Last updated: September 28, 2020 at 3:40 p.m.

Read Toronto Public Health’s tips on how to prepare for school during COVID-19 and what parents need to know if there is a case of COVID-19 at school.

Also read Toronto Public Health’s resources for schools JK to Grade 12.

Children need structure to learn, to socialize and to maintain good mental health. Here are some ways to prepare children for back to school, safely.

  • Stay informed. Check credible sources for the latest information
  • Learn to be flexible as schools adapt.
  • Have a plan, in case your child needs to stay home.
  • Teach children handwashing, physical distancing and the proper way to wear a mask.
  • Explain how their classrooms may be different.
  • Greet others with a smile, a wave or nod from a distance.
  • Remind children not to share their mask, food and other personal items.
  • Make sure their vaccinations are up to date, including the flu vaccine in October.
  • Create a routine to screen your child for symptoms of COVID-19, before school each day.
  • Keep your child at home if they are sick, and get tested.
  • Take care of yourself to manage your own stress. Children can sense your stress or anxiety.

How will public health measures reduce the spread of COVID-19 in schools?

Following public health measures in schools will keep students and staff safe. The most important measures continue to be physical distancing as much as possible, wearing a mask, staying home when sick, and washing hands. Schools will be doing enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch areas, and using barriers such as plexiglass to prevent the spread.

Should I send my child to school?

Everyone needs to make decisions that are best for their children and family. Factors to consider include:

  • Your child’s ability to follow directions for physical distancing, wearing a mask, etc.
  • Ability to homeschool. The educational needs for each child may be different.
  • If you have vulnerable relatives, such as older grandparents, sibling or others with health issues in your social circle.

How will the cohorts in school differ from the social circle we have for our family?

  • Children in schools will be part of a cohort (or dedicated group) of students, which is different from a social circle.
  • In a cohort, students should still practice physical distancing as much as possible, and wear a mask when they are indoors and also outdoors when physical distancing is not possible.
  • In a social circle households can have up to 10 people in their circle with whom they can interact without keeping a physical distance or wearing masks.
  • Families that have people who are at higher risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 in their social circle should re-evaluate their social circle based on their own risk assessment.

What kind of face mask should we use?

  • The best mask is the one that fits comfortably.
  • Cloth mask should be made with two or more layers of fabric and be easy to breathe through.
  • It should be large enough to cover the nose, mouth and chin without gapping.
  • Plastic masks or face shields are not a substitute for cloth masks.
  • Send your child to school with two bags for masks, one labelled “clean” and one “dirty.” Pack several masks each day. Instruct your child to put their mask in the “dirty” bag if it gets wet or soiled, and to use a new, clean mask. Wash the masks at the end of each day for reuse.

What happens if someone at school gets COVID-19?

If someone at school contracts COVID-19, Toronto Public health (TPH) will conduct an investigation to determine who had close contact with the individual. Public health will then contact each person who had close contact. Due to privacy of personal health information, the name of the person who has COVID-19 will not be shared. Care must to be taken to avoid stigmatizing students and staff. Schools should continue to be welcoming, respectful, inclusive and supportive environments for all.

Will the school close if someone gets COVID-19?

There is no set number of COVID-19 infections to determine if a school will need to close. It is not always necessary to shut down the entire classroom or school if there is a case of COVID-19 in the school. In addition, if the infection rate in the broader community increases, it may impact the number of people who get COVID-19 in schools. For the safety of everyone, there may be a time when schools need to close again.

Will there be public health support in the schools?

Toronto Public Health is establishing a team of more than 70 nurses who will support schools as they reopen. These nurses will form the school COVID-19 response team for TPH. They will support schools with COVID-19 prevention measures, mental health and well-being promotion. They will also conduct outbreak management, case investigations and contact tracing if someone at the school develops COVID-19.

What should families do for students with allergies or asthma?

Some children may have a chronic runny nose or cough because of a health condition. They can still attend school. If the symptoms are new or getting worse, they will need to stay home and get tested. Speak to your health care provider for more support.

If my child is sick, how do I get them tested?

For children with symptoms of COVID-19, even if they are mild, keep them at home. Call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000, your health care provider, or an assessment centre for testing. Children can often get a throat swab or swab in the front of their nose (instead of at the back of the nose), so the test will not be uncomfortable.

If a student is off sick, when can they return to school?

COVID-19 testing is very important to help determine when a student can return to school. In general, if the student:

  • tested positive, they can return to school after 14 days, and once they have no symptoms
  • tested negative, they can return to school if it has been 24 hours since their symptoms started improving
  • tested negative, but have to self-isolate as advised by public health, will need to continue isolation for the full 14 days
  • if sick, but not tested, they will have to stay home for up to 14 days. They can return to school after 14 days if symptoms are improving.

There are no clearance tests or doctor’s note required for return to school. Public health will advise on the clearance date.

What are the long-term effects of COVID-19 on children?

COVID-19 is a new disease, and we are still learning about the long-term effects. This is why we must take every precaution to prevent the spread of infection.

Should students and teachers use the contact tracing app?

Yes, we encourage everyone to use the COVID-19 Alert app. The more people using the app, the better for everyone. If someone gets COVID-19, they will enter a key in the app which will anonymously alert others who may be close contacts to go for testing.

Why are you promoting outdoor learning and activities at school?

There is less risk of COVID-19 transmission outdoors. There is more open space to maintain two metre distancing. And with more natural airflow, the respiratory droplets will fall to the ground faster. Students are less likely to touch contaminated surfaces outdoors. When children are outside, they move more. Outdoor play is fun, good for physical activity and is important for healthy growth and development.

Download this information as a PDF?(also available in French).

What parents need to know when someone tests positive for COVID-19 in their child’s school or class cohort (designated group):


Parents will be notified by Toronto Public Health if there is a positive case in the school. The identity of the person who tested positive for COVID-19 will not be shared as this is personal health information. It is important to remember that not all students are at-risk if there is a positive case in the school. The main concern is for close contacts of the person who has COVID-19.

Contact Tracing

Toronto Public Health will follow up with the person who tested positive to find out where they may have gotten the infection, and who they may have exposed to the virus. We will work with the school, to find out who they were in contact with at the school while they were contagious. When a person with COVID-19 is first identified, all students in the same class cohort will likely be told to self-isolate at home. This may change as Toronto Public Health finds out more information through the investigation.

If the source of the infection was outside of the school, and the person was not contagious while they were at school, then the class cohort will not need to self-isolate.

Self-Monitoring and Self-Isolation

If someone was contagious while at school, all students who are identified by Toronto Public Health as close contacts of that person will be instructed to:

  • Stay home and self-isolate for 14 days.
  • Monitor for symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Get tested if symptoms develop or as directed by Toronto Public Health.

As Toronto Public Health completes the investigation, if it is determined that students or staff did not have close contact with the person who had COVID-19, they will be allowed to return the classroom.

Other students in the school should also monitor for symptoms if there is a positive case in a school. But if they have not been told by Toronto Public Health that they are a close contact, they do not need to self-isolate.

Safe Return to School

Toronto Public Health will advise students who have been asked to self-isolate when they can return to school.

Declaring an Outbreak

Toronto Public Health is responsible for declaring an outbreak, and for providing directions during an outbreak. An outbreak is two or more positive COVID-19 cases in a school, within a 14-day period, with at least one infection traced back to the school environment. This may include transportation to and from school or before and after school care. An outbreak can be declared for a class, grade or school.

Download this information as a PDF (also available in French).

If someone at school tests positive for COVID-19, parents will be notified. Not all students will be at-risk for potential infection. If your child is not a close contact, they don’t have to self-isolate. Monitor your child for symptoms for 14 days.

Monitor your child for any new or worsening symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing

Other symptoms include:

  • Sore throat or trouble swallowing
  • Runny nose
  • Red eyes
  • Sore muscles, tired or feeling unwell
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Loss of taste or smell

Encourage everyone in your social circle to:

  • Wear a mask in public spaces to protect others.
  • Avoid crowded places.
  • Limit contact with others with health issues or who are elderly.
  • Keep a two metre distance from others.

If your child develops symptoms:

Self-isolate immediately, get tested, and contact public health at 416-338-7600. See instructions on how to self-isolate.

When visiting your health care provider or going to an assessment centre, try not to use public transit. If you use a taxi or ride share, wear a mask, sit in the back seat and keep the windows open.

Download this information as a PDF?(also available in French).

If your child has one or more (new or worsening) symptoms of COVID-19, they should stay at home, self-isolate, and get tested. Call your child’s school to let them know that your child has COVID-19 symptoms.

Household members should self-monitor for symptoms

Household members should monitor for symptoms for 14 days. They can go to school or work if they do not have symptoms and the child with symptoms has not tested positive for COVID-19. This includes while you are waiting for the test results. If the child has symptoms and was a close contact of someone who had COVID-19 then household members should stay home and self-isolate.

Get tested

Contact your child’s health care provider if you have questions about testing. Find an Assessment Centre near you to get tested. Children can often get a swab of the throat and each nostril so it is more comfortable than a deep nasal swab. Saliva tests are also available.

When going to an assessment centre, don’t use public transit. Drive your child if you can, ask for a ride, or use a taxi or ride share. Wear a mask, sit in the back seat, and keep the windows open.

Check your child’s test results

You can check your test results at by clicking on “check your lab results.” Results can take a few days.

If your child tests negative for COVID-19:

  • Your child may return to school if it has been 24 hours since their symptoms started improving.
  • Young children may have ongoing mild symptoms, such as a runny nose. If it is not new or worse, they may go back to school if they don’t have other symptoms.

If your child tests positive for COVID-19:

  • Your child must stay home and self-isolate for 14 days from the day the symptoms started.
  • Household members and close contacts must also self-isolate for 14 days.
  • Let your school know that your child tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Toronto Public Health will contact you to do an investigation and with further instructions.

Not tested

If your child has COVID-19 symptoms and did not have a COVID-19 test, they must stay home and self-isolate for 14 days from the day the symptoms started. Even if their symptoms get better sooner, they will need to stay home for 14 days. Household members will continue to self-monitor for 14 days. Household members can continue to attend school or work as long as they do not have any symptoms.

Sick for other reasons

Sometimes children are sick for other reasons. If your health care provider has ruled out COVID-19, your child may return to school once it has been 24 hours since their symptoms started improving. Note that TPH does not recommend requiring a medical note to confirm this.

Have questions?

Please contact Toronto Public Health at 416-338-7600.

Download this information as a PDF?(also available in French).

Schools and parents have questions about COVID-19, and what they should be doing to protect their families and their community.

Below are some examples of possible situations with information to help guide schools and parents.

What if…

Hossein tests positive for COVID-19:

  • Hossein, his siblings and his family will all need to self-isolate for 14 days.

Julia has symptoms of COVID-19:

  • Julia needs to self-isolate at home, and arrange to get tested.
  • Julia’s siblings and other family members can still go to school or work while she is waiting for her test results, and if she tests negative for COVID-19.
  • Julia can return to school if her test is negative, and her symptoms have been improving for at least 24 hours.

Bao Lee has symptoms of COVID-19, but did not get tested:

  • Bao Lee will have to self-isolate at home for 14 days from when his symptoms started.
  • Bao Lee’s siblings and other family members can still go to school or work as long as they don’t have symptoms.

Abdul was in close contact with someone who has COVID-19:

  • Abdul must self-isolate at home for 14 days, and monitor for symptoms.
  • Abdul’s siblings and other family members can still go to work or school.
  • But, if Abdul develops symptoms, his siblings and family will need to self-isolate for 14 days from the day his symptoms started.

Berta’s mom was in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19:

  • Berta’s mom must self-isolate at home for 14 days, and arrange to get tested.
  • Berta can still go to school.
  • If Berta’s mom develops symptoms of COVID-19 while she is self-isolating, then Berta, her siblings and other family members will also have to self-isolate until her mother’s COVID-19 test results are confirmed.

Jackson’s mom has travelled outside of Canada in the last 14 days:

  • Jackson’s mom must self-isolate at home for 14 days. She should stay in a separate room and keep her distance from others at home.
  • Jackson can go to school as long as he doesn’t have symptoms.
  • If Jackson’s mom develops symptoms, she should get tested. Jackson and his family will have to stay home and self-isolate if Jackson’s mom tests positive for COVID-19.

Download this information as a PDF.

Toronto Public Health provides free immunization to Grade 7 and 8 students for the following vaccines:

  • Meningococcal-ACYW, to prevent meningitis
  • Human papillomavirus, to prevent certain cancers
  • Hepatitis-B, to prevent liver cancer

This year, Toronto Public Health will offer free immunizations through community clinics. Students who missed their vaccinations last year due to school closures are still eligible for the free vaccines.

Parents can visit to make an appointment? for their child to be vaccinated at a public health clinic beginning in October, or ask their health care provider to order the vaccines from Toronto Public Health.

Toronto Public Health’s review of immunization records for all students is cancelled for the 2020-2021 school year. Routine vaccinations are an essential health service, and are available from a student’s health care provider. Vaccines provide individuals with protection from non-COVID-19 diseases. Students visiting their health care providers for scheduled or urgent visits should not delay vaccinations at this time.

Read Toronto Public Health’s September 9, 2020 letter to parents and guardians for more information about school health services during COVID-19.

Below are links to resources that may be helpful for parents/caregivers and students in JK to Grade 12. Please check the links often as the information is updated on a regular basis.

Resource Type & Source Resource Link
Toronto Public Health Back to school Fact Sheet for Parents?(also available in French)
City of Toronto (video) Helping your child wear a mask at school
City of Toronto How to wear a mask at school (infographic)
City of Toronto Helping children wear masks (infographic)
Toronto Public Health COVID-19 School Protocol?(also available in French)
Toronto Public Health How to Self-Monitor if Someone at School Tests Positive for COVID-19 (also available in French)
Toronto Public Health What to Do if Your Child Has COVID-19 Symptoms (also available in French)
Toronto Public Health What Parents Need to Know if Someone at School Tests Positive for COVID-19 (infographic) (also available in French)
Toronto Public Health Who is a Close Contact at School (infographic) (also available in French)
Toronto Public Health Talking to Kids About Going Back to School (infographic) (also available in French)
Toronto Public Health Preparing Your Child for School (infographic) (also available in French)
Toronto Public Health 10 Ways to Greet from 6 Feet (infographic) (also available in French)
School Mental Health Ontario COVID-19-Parents and Families? (also available in French)
Children’s Mental Health Ontario COVID-19 Resources
Sick Kids About Kids Health-COVID-19 (also available in French)


Download this information and more as a PDF?(also available in French).