The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has altered our way of life. No matter where you may be – whether you’re heading to the grocery store, a restaurant, meeting friends in a public place, or travelling on an airplane, social distancing and wearing masks is the norm. 

Schools in Canada are no different. With the start of a new academic year, schools are gearing up for the new normal too. In this article, we will provide insights into measures outlined by each Canadian province so that if you’re coming to Canada with kids this year, you know what to expect and can learn how to prepare your kids to return to the classroom. 

Please note that the information provided in this article is accurate at the time of publishing, and parents are encouraged to check their children’s school for the most up-to-date and accurate information for their own situations. The article provides a synopsis of the common protocols at the provincial level; individual school districts may have some more guidelines and/or restrictions. 

Not familiar with the schooling system in Canada?
See the Newcomer guide to schooling in Canada to understand the basics. 

What to expect as schools reopen across Canada: A province-by-province update

[Updated as of August 28, 2020]

Alberta

  • School start date: September 1, 2020.
  • Class size: No limit/restrictions; however, in case of an outbreak, class sizes could be reduced to 20. 
  • Masks: Students in Grades 4–12 will be required to wear masks in common areas and on school buses. The province will provide two reusable masks for each student.
  • Schooling plan: It is not mandatory for parents to send their kids to school if they don’t feel it’s safe. In this case, the parents would have to work with the school to develop a plan for their child’s at-home learning.
  • Other COVID-19 measures:
    • Classes will have staggered start times, recesses, and lunches.
    • Students will be grouped in cohorts to limit contact and have COVID-19 screening questionnaires daily.
  • Plan of action in case of a COVID-19 outbreak at school: Affected schools could move to a partial in-class learning or at-home learning model. 

British Columbia

  • School start date: September 10, 2020.
  • Masks: Mandatory for middle school and high school students in situations where physical distancing is not possible. Elementary school students are not required to wear a mask. Every student will be given two masks upon returning to school. Wearing masks in the classroom is optional.
  • Schooling plan: Classes will be offered in-person, at school, with options for online and distributed learning, homeschooling, and home-bound education. As of now, most students between kindergarten and Grade 7 will attend full-time in-class schooling, while some high schools will use both in-person and online learning.
  • Other COVID-19 measures: 
    • To limit contact, students would be divided into “learning groups” of 60 students for elementary and middle-school children and groups of 120 for high school students. Note that these are not class sizes. 

Manitoba

  • School start date: September 8, 2020.
  • Masks: Mandatory for students in Grades 4–12, where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
  • Schooling plan: Kindergarten to Grade 8 will have in-class instruction five days a week. Grades 9–12 will attend in-person classes at least two days a week and will learn remotely on alternate days.
  • Other COVID-19 measures:
    • Classrooms will be configured to support physical distancing, including the use of multi-purpose rooms if needed. 
    • Where physical distancing requirements can’t be met, students will be placed in cohorts of no more than 75 students.
    • Staggered times for lunch breaks and recesses.

New Brunswick

  • School start date: September 8, 2020.
  • Class size: 
    • Students from kindergarten to Grade 8 will attend school full-time in groups of up to 15. Grades 3–5 will have smaller group sizes. These groups will attend class, socialize, and enter the school together, maintaining distance from other groups. 
    • Students in Grades 9–12 will not be grouped because of their schedules and course options.
    • High school students will be required to attend class a minimum of every other day, with reduced class sizes. 
  • Masks: Mandatory for students from Grades 6 to 12, when outside classrooms. Younger students are encouraged to wear masks.
  • Schooling plan: Students in kindergarten to Grade 8 are to attend school full time, while those in Grades 9–12 are to be taught using a combination of in-class and remote instruction. At-home course work can include online learning, guided projects, and experiential education.
  • Other COVID-19 measures:
    • The province is providing financial support for students to purchase their own laptops to bring to class.
    • Arrivals, breaks and lunches are to be staggered. 

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • School start date: September 8, 2020.
  • Class size: Under some scenarios, classroom sizes will be limited when the COVID-19 risk is considered low to moderate. Priority will be given to students in kindergarten through Grade 6, kids who have special needs, and children of essential workers. 
  • Masks: Wearing masks is optional. 
  • Schooling plan: Three scenarios are available – in-class instruction, remote learning or a combination of both, depending on the COVID-19 risk in a particular community.
  • Other COVID-19 measures:
    • Students and staff will also be required to go over a COVID-19 exposure and symptom checklist before entering a school.
  • Plan of action in case of a COVID-19 outbreak at school: There will be an option of a return to remote learning or hybrid model if the COVID-19 risk increases. Individual school districts will determine what scenarios work best for their schools and are responsible for configuring classrooms and other spaces to maintain physical distancing and developing protocols for hygiene and for isolating students who become ill.

Northwest Territories

  • School start date: September 8, 2020.
  • Class size: Students in kindergarten through Grade 6 will be placed in classroom “bubbles,” and won’t have to practise physical distancing within these groups.
  • Masks: Students may be required to wear masks in situations where physical distance cannot be practised, such as moving through the hallways.
  • Schooling plan: The territory will offer in-person instruction whenever possible while ensuring alternative options are available.
  • Other COVID-19 measures:
    • Students and staff will undergo daily COVID-19 screening and maintain physical distance with the help of new classroom configurations. 
    • Staggered recess periods.
    • More time will be spent learning outside. School hours and schedules may also look different. 
    • Students are asked to label personal items and not share.
  • Plan of action in case of a COVID-19 outbreak at school: Schools will shift between in-person, distance and blended learning. 

Nova Scotia

  • School start date: September 8, 2020.
  • Masks: High school students will be required to wear a mask in school spaces where social distancing is not possible. Masks will not be mandatory in class.
  • Other COVID-19 measures:
    • In-school assemblies and other large gatherings will not be permitted.
    • Classrooms will be reorganized to increase spacing, and classes will be treated as a bubble to minimize contact with other students.
    • Cafeterias and school food programs will deliver food to students, and students will eat lunch at their desks.

Nunavut

  • School start date: September 8, 2020.
  • Class size: No limit/restrictions.
  • Masks: In most cases, the use of masks is not recommended for children. If there are exceptions, parents will be notified, and masks will be provided. Students older than 13 may be required to wear masks on busses.
  • Schooling plan: There are no reported COVID-19 cases in Nunavut, so all schools are set to reopen this fall with enhanced cleaning and safety precautions.
  • Other COVID-19 measures:
  • Group activities will be limited. Students won’t be allowed to share food in lunchrooms.
  • Plan of action in case of a COVID-19 outbreak at school: Schools could go part-time if contact tracing were to identify a possible source of COVID-19. All schools would be closed if community transmission were to take place.

Ontario

  • School start date: September 8, 2020 (schools have the option for a staggered back to school schedule).
  • Class size: 
    • Elementary – No limits/restrictions. 
    • High school – 24 school boards will have classes capped at 15 students and will alternate days or schedules to ensure schools remain at 50 per cent capacity.
    • Toronto District School Board (TDSB) schools will limit a max of 20 students in Grades 4-8 at schools in neighbourhoods with higher levels of COVID-19.
  • Masks: 
    • Mandatory for students in-classroom from Grade 4–12. 
    • TDSB will require students from kindergarten to Grade 12 to wear masks at school where physical distancing cannot be maintained. 
  • Schooling plan: Elementary students will return to class five days a week for full days, which will include recess and lunch. Online learning is optional and available for those who want to opt for it. 
  • Other COVID-19 measures:
    • Staggered times for recess, lunch, and bathroom breaks.
    • Parents will be asked to self-screen students each day and to keep a child at home if they are experiencing any symptoms.

Prince Edward Island

  • School start date: September 8, 2020.
  • Class size: When possible, class sizes will be reduced in order to accommodate social distancing and students will work in cohorts or bubbles.
  • Masks: Students are not required to wear masks to school, but all staff and students in Grades 7–12 are “strongly recommended” to wear masks when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
  • Other measures:
    • Parents are being encouraged to drive their kids to and from school to reduce the number of passengers on school buses. 
    • Staggered times for drop-off and pickup, lunch breaks, and recess.
    • Elementary school students will stay in their classrooms for lunch.

Quebec

  • School start date: August 27, 2020 (some classes in Montreal) and August 28, 2020 (most of Quebec).
  • Masks: Mandatory for all students in Grade 5 and up, including college and university students. The masks will need to be worn in hallways, amphitheatres, school buses and common areas, but not in the classroom or during outdoor recess. Parents will be required to supply masks for their children.
  • Schooling plan: In-person attendance is mandatory for all elementary and high-school students. Students in Grades 10 and 11 can choose to either form their own bubble and attend school full-time or use an alternating schedule, attending school at least every second day with the same class of students, while participating in at-home learning. 
  • Other COVID-19 measures:
    • Elementary and high school students will be divided into “bubble groups” of up to six students who will not have to physically distance from each other but, as a group, will have to maintain a two-metre distance from other students and staff whenever possible.
    • Teachers will move between classrooms based on the subject being taught, and students will remain in the same classroom. 
  • Plan of action in case of a COVID-19 outbreak at school: Students will still receive 15 hours of education per week online, including dedicated time with a teacher. 

Saskatchewan

  • School start date: September 8, 2020.
  • Masks: Mandatory for staff and students; further details not available. 
  • Other COVID-19 measures:
    • Students and staff are encouraged to have their own hand sanitizer on hand.
    • Parents should take their kids to school when possible, and pickup and drop-offs should happen outside. Students using school transportation should be assigned seats.
    • Staggered start times for recess, lunch, and class transitions. 

Yukon

  • School start date: September 8, 2020.
  • Class size: Each school will be responsible for adjusting operations to meet provincial guidelines, including physical distancing and reduced class sizes.
  • Masks: Wearing masks is a personal choice.
  • Schooling plan: Kindergarten to Grade 9 students will resume full-day in-person learning as usual, and students above Grade 10 will return for half-day in-person learning, while the other half will be held virtually.
  • Plan of action in case of a COVID-19 outbreak at school: Schools have many options ranging from rotating schedules to suspension of face-to-face learning. 

Official websites for provincial and territorial school reopening, closures and back to school plans

As a parent, you may have many apprehensions and sending your child to school during a pandemic may seem scary. Being aware of the rules and precautions outlined for schools in your province and city will help calm your nerves and aid in making an informed decision. 

[Sources: CTV News, The Globe and Mail, Global News]

 

 

 

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Disclaimer:
This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.