Back-to-School Guidance FAQ

The following questions and answers are intended to help address some of the questions parents and students may have about the return to school. The Department of Education and Lifelong Learning, Public School Branch and French Language School Board encourage parents and caregivers to share their questions with us. 

Vaccination is the best protection against COVID-19 and its variants. Everyone eligible is encouraged to get vaccinated with a complete series of Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccines.

Health Screening and Testing

Will staff and students be asked to rapid antigen test prior to beginning of in class learning?
Yes, all staff and students will be asked to take two rapid antigen screening tests, 48 hours apart. Provided both tests come back negative the student or staff person may attend school.

Will there be any other testing requirements? 
Students will be asked to take rapid antigen tests up to 3 times per week during the first few weeks of school.

Will household members of staff and students be required to rapid test?
No, household members are not required to test prior to the commencement of in class learning.

What happens if a student or staff member has positive rapid antigen screening test result?
The student or staff person must visit a test clinic and confirm the positive result at the earliest opportunity, and not attend school until they’ve received a negative result from a testing clinic. 

Drop-in testing clinic hours available here.

Will families be provided rapid antigen screening tests prior to the commencement of in class learning?
Yes, families will be provided with two at-home rapid antigen screening tests per student. Families will also be provided additional rapid antigen screening tests to permit weekly at home testing for the first few weeks of school. 

How will the rapid antigen screening tests be distributed to families?
School distribution plans for the rapid antigen tests for students and staff are still being finalized. Parents and guardians can expect to hear from their school principals on the exact details of how they will be distributing the testing kits.

Who is responsible for giving the rapid antigen screening tests to students?
Staff and students will use the tests at-home.  Parents and caregivers will test children who are too young to test themselves.  Instructions on how to use the tests are provided in the test kits.  Schools are not required to confirm the results of testing with each student or staff person.

Are the tests painful or invasive?
The rapid antigen tests use a more comfortable nasal swab.  The swab is not inserted deep into the nostril.  You can find instructions on how to use the rapid antigen test here.

What if my child/student refuses to be tested?  Can they still go to school?
Yes, they can still go to school.  Parents and caregivers are encouraged to talk about the importance of testing as a way of keeping the school environment safe and COVID-free, but no one will be forced to take a test.  Schools are not asked to confirm that students or staff have taken a test.

Will there be a screening process?
All students and staff must complete daily home screening for symptoms of COVID-19 using the COVID-19 symptom screening tool.  Stay home if you are feeling unwell and access testing at a drop-in testing clinic at the earliest opportunity.  Continue to self-isolate until you receive a result from the testing clinic.

If a student or staff person has known allergies which mimic COVID-19 symptoms should they stay home?
No.  If symptoms worsen or if new ones appear, stay home and get tested at a testing clinic.  

How long should someone stay home when experiencing symptoms?
Until they are symptom-free.

What happens if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19?
If you test positive using a rapid antigen screening test, stay home and access testing at a drop-in testing clinic at the earliest opportunity.  Continue to self-isolate until you receive a result from the testing clinic.

If your test at the testing clinic is positive, further direction will be provided by Public Health Nursing.

Also more information can be found here

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. 

Students should sit in the same seat on the bus every day, and everyone on the bus must wear masks, including the bus driver (unless they are exempt - please see masking section)

What does this mean for those who are immunocompromised?
Vulnerable students and staff can attend school; they may want to consult with their health care provider. 

There will alternative education plans (e.g., online learning) in place for those individuals who are at higher risk of COVID-19 and are not attending in person.


Will ventilation systems be updated?
Yes, ventilation systems will be maintained to appropriate standards and where recommended, systems will be improved to meet standards.


Will staff and students have to wear masks?
Masks provide an important layer of protection against COVID-19 and its variants.  All K-12 students, staff, and visitors will be required to wear a mask in all indoor areas of school facilities, including in classrooms, while transitioning between classrooms and other school areas, staff areas, and while on school buses. 

What type of mask is required?
A good quality 3-layer mask is recommended.  Schools will provide a 3-layer mask or equivalent as recommended by the Public Health Agency of Canada for community use.

Are there exemptions for mask wearing?
Yes, exemptions to mask wearing include:

  • A person who cannot wear a mask for health or behavioural reasons
  • A person unable to put on or take off a mask without the assistance of another person
  • If the mask is removed temporarily in order to identify the person wearing it
  • If the mask is removed temporarily to engage in an educational activity that would otherwise be inhibited by the mask (i.e. engaging in physical activity, playing a wind instrument, etc.)
  • Instructional staff may remove their mask if it inhibits instruction, while maintaining physical distancing
  • While actively eating or drinking
  • While providing a service to a person where visual cues, facial expression, lip reading, etc. are required

Are masks required outdoors?
Masks are not required outdoors.  However, the Chief Public Health Office recommends masks be worn whenever interacting within 2m/6ft with others, including outdoors.

Some students are not able to wear a mask for health and behavioural reasons.  Are there additional precautions for staff who work closely with those students?
Staff who work closely with students who are unable to wear a mask for health and/or behavioural reasons may decide to double-up on 3-layer medical masks as an additional precaution.

Cohorting and Physical Distancing

Will students be required to cohort?
Cohorts of 50 or fewer is required, wherever possible, in grades K-9 for students and staff during classroom learning, recess, and breaks.

Due to class scheduling, cohorting is not required in Grades 10-12 unless the school population is small enough that it can be effectively implemented.

Visitors should be limited to essential activities for supporting learning.

Is physical distancing required?
Physical distancing will be required in all staff areas. Where possible physical distancing will be followed in grades K-12.  School staff will re-evaluate classroom desk configuration, locker/cubby access, cafeterias, and flow control in hallways and stairwells.

What if physical distancing isn’t possible?
Physical distancing is difficult to implement in schools.  Understanding that physical distancing will not be possible in many areas, students and staff are encouraged to select a small group of friends and/or colleagues as their circle of close contacts and, where possible, interact with that same group of contacts on a daily basis.

Events and Extracurricular Activities

Will students be able to participate in extracurricular activities?
All school sport games and competitions have been suspended, for the time being. 

Group extracurricular activities (band, chess club, etc.) may proceed if physical distancing is always maintained.

Practice and training within teams and consistent groups will be reintroduced at a future date.  

Will students be able to attend in school gatherings and events?
Gatherings and assemblies will be virtual only. No in-person gatherings or assemblies, including but not limited to school concerts, school dances, etc.

Can students attend gatherings and events outside of school?
Students, staff, parents and others should follow the current public health measures in place when attending gatherings and events outside of school.

Will there be high school exams in January?
With the decision to continue with remote learning until at least the 24th, high school examinations will not be held this term.  First semester, students’ final marks will be based on their class-based assessments - including those completed during remote learning.

Self-Isolation and Travel

Can I request proof of completion of self-isolation from staff or students before they return to the school?
No.  Staff, parent/caregivers, and/or students will advise when they have completed self-isolation based on what public health advised.  

A student is self-isolating with their parent/caregiver who has tested positive.  When can the student return to school?
Students who must isolate with a family member and who continue to test negative, may follow a modified isolation period after the family member has completed their isolation and recovered.

The student must:

  • Be tested at a testing clinic on the parent’s last day of isolation (day 0) and, provided the test is negative, follow modified isolation:
    • if fully vaccinated they are required to isolate for 4 days (with molecular tests at testing clinic on days 2 and 4, plus rapid antigen screening tests on days 1 and 3)
    • if not fully vaccinated, they are required to isolate for 7 days (with molecular tests at testing clinic on days 2, 4, and 7, plus rapid antigen testing on off days)
  • During the modified isolation, the student:
    • Must not attend or host social gatherings
    • May attend school with adherence to mask use
    • May not attend extracurricular activities where mask use is not sustained for duration of activity
    • Must isolate immediately if symptoms develop and be tested at a testing clinic
    • May end modified isolation if they test negative on day 4 or 7 (as outlined above, depending on vaccination status) AND not experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19

If a student under 12 years old travels out-of-province with their parent/caregiver, how long are they required to self-isolate for?
Isolation requirements for students less than 12 years will mimic those of the parent/caregiver they traveled with.  If the parent is fully vaccinated, the student will isolate for 4 days.  If the parent/caregiver is partially vaccinated or not vaccinated, the student will isolate for 8 days. 

A student or staff person traveled out-of-province and was exempt from isolation for ‘same-day travel’.  Can they attend school?
Yes, exemption from isolation under the same-day travel precautions means the student or staff person can attend school.

Supports for Parents

Is there financial support offered to parents and caregivers who must miss work?
Yes. There are a number of different programs to support parents and caregivers offered through both the provincial and federal governments. 

A Child Care Allowance of $125/week per child is available for parents who need support for child care. For families using a private babysitter, they can apply online at Apply for the Child Care Allowance. For families with school aged children at a licensed centre, the funds will go directly to the centre to help pay for child care fees – no application is required.

Please visit the following links for more information on various financial supports - Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefits, Child Care Allowance, COVID-19 Special Leave Fund.

Will students with special needs still be able to access supports?
Respite care will continue for students who are currently supported by a school Educational Assistant (EA) or Youth Service Worker (YSW). 

Parents or guardians who are interested in receiving this support can email if their student is in the English school system, and if they are in the French school system. Student Services will be reaching out to families who have shown they have a need for respite care.

APSEA supports, Occupational Therapists, our Speech Language Pathologists and our School Councilors are reaching out to families and coordinating one-on-one supports for students, both virtually and in-person.

Will meals still be offered to students in need?
Yes, support will be available for Island families impacted by the closure of schools during January, 2022 in lieu of the Healthy School Food Program, click here.

Are there any resources available to help parents and caregivers provide support to students with online learning?
Click here for online learning guidelines.

Schools will be providing a school-based support program for students who are struggling academically or socially. Student services and school staff will be identifying students they feel would benefit from this type of support. If a parent or guardian feels this is something that their child would benefit from, they can reach out to their school administrators to sign up. The program have limited capacity to follow strict public health measures.

Published date: 
January 13, 2022
Education and Lifelong Learning

General Inquiries

Department of Education and Lifelong Learning
Holman Centre
Suite 101, 250 Water Street
Summerside, PE C1N 1B6

Phone: 902-438-4130
Fax: 902-438-4062