions with us. The department and school leaders will stay in close contact with parents and guardians who play an important role in their children’s transition to new learning environments.
Health and Safety
What happens if someone shows symptoms of COVID-19 at school?
If a student or staff member shows COVID-19 symptoms at school, the guidelines are as follows:
- They must get picked-up or leave school immediately;
- They will be asked to wear a non-medical mask and self-isolate in a separate room;
- They must call 811 to arrange testing; and
- All areas used by the individual will be cleaned immediately
What happens if someone at school tests positive for COVID-19?
The Chief Public Health Office will investigate the case and work with school authorities to identify close contacts, create isolation measures and provide follow-up recommendations. Public Health Nursing will contact the parents of each child who has been identified as a close contact.
Staff, students and parents will be notified when there has been a positive case linked to their school community and this will be publicly announced as soon as the individual has been notified of their test result.
If a student is required to self-isolate, staff will support the student to continue learning at home.
If someone tests positive for COVID-19 at school, will the entire school have to get tested and quarantine?
Only individuals who have been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive will have to self-isolate and monitor for symptoms for 14 days.
Each school will be grouping or “cohorting” students to reduce the number of close prolonged contacts a student will have during the course of the school day. This will reduce the risk of transmission in a school community and prevent the shutdown of the entire school for weeks at a time if there is a positive case confirmed at the school.
What happens if a student tests positive for COVID-19?
Students who are not immunocompromised, may return to school 14 days after the date of the positive test and if it has been more than 24 hours since their last symptom occurred, other than a residual cough.
Students who were hospitalized (i.e., had severe to critical illness) or who are immunocompromised, may return to school 20 days after the date of the positive test and if it has been more than 24 hours since their last symptom occurred, other than a residual cough.
What happens if a parent tests positive for COVID-19?
Public Health Nursing will follow up with the family and if the child lives with the parent who has tested positive, the child will be tested. If the child’s test is negative then the child will stay home from school for 14 days after the last contact with the parent.
If it is not possible for the child to self-isolate away from the positive parent during the 14 days, the child will stay home from school for an additional 14 days after the parent has recovered to ensure that the child has not contracted the virus during the self-isolation period.
What is the protocol for behaviour issues related COVID-19, e.g. refusal to wear a mask when required?
School staff should focus on developing strong relationships with students as the foundation for managing school behavior. It is important to recognize that refusals may be connected to fear, anxiety, lack of understanding, etc. Punitive discipline is not the best option.
Social stories, practice and other behavioural strategies will be used to help students learn to wear a mask when necessary. Where a student cannot comply, physical distancing, PPE, and handwashing will be necessary.
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 will be asked to stay home if they are feeling unwell.
Will staff and students have to wear masks?
Students in K-6 may wear a non-medical mask inside school facilities when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
Students in grades 7-12 are strongly recommended to wear non-medical masks at school when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
Staff in all schools are strongly recommended to wear non-medical masks at school when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
Staff, including EAs and SAs, who work with medically complex children are strongly recommended to wear shields and gloves as personal protective equipment. Consultants providing direct service where physical distancing is difficult (APSEA, SLP, HEAR, Psychologists) will also wear shields.
Anyone wearing a non-medical mask must follow proper mask-wearing procedures. Non-medical masks should not be worn by anyone unable to remove them without assistance, anyone who has trouble breathing, or anyone under the age of two years.
What measures are in place to protect students on the school bus?
- Where possible, bus routes will be re-rerouted to minimize ridership and transfers.
- Parents will be asked to screen their children for symptoms before riding the bus to school. Students who are feeling sick must stay home.
- Family members are encouraged to sit together.
- It is strongly recommended that all students and bus drivers wear non-medical masks.
- Students and staff should wash their hands before and after riding the bus.
- School buses will be cleaned and disinfected every day after drop-off and pick-up.
- Bus passes will not be permitted.
What will my school day look like?
School will follow the provincial school calendar and will begin on September 8.
Schools will stagger the entry and exit of students from the building. Lunch and recess breaks will be scheduled to keep students in smaller groups and avoid congestion in common areas.
Elementary students will remain in their classroom for lunch.
What will my classroom look like?
All unnecessary materials will be removed from classrooms to maximize physical learning space and to ease the cleaning process. Classrooms will be rearranged and desks will be spaced apart.
Kindergarten classes will keep their play areas and students will be assigned to a group table.
What can I do to protect myself and my classmates?
- 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 at schoollet a staff member know.
- Stay in your cohort
What is a cohort?
A cohort is a group of students and staff who stay together, and remain isolated from other cohorts. Your cohort may depend on the size of your classroom, or school.
Will I be able to participate in extra-curricular activities?
Events and activities that take place at the school will follow the current CPHO guidelines for large organized and multiple gatherings. When possible, student committees are encouraged to plan virtual events.
Intramurals will follow CPHO guidelines on organized recreational activities and use cohorts when possible.
- School sports will be paused for the beginning of the school year, while school authorities and the PEISAA finalize plans.
- Before and after school activities will be paused for the beginning of the school year.
- There will be no out-of-province student travel, until further notice.
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. While classes may be adapted to follow public health guidelines, they will be available.
What can I do to help prepare my child for the 2020-2021 school year?
- Teach and practice proper hand hygiene, physical distancing and wearing a mask at home.
- Young children should practice zippers, getting dressed for outside, blowing their noses and tying laces.
- Make sure your school has your most up-to-date contact information.
The Hospital for Sick Children created a useful online hub for resources on talking about COVID-19, while also supporting children's mental health and wellbeing. Visit www.aboutkidshealth.ca/COVID-19.
Will students have access to breakfast programs and hot school lunches?
The six healthy school food pilots that began in January will continue this fall at Kinkora Regional High, Amherst Cove Consolidated, Somerset Consolidated, Ecole Pierre-Chiasson, West Kent Elementary and Montague Regional High.
A new province-wide Healthy School Lunch Program will complement the pilots and provide an opportunity for families at all other schools to order lunches from local vendors, which will be delivered to schools each day.
Students will still be able to buy hot lunch options provided by existing food vendors in their schools. All food programs offered in schools will follow public health guidelines.
Will my child be behind in their learning outcomes?
Jurisdictions across Canada have all been faced with the impacts of the pandemic. The Department of Education and Lifelong Learning and the two education authorities have worked to revise curriculum for September 2020 to address learning gaps and curriculum outcomes that could not be taught this spring.
The curriculum outcomes that students will learn throughout the year have been prioritized.
How will schools support my child’s well-being?
Part of the back to school plan includes focusing on the social emotional well-being of staff and students. Schools will focus on establishing basic routines, supporting social connections and easing the transition back to school.
School staff will receive professional development and training on how to meet the social emotional and anxiety needs of students. Resources are being developed to help support students, staff and families.
What will Student Services support look like?
Support staff (Education Assistants, Youth Service Workers, Student attendants, etc.) will be able to work with small groups of children from the same cohort.
Resource teachers will continue to do small group intervention with children. When possible, students will come from the same cohort. If not possible, physical distancing will be maintained. There will be enhanced cleaning between each group.
Student Well-Being Teams will be available to help support students and their families.
What does this mean for my child who is immunocompromised?
Students and school staff who are immunocompromised are encouraged to consult their health care provider to determine if they should attend school.
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.