Mask mandates, class caps: Back to school rules by province
TORONTO -- As Canada deals with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, students and teachers are preparing to face a very different school year come September. But the return to the classroom and the precautions in place will vary depending on where you live.
Here is a look at how the back-to-school season will vary by province.
Click on the provinces for details, or scroll down for more information. Can't see the map? Click here for the full experience.
On July 29, the B.C. government announced that “most students” will return to school for full-time in-person classes on Sept. 8.
But about two weeks later, on Aug. 12, the province announced that the school year is being pushed back to Sept. 10.
As part of the initial plan, students would be divided into “learning groups” of 60 students for elementary-aged children and groups of 120 for high school students.
These groups are not the class sizes, but rather the size of the groups students can interact with, which the government says will reduce the risk of transmission among students, while improving contact tracing in the event of an outbreak.
Every student and staff member will be given two masks upon returning to school. Masks will be mandatory for middle school and high school students in situations where physical distancing is not possible, such as hallways and on buses.
Elementary school students are not required to wear a mask.
The provincial government is also spending $45.6 million to help schools prepare for the upcoming school year, which will go towards increased cleaning expenses, hand-washing stations and additional supplies for students and teachers.
Details on these learning groups, as well as school schedules and enrollment procedures is scheduled to be released on Aug. 26.
Students in Alberta will head back to the classroom with full-time schedules in September, with a number of new health measures in place, including grouping students in cohorts to limit contact, staggering start times for classes, recesses and lunches, and daily COVID-19 screening questionnaires. Class sizes, however, will not be limited.
Staff and students in Grades 4 to 12 will be required to wear masks in common areas and on school buses. The province will provide two reusable masks for each student, teacher and staff member in the province. Staff will also be given one face shield each to be used at their discretion. Hand sanitizer and contactless thermometers will also be provided by the province.
Should an outbreak of COVID-19 occur, affected schools could move to partial in-class learning or at-home learning. Students with symptoms of COVID-19 will be required to get tested and only be allowed back into class after a negative result.
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said parents won't be forced to send their kids to school if they don’t feel it’s safe. However, it would be up to the parents to work with the school to develop a plan for their child’s at-home learning.
In June, Saskatchewan announced that in-classroom learning will resume in the fall, releasing a set of guidelines to help school divisions prepare. But the bulk of the planning will fall to school divisions and school boards.
According to the provincial guidelines, staff, parents and students are encouraged to limit physical contact, but the note that physical distancing is “less practical” for younger students. Although the province says general use containers need to be available, students and staff are encouraged have their own hand sanitizer on hand.
In a statement to CTV News, Regina Public Schools said it’s looking at protective screens, water bottle fillers and even air purifying systems for the upcoming school year, but note that distribution of these items will be tied to school enrolment and staff numbers.
Most school divisions in the province will require masks when schools reopen on Sept. 8. While there is no official mandate, the province said it was purchasing masks to distribute to schools in the event the chief medical officer deems them necessary.
The Manitoba government announced on July 30 that elementary school students will be heading back to school full-time on Sept. 8, while high school students may be required to conduct online classes, depending on each school’s ability to implement the necessary physical distancing regulations.
Each school must ensure students working remotely have access to the necessary technology.
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.
Lunch breaks and recesses will be staggered and protocols will be implemented to reduce congestion in the hallways and common areas.
Masks will be mandatory for students in Grades 4 to 12. Originally, the province decided not to require masks in schools, but it later reversed its decision, with the premier citing "the input of literally thousands and thousands of Manitobans.”
The Ontario government announced on July 30 that elementary school students and many high school students will return to the classroom full-time in September.
Elementary students will return to class five days a week for full days, which will include recess and lunch. Class sizes will not be restricted.
Students will see changes in the times for recess, lunch, and bathroom breaks, however.
While most high schools will reopen under the same stipulations, 24 school boards across the province will have classes capped at 15 students and will alternate days or schedules to ensure schools remain at 50 per cent capacity.
Non-medical masks will be mandatory for students from Grade 4 to Grade 12. Grade 3 students will be encouraged to wear a mask in common areas, though it is not required.
Teachers and school staff will be given medical masks.
Parents will be asked to self-screen students each day and to keep a child at home if they are experiencing any symptoms.
Some school boards have decided to go beyond the province’s rules. The Toronto District School Board decided in August that it will require students from kindergarten to Grade 12 to wear masks at school where physical distancing cannot be maintained. The TDSB, which is Canada's largest school board, also said that it would use reserve funds to maintain varying classroom caps, including a max of 20 students in Grade 4-8 classes at schools in neighbourhoods with higher levels of COVID-19.
With full-time classes set to resume in September, Quebec’s plan includes dividing elementary and high school classes into “bubble groups” of up to six students who will not have to physically distance from each other.
These bubble groups 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.
Students in Grades 10 and 11 can chose 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.
It’s not yet clear whether entire "bubbles" of students would be sent home if one becomes sick, or if someone in the family of one of the students is sick.
The province announced Aug. 10 that face masks will be 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, but teachers will have masks provided for them.
If a classroom or school is required to close due to a COVID-19 outbreak, students will still receive 15 hours of education per week online, including dedicated time with a teacher.
In New Brunswick, full-time learning will be mandatory, but will look different depending on a student's grade level.
Students from kindergarten to Grade 8 will attend school full-time in groups of up to 15. Those groups will attend class, socialize and enter the school together, maintaining distance from other groups.
High school students will be required to attend class a minimum of every other day, with reduced class sizes. The province is also providing financial support for students to purchase their own laptops to bring to class.
Masks are mandatory for students from Grades 6 to 12 when outside classrooms, and younger students are encouraged to wear masks as well.
All students in Nova Scotia will return to school in September with increased health and safety protocols. Classrooms will also be reorganized to increase spacing, and classes will be treated as a bubble, to minimize contact with other students.
In-school assemblies and other large gatherings will not be permitted. As well, cafeterias and school food programs will deliver food to students, and students will eat lunch at their desks.
High school students will be required to wear a mask in school spaces where social distancing is not possible, such as in hallways and common areas. Masks will not be mandatory in class.
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
Full-time classes will also resume in P.E.I., where staff will receive training on how to maintain health and safety protocols within classrooms to mitigate infections.
Parents are being encouraged to drive their kids to and from school to reduce the number of passengers on school buses. Drop-off and pickup times, as well as lunch breaks and recess will also be staggered to avoid crowding.
When available, class sizes will be reduced in order to accommodate distancing and students will work in cohorts or bubbles.
Students are not required to wear masks to school, but all staff and students in Grades 7 to 12 are “strongly recommended” to wear masks when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
Newfoundland and Labrador’s back-to-school plan aims to return to full-time in-class attendance with the 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.
Under some scenarios, the Education Department will aim to limit classroom sizes 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 for children of essential workers.
Students and staff will also be required to go over a COVID-19 exposure and symptom checklist before entering a school.
Neither students nor staff will be required to wear masks at school, but they are allowed to wear masks if they wish. The province says efforts should be made to ensure that students who wear masks are not “stigmatized.”
In Nunavut, schools will reopen in September with few changes, provided the territory continues to be free of COVID-19.
In the Northwest Territories, school is set to resume but students and staff will undergo daily COVID-19 screening and maintain physical distance with the help of new classroom configurations. The territory has also mandated staggered recess periods and that students wear masks when on busses.
In Yukon, each school will be responsible for adjusting operations to meet provincial guidelines, including physical distancing and reduced class sizes. School officials are expected to share reopening details with the government before September.
With files from CTVNews.ca's Brooklyn Neustaeter, Graham Slaughter and Jonathan Forani