Graphic of SARS-CoV-2 virus and person holding vial of vaccine with blue gloves on.

The coronavirus/COVID-19 situation in Ontario is fluid. In every school board, the health and safety of all students, staff and school communities is the top priority.

In September 2020, schools across Ontario reopened. Ontario’s plan to reopen schools provided options for parents – to send their children in-class or to enter online remote learning. Elementary schools (Kindergarten to Grade 8) reopened provincewide, with in-class instruction five days a week. Secondary schools with lower risk reopened with a normal daily schedule, five days a week, while most secondary schools started the school year in an adapted model of part-time attendance with class cohorts of up to 15 students alternating between attending in-person and online.

Students from Grades 1 to 12 and school staff are now required to wear masks, although many boards have made masks mandatory for all students from kindergarten to Grade 12. School boards were given some flexibility to tweak class sizes using reserve funds and other health and safety measures in their return-to-school plans.

All publicly funded schools in Ontario were closed to in-person learning following the 2020-21 winter break as part of the provincewide shutdown, with elementary students originally scheduled to study virtually until January 11, 2021. However, the return to in-person learning was staggered across the province. As of February 16, all school boards in Ontario once again offered in-person learning, but students are now learning remotely across the province as of April 19, following the one-week break.

*The information above is subject to change at any time. Please visit the Ministry of Education website or your local school board website for the latest information.

COVID-19 Management Plan for Schools

On August 26, the government released the Operational Guidance: COVID-19 Management in Schools document. This guide was developed in consultation with public health experts, including Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, and aims to help schools identify and isolate COVID-19 cases, reduce the spread of COVID-19 in schools, and prevent and minimize outbreaks.

March 25 Letter to Minister Lecce regarding the vaccination of education workers

OPSBA’s February 9 statement on March Break

OPSBA’s February 3 statement on the reopening of schools 

OPSBA’s January 7 statement on the continuation of elementary virtual learning in southern Ontario

OPSBA’s December 21 statement regarding the provincial lockdown beginning December 26, 2020

OPSBA’s November 26 statement regarding additional COVID-19 support for school boards

OPSBA’s October 28 statement in response to the launch of the COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure Stream

OPSBA’s August 14 statement regarding the use of reserve funds to address increased costs

OPSBA’s July 30 statement regarding the plan to reopen schools

OPSBA’s July 16 news release regarding public polling done with Nanos

OPSBA’s June 19 statement regarding the plan to reopen schools

OPSBA’s Submission to the Ministry of Education regarding Ontario’s Plan to Reopen Schools

Ministry of Education Operational Guidance During COVID-19: Child Care Reopening

School boards continue to work with and take direction from their local public health units and are sharing information with their board communities with facts and recommendations for reducing the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and seasonal influenza. Public health units are advising members of the public to reduce the risk of transmission of respiratory illness. These measures include:

  • wearing a face mask if in public and unable to properly socially distance, and in most indoor spaces;
  • get a yearly influenza vaccination this fall, available from clinics and pharmacies;
  • wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
  • cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze;
  • if you don’t have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your sleeve or arm; and
  • stay home if you are ill.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Support and Protection Act

To assist the education sector, municipalities, and students during the COVID-19 emergency, on April 14, Ontario passed the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Support and Protection Act in the Ontario Legislative Assembly, amending the Education Act, Planning Act, Development Charges Act, Police Services Act and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act.

The changes are as follows:

Amending the Education Act will allow school boards with an expiring education development charge (EDC) by-law to use their existing by-law for an additional six months after the end of the COVID-19 outbreak, so they can continue to charge fees on new construction. This change ensures school boards can retain a vital source of revenue that helps support new school projects. This amendment aligns with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s approach to development charges that are expiring during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Education Act is also being amended to provide a fair and consistent, provincewide approach to addressing school suspensions and expulsions. During the closure period and with the physical distancing requirements, it is not feasible for boards to complete investigations and hold expulsion hearings. To guarantee procedural fairness for students, especially where the principal’s investigation may lead to a recommendation for an expulsion hearing, the amendment extends the timeline for principals and boards to carry out investigations and expulsion hearings for these students up to 20 school days after the school closure order ends, and when schools re-open. The amendment will help protect the safety and security of students and staff upon the reopening of schools.

Report from the K-12 (Accessibility) Standards Committee Working Group – Planning for Emergencies & Safety

This interim report, released in August 2020, focuses on the impacts on students with disabilities of returning to school during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the full report

Read the letter from the Working Group to Ministers Lecce and Cho

Additional Important Links

Learn at Home – Supplementary resources for elementary and secondary students to practice math and literacy skills and learn at home

Ontario Government COVID-19 hub

COVID-19 School Screening Tool

Operational Guidance: COVID-19 Management in Schools

Approach to Reopening Schools for the 2020-21 School Year

Ontario Ministry of Health statistics (Updated each day)

Ontario’s Enhanced Testing Plan (May 29) with Template Letter for School Board Communities

SickKids Hospital’s COVID-19 Recommendations for School Reopening (January 21, 2021)

Joint statement from Ontario’s pediatric hospitals on reopening schools

Letters from Minister Stephen Lecce to Parents

Government of Canada Travel Advice and Advisory

UNICEF Framework for reopening schools – April 2020

Federal guidance for school bus operations during the COVID-19 pandemic

Policy/Program Memorandum 164 – Requirements for Remote Learning

Government News Releases

April 14, 2021: Canada and Ontario Invest in School Infrastructure to Respond to the Impacts of COVID-19
April 8, 2021: Additional Protections for Schools to Keep Students and Staff Safe
February 9, 2021: Ontario Delays March Break in an Effort to Reduce Community Transmission of COVID-19
February 3, 2021: Enhanced Safety Measures in Place as In-Person Learning Resumes Across Ontario
February 1, 2021: Ontario Making Additional Investments to Keep Students and Staff Safe
January 28, 2021: 280,000 More Ontario Students to Return to Class
January 24, 2021: Safety of Schools Remain Priority Number One for Ontario
January 12, 2021: Ontario Declares Second Provincial Emergency to Address COVID-19 Crisis and Save Lives
January 7, 2021: Ontario Extends Teacher-Led Online Learning Until January 25 to Keep Students and Staff Safe in Southern Ontario
December 22, 2020: Safer at Home Programs Provide Relief to Ontario Families
December 21, 2020: Ontario Announces Provincewide Shutdown to Stop Spread of COVID-19 and Save Lives
November 30, 2020: Ontario Providing Additional Financial Support for Young Learners
November 27, 2020: Ontario Providing Additional Funding to Enhance Safety and Protection in Schools
November 20, 2020: Ontario Taking Further Action to Stop the Spread of COVID-19
November 20, 2020: Ontario Extends COVID-19 Orders
October 28, 2020: Ontario Launching COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure Stream
October 8, 2020: Ontario Hires Health System Leader as Education Health Advisor
October 6, 2020: Ontario Releases $35 Million to Hire More Staff, Improve Remote Learning in Targeted Communities
October 6, 2020: Ontario Releases $35 Million for Schools in Priority Communities (backgrounder)
October 1, 2020: Ontario Revises COVID-19 Screening Guidance for Schools and Child Care
September 16, 2020: Ontario Launches New COVID-19 Screening Tool to Help Protect Students and Staff
September 14, 2020: Health Preparedness and Rebuilding the Economy Top Priorities in Ontario’s Fall Legislative Agenda
September 8, 2020: Ontario Takes Extraordinary Steps to Reopen Schools Safely
September 3, 2020: Governments Extend Child Care Funding to Support Working Parents
August 26, 2020: Ontario Releases COVID-19 Management Plan for Schools
August 26, 2020: Additional Funds Enhance Ontario’s Robust Back-to-School Plan
August 13, 2020: Ontario Takes Additional Steps to Better Protect Students and Staff
August 7, 2020: Historic Agreement Delivers Over $230 Million for Child Care
August 4, 2020: Windsor-Essex Remains in Stage 2
July 31, 2020: COVID Alert Available for Download Beginning Today
July 30, 2020: Ontario Releases Plan for Safe Reopening of Schools in September
July 30, 2020: Ontario Continues to Gradually and Safely Reopen Child Care for Working Parents
July 29, 2020: Ontario Moving Toronto and Peel Region into Stage 3
July 20, 2020: Ontario Moving More Regions in Stage 3
July 13, 2020: Nearly All Business and Public Spaces to Reopen in Stage 3
July 9, 2020: Ontario Extends Emergency Orders
July 7, 2020: Ontario Introduces Legislation to Protect Public Health as Economy Reopens
June 19, 2020: Ontario Prepares for the Safe Reopening of Schools
June 18, 2020: Ontario Makes Major Investment in Mental Health and Technology to Support Students
June 15, 2020: More People Can Get Back to Work as Additional Businesses and Services to Reopen This Week
June 12, 2020: Ontarians Encouraged to Establish Social Circles
June 9, 2020: Ontario Helping Parents Return to Work
June 8, 2020: Ontario Permits More Businesses and Services to Reopen in the Coming Days
June 3, 2020: Ontario Improving Broadband and Cell Service for Rural Communities
May 19, 2020: Health and Safety Top Priority as Schools Remain Closed
May 13, 2020: Voluntary Redeployment of Education Workers to Fill Staffing Shortages
May 11, 2020: School Boards Encouraged to Celebrate Student Achievement When it is Safe to Do So
May 9, 2020: Ontario Enables School Board Employees to Be Voluntarily Redeployed to Congregate Care Settings
April 26, 2020: School Closures Extended to Keep Students, Staff and Families Safe
April 17, 2020: Ontario Establishes Key Partnerships to Make Home Learning More Accessible
April 14, 2020: Ontario Extends Declaration of Emergency to Continue the Fight Against COVID-19 (Backgrounder)
March 31, 2020: Ontario Extends School and Child Care Closures to Fight Spread of COVID-19