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COVID-19

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School Administrators and Educators

The information on this page is meant to provide school administrators and educators in Simcoe Muskoka with information and resources to help keep your school community safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. This information is based on the direction of both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education, and will be continually updated to reflect changes in provincial direction and our local context. We encourage you to visit this page often to keep yourself informed.

We all have a role to play in stopping the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

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As school administrators and educators, you play a critical role in preventing the spread of COVID-19. To promote a safe and healthy school community:

  • Familiarize yourself with the COVID-19 guidance documents listed above and the related policies that have been put in place by your school board. 
  • Refer to the protocols and processes listed below, to understand how the health unit works with school boards and schools to prevent COVID-19 in schools and to respond in the event of a case or outbreak. 
  • Understand the recommendations for families and students who attend school in Simcoe Muskoka. 
  • Share this information with others within your school community.

All school staff can do their part by:

  • Adhering to public health recommendations at home and at school. 
  • Completing the daily staff/visitor screening tool and follow school or school board processes to confirm completion. 
  • Staying home if experiencing even one symptom of COVID-19, or if you have answered yes to any of the daily screening questions. 
  • Wearing a medical mask and/or additional personal protective equipment (PPE), as required by your school. We recommend that all school staff wear eye protection (for example goggles or a face shield) in the classroom or when in close contact with others in the school and at all times when unable to maintain 2 metres (6 feet) from students.
  • Practicing physical distancing. 
  • Following any additional guidance provided by your healthcare provider and the health unit.

Visit this page often to keep yourself informed, as information and guidelines can change.

UPDATED: School Procedures and Protocols

The resources linked below are intended to provide school staff, families, and other members of the school community with current recommendations for managing COVID-19 in schools, and to outline the steps that are being taken to protect our local school communities.  

  • All students/staff/visitors must complete the screening tool, before coming to school each day. Remind parents/guardians to complete this with their children, and to notify the school if their child does not pass the daily screening. 
  • Schools/school boards will have a validation process to confirm secondary students, staff and visitors have completed the daily self screening.

If a student does not pass daily screening: 

  • They must stay home and parents/guardians must follow the advice listed on the screening tool.  
  • Parents/guardians are responsible to inform the school and/or child care of absence due to illness. 
  • Household members of ill students are also required to stay home, even if well.

If a staff or essential visitor does not pass daily screening: 

  • They must stay home and follow the advice listed on the screening tool. 
  • They should also advise the school of their absence due to illness, as per school board policy. 
  • Household members of ill staff/visitors are also required to stay home, even if well.
  • Follow the return to school protocol for staff with COVID-19 symptoms (revised February 22, 2021) for further guidance.

Please see COVID-19 symptoms develop at school or child care, (revised February 22, 2021) for information needed to care for the individual and to protect others from potential spread of disease.

Siblings of ill students are not required to be sent home immediately and can complete the remainder of the day at school.

Note: Siblings who are household members of an ill child are not required to leave at the same time as the ill child. They can complete their day then will need to be excluded until certain criteria is met.

Symptomatic staff should self-isolate (leave the school, go home), and follow the advice listed in the screening tool. Children who are household members of an ill staff member are not required to leave at the same time as the ill staff member. They can complete their day and then will need to be excluded until certain criteria is met.

If the student or staff member who became ill is tested and is confirmed to have COVID-19, the school must contact their School Board COVID-Lead who will notify SMDHU.

When completing the daily student or staff/visitor daily screening tool, individuals who have been identified as a close contact of someone confirmed to have COVID-19 must isolate (stay home) and follow the instructions provided. This includes: 

  • contacting the school to let them know 
  • isolating at home, except to get tested or for a medical emergency 
  • visit an assessment centre to get a COVID test, or seek medical advice if required.

What is a ‘close contact’?

A close contact is generally someone who was closer than 2 metres (6 feet) away in the same room or area for 15 minutes cumulatively or living in the same home. It may also include being in the same classroom, if advised by SMDHU. 

The health unit determines close contact based on a thorough risk assessment. For each situation, the health unit also needs assess the type of contact that occurred, including what personal protective equipment (PPE) was worn. For this reason, the definition of close contact may not be the same in every situation. 

Outside of school:

Those who are identified as close contacts of someone who is confirmed have COVID-19 outside of school may be notified by the COVID Alert App or by public health.
The health unit does not recommend that schools notify the school community when a staff or student reports that they have been in close contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19 outside of school.

At school:

  • When a person who has attended school in the last 14 days is confirmed to have COVID-19, the health unit conducts an investigation to determine who may have been exposed.
  • School principals will be notified and may be asked to provide information to assist in the health unit’s investigation. 
  • Principals will also receive information from the health unit to share with anyone identified as a close contact, including instructions for self-isolation and testing. 
  • Staff and students who are not identified as close contacts may continue to come to school if they pass the daily screening.

Schools may be notified that a staff, student or essential visitor has tested positive for COVID-19 two ways:

  • Individuals may receive their positive test result online and then notify the school, or
  • Public health may receive confirmation that a person who attended school has tested positive for COVID-19, and then notifies the school board and school.

Please be assured that the health unit works closely with local school boards and schools when someone who attends school has been confirmed to have COVID-19, and to protect the health of those that may be affected.

When the school is notified that someone has COVID-19:
School principals are legally required to report suspect or confirmed Diseases of Public Health Significance (including COVID-19) to their local public health unit. If a staff member (including teachers, bus drivers, before and after care provider, etc.) or a student reports that they have been diagnosed with or tested positive for COVID, the school principal and/or school board COVID-Lead must notify the SMDHU immediately (can be through School Board COVID -19 Lead).

Schools are not required to report symptomatic individuals (for example, those that did not pass the daily self-screening) or those that have been in close contact with a person who tested positive or who are waiting for test results.

When the health unit is notified that a person in the school has COVID-19:

  • we first must verify the test result with the laboratory. 
  • once the test result is confirmed, an investigator is assigned to contact the person who has tested positive and gather more information from them.

During the investigation, the person who has COVID-19 will be asked several questions, such as: 

  • where they work or go to school 
  • when they were last at school 
  • who they have been close contact with 
  • whether they are able to physically distance from others 
  • what personal protective equipment (PPE) they wear 
  • where else they have been (e.g. outside of school) during the period that they could have passed the virus to others

School principals may be asked to provide additional information to the health unit to assist with the investigation, such as:

  • attendance records for the specific dates that SMDHU requests 
  • class lists and seating charts for every class 
  • up-to-date contact information for the parent/guardian of each student, and for staff 
  • name and contact info for any staff/outside visitors who are not on the class list, that interacted with the class on the dates provided (e.g. Rotary teachers, service providers) 
  • before-and-after program child care lists 
  • transportation lists and seating charts (regular and after-school program bussing) 
  • special assignments and programs 
  • records of essential visitors

It is during this assessment that the health unit would be able to determine the level of risk to others in the school, and what appropriate recommendations need to be provided to others who may have been in close contact with that person.

If the health unit identifies that there may be a risk to other members of the school community, we work together with the school principal and the school board to ensure that students, families, and school employees are properly notified.

The SMDHU does not recommend proactively closing a location such as a classroom or school before an initial investigation and risk assessment has been completed. 

The health unit and school boards have established processes for when a student or staff tests positive for COVID-19 (revised February 22, 2021). Together we take all necessary precautions to protect the health and well-being of all individuals within the school community.

The health unit will: 

  • Notify the school board and school principal 
  • Conduct a thorough investigation and risk assessment 
  • Request information from the school board and/or school principal to inform the investigation, as needed 
  • Identify any close contacts in the school who must be excluded from school, and provide a letter for distribution to these individuals with instructions for self-isolation and testing (even if they have no symptoms) 
  • Support the school board, school and child care operator, as needed, with general communications to school staff and families.

Schools will also be asked to: 

  • Provide the health unit with information about who else the person with COVID-19 was in contact with while at school, including before and after school care and on the school bus. 
  • Enhance cleaning and disinfection in all areas of the school where the individual who tested positive for COVID-19 may have been. 
  • Work with the health unit to develop a plan to protect all students and staff, and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

All efforts will be made protect the privacy of individuals who have been diagnosed. Due to privacy laws, the health unit will not release personal or identifying information about any individual who is ill unless deemed necessary.

An outbreak in a school is defined as “two or more students and/or staff whom tested positive for COVID-19 in a school with an epidemiological link, within a 14-day period, where at least one person could have reasonably acquired their infection in the school (including transportation and before or after school care)”.

The health unit is responsible for determining if an outbreak exists, declaring an outbreak and providing direction on outbreak control measures to be implemented. We work closely with the school board and school, following the School Protocol When COVID-19 Outbreak is Declared, to prevent further spread of the virus. This may require partial or full closure of the school.

When an outbreak is declared at a school, the health unit will: 

  • Notify the school board and school principal
  • Conduct a thorough investigation and risk assessment 
  • Request information from the school board and/or school principal to inform the investigation, as needed.
  • Identify any close contacts in the school who must be excluded from school, and provide a letter for distribution to these individuals with instructions for self-isolation and testing (even if they have no symptoms)
  • Post the outbreak on the SMDHU website
  • Support the school board, school and child care operator, as needed, with general communications to school staff and families. 
  • Notify the school board, school, and before and after care when the outbreak is declared over and when staff and students can return to school

Schools and school boards work with the health unit to create and distribute communications to staff, students and/or families. The health unit will advise the school board and school of additional outbreak measures that are needed and will provide recommendations to support implementation.

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All efforts will be made protect the privacy of individuals who have been diagnosed. Due to privacy laws, the health unit will not release personal or identifying information about any individual who is ill unless deemed necessary.

 

While students, staff or visitors (and their respective households) are waiting for COVID-19 test results, they must remain in self-isolation and cannot attend school in-person. 

Students should follow: My child did not pass the COVID-19 daily screening. Now what? (revised February 22, 2021)

Staff should follow: COVID-19 Return to School or Child Care: Protocol for Employees/Visitors (revised February 22, 2021)

If tested for COVID-19 and results are negative:

  • The student/staff member can return to school when they do not have a fever, it has been at least 24 hours since symptoms started improving, and they have not been in close physical contact with a person who currently has COVID-19.
  • Documented proof of the negative test result is not required to return to school.
  • Note: If a staff/student has had known close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or the staff/student has travelled out of country, they will need to remain in isolation until 14 days have passed since their last exposure even if they have a negative test result.

If not tested for COVID-19:

The student/staff must remain home for 10 days from the onset of symptoms AND be symptom-free for 24* hours and be free of fever (without use of medication) before returning to school. However everyone else in the household MUST stay home for:

  • 14 days from the last contact with the ill staff/student with symptoms if the ill person can self-isolate away from the rest of the household; or
  • 24 days from start of the ill person’s symptom(s) if the ill person CANNOT self-isolate away from the rest of the household.
  • Alternatively, they may return if they have been diagnosed from a primary care provider that symptoms are not due to COVID-19 AND they have 24* hours.
  • Medical documentation is not required to return to school. Schools or child care may request that parents/guardians complete a COVID-19 Return to School and/or Child Care Attestation Form (revised February 22, 2021) and submit it to the school/child care upon return.

If tested for COVID-19 and results are positive:

  • Students/staff who test positive for COVID-19 will remain in isolation (at home) until these 3 conditions have been met:
    1) They have isolated for 10 days after the onset of symptoms AND
    2) They no longer have a fever AND
    3) Their symptoms have been improving for at least 24 hours.

Students or staff do not need clearance testing or medical notes to return to school. Schools or child care may request that students or staff complete a COVID-19 Return to School and/or Child Care Attestation Form (revised February 22, 2021) and submit it to the school/child care upon your child’s return.

The health unit conducts a thorough investigation of every confirmed COVID-19 case. This includes:

  • Working with the school to determine who from the school community (e.g. students, staff, before and after care, bus, volunteers, etc.) may have been in close contact with the person who has COVID-19.
  • Communicating with all individuals who have been identified as a close contact.

All efforts will be made protect the privacy of individuals who have been diagnosed. The health unit, school and school board will share only the information that is deemed necessary.

Those who are not considered a close contact of the individual who tested positive for COVID-19 will not receive communication from the SMDHU. We do not recommend that these individuals seek testing unless they are showing symptoms of COVID-19. When completing self-screening before the school day, those that have not been contacted by public health would not be considered a close contact of someone who has been confirmed to have COVID-19, and therefore may continue to come to school.

The SMDHU does not recommend that schools share information with staff and families about:

  • Symptomatic individuals including those that did not pass the daily self-screening or who become sick while at school.
  • A student or staff member who self-reports that they have been in close contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19. 
  • A student or staff member who has been tested for COVID-19 and whose test results are pending. 
  • A student or staff member who self-reports that they have tested positive or been diagnosed with COVID-19.
We will be continuously updating information and resources on this webpage. We are also available for consultation and support as new situations emerge, and will provide clarification or additional information as needed in order to support the safest possible learning environment in Simcoe Muskoka.
Follow the recommendations of the SMDHU Public Health Guidance to Food in Schools to reduce the risk of infection while maximizing student and staff health, and ensuring continued delivery of food-related components of the Ontario curriculum.

It is mandatory for staff and visitors to wear medical grade masks indoors at all times, and outdoors when a physical distance of 2 metres (6 feet) cannot be maintained. Remember that close contact with students is often unpredictable. SMDHU recommends that all teachers and school staff who are regularly in close contact with students wear eye protection (such as a face shield or goggles) when they are in the classroom, and when they cannot maintain 2 meres (6 feet) physical distance from others (e.g. when assisting with lunch/snacks).

Students in grades 1 to 12 must wear masks indoors in school, including in hallways and during classes, on school transportation and outdoors when physical distancing of 2m cannot be maintained. Masking requirements apply to before and after school programs, as well as on school vehicles.

Students in JK/SK students are strongly encouraged, but not required to wear a mask. Some school boards and schools are requiring masking in younger students. Educators should assist these students to build mask wearing skills in similar ways they have encouraged hand hygiene skills; with practice, patience and positive messages. Some simple ideas include:

  • Set a daily mask wearing challenge that increases over time (e.g.: during carpet time then extended to first break then extended to second break, etc.).
  • Include mask related activities in your lesson plan for math (graphing, telling time, journaling, oral communication activities). 
  • Make up words to a familiar tune and actions to lead students through mask application. 
  • If a student takes their mask off negotiate how long they need for a break and then remind them to put their mask back on.
  • Remind students to change their masks after nutrition breaks or recess and ensure hand hygiene is part of the process.

Masks should be replaced if they become soiled, wet or frozen.

Ask parents and guardians to send more than one mask to school so students can change them through-out the day. We suggest at least 3 masks per day to enable changes at each break or more often.

Soiled masks should be stored in a clean, labelled, paper bag or envelope (something that does not absorb moisture). Ensure students are taking soiled masks home each night to be laundered.

Mask wearing outdoors

  • It is mandatory for students in Grades 1-12 to wear their masks outdoors while on school grounds if they are unable to maintain 2 metres (6 feet) physical distance.
  • SMDHU strongly recommends students in JK/SK also wear masks outdoors when physical distancing of 2 metres (6 feet) cannot be maintained. Some schools/school boards/child care operators may choose to mandate masking in JK/SK. 
  • If a student removes their mask for recess it should be stored in a clean, labelled, paper bag or envelope (something that does not absorb moisture) and kept with them while not wearing. They should put it on before coming inside. 
  • Do not use bandanas, neck warmers or scarves in place of masks 

Use of outdoor equipment at school

  • Schools should consider the advice about the use of outdoor equipment in their school board policies. 
  • Ensure handwashing or use of hand sanitizer before and after use of any shared equipment. 
  • In the colder months when students are wearing mitts/gloves, it is not necessary to sanitize them if proper handwashing procedures are followed. 
  • Staff can assist younger students with mitts/gloves and masks if needed as long as proper PPE (face mask and shield) is worn during interactions and handwashing occurs before and after. 
  • Encourage physical distancing for those that are using the equipment.
  • Ensure routine cleaning of outdoor surfaces made of plastic or metal; cleaning of wood/natural items is not recommended.

Storage of indoor shoes and outdoor clothing 

  • Outdoor clothing can be stored in cubbies, lockers and hooks in the hallway - touching of personal belongings amongst children (snow pants, coats, boots) does not have a high risk for transmission. 
  • Physical distance is the most important factor when accessing clothing and personal belongings. 
  • Schools should stagger outdoor time and/or dressing time to help relieve congestion and encourage physical distancing. 
  • Students should always be encouraged to wash their hands after coming in from outdoors, and after removing their winter clothing.

 

Cold Weather Tips for Schools - Public health Ontario. This fact sheet provides infection prevention and control (IPAC) information for school administrators, staff, students, parents, guardians and caregivers to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 in schools during cold weather.

 

SMDHU fact sheets

Cleaning and disinfecting

 

 Hand Hygiene

 

Masks 


Testing and self-isolation

 Website Links:

 

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Page last updated: February 22, 2021

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