- COVID-19 School Screening
- Return to School Decision Tree
- COVID-19 Symptoms and Information for Parents and Guardians
- FAQ for Parents of School Aged Children
- COVID-19 Cases in Schools and Child Care Centres
- Preventing COVID-19: Tips for Children Attending School (Public Health Ontario)
Back to School
School will be different this year due to COVID-19 and many of these changes will be new, potentially confusing or frustrating, and challenging for many families. It’s okay to be scared. That’s normal - but we want you to know that we are working very closely with the school boards in our region to ensure it’s as safe as possible. Whether your child is returning to the physical classroom this September or learning remotely, here are some ideas on how to prepare your family.
Back to School Plans
Operational guidance: COVID-19 management in schools
To find out what will happen if there is a coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak at a school, please visit the the Government of Ontario’s Operational guidance: COVID-19 management in schools.
For local back-to-school plans, please check your school board’s website:
- Thames Valley District School Board
- London District Catholic School Board
- Conseil scolaire Viamonde
- Conseil scolaire catholique Providence
School transportation (bussing)
Southwestern Ontario Student Transportation Services
For information on school transportation (bussing), please read the Southwestern Ontario Student Transporation Services’ plan, Ready to Roll: A roadmap for safely returning students to school by bus.
For information on school transportation for French Catholic Schools Boards, please refer to the Francobus website.
Can my child go to school?
Preparing for School
Getting into routines
The routines your child may have developed since schools closed in March and then over summer vacation may be different from what will be needed for the return to school. Help get them ready for school by talking about what their new routines will look like and practice them before school begins.1 2
Changes to their routine may include:
- a different bedtime and time to wake up
- packing a lunch and reusable water bottle
- packing their mask/face covering
- doing the screening process before going to school
- putting their reusable mask or face covering in the laundry as soon as they get home
- logging into their computer at a certain time to participate in online learning or setting aside designated time to do independent school work during the day (if learning remotely)
For high school students who will need to balance remote and in-person learning, discuss the importance of routines and going to bed and getting up at the same time during the week, regardless of whether they are in school or learning from home that day.3
Focus on the Positive
While it’s important to talk with your children about COVID-19 and discuss their concerns and any questions they may have, you can also help them prepare for school by focussing on the positive and fun things about schools.4
- Picking out school supplies and clothes
- Seeing old friends and making new ones (either virtually or in-person)
- Learning new things
- Seeing their teachers
For more information on how to talk to your children about COVID-19, check out these resources:
- Children’s Mental Health Ontario - COVID-19 Resources
- Centre for Addiction and Mental Health - How Do I Talk To My Children About COVID-19 and Its Impact?
- Canadian Paediatric Society - COVID-19 and Your Child
- Anxiety Canada - Talking to Kids About COVID-19
Develop New Habits
Washing hands or using hand sanitizer frequently is a key public health practice for preventing the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses. Help your child learn and practice how to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer properly. Be a good role model - demonstrate this routine yourself and remind your child to wash their hands when needed.
Watch a video together with your child to help them learn:
- Hand-washing Heroes Video (for younger children)
- Wash your hands, Brother John! (for younger children)
- Wash Those Mitts (for younger children)
- Reduce the Spread of COVID-19: Wash Your Hands (for older children)
How to cough and sneeze safely
COVID-19 is spread when droplets from an infected person are released by coughing or sneezing and then breathed in by another person who is nearby. It’s therefore important for everyone to practice good respiratory etiquette.
- Cough or sneeze into your sleeve or elbow
- If available, sneeze into a tissue and promptly throw the tissue into the garbage
- Always wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after coughing and sneezing
Teach your child what to do and set a good example.
Wearing a mask
The Government of Ontario has made wearing a non-medical mask or face covering mandatory for children in grades 4 and up while in the school building and on the school bus. Some school boards in our region, including the Thames Valley District School Board and the London District Catholic School Board, have also made it mandatory for children in kindergarten to grade 3 to wear a mask or face covering. For more information, please check with your school board.
Wearing a mask can be a new experience for children and getting used to wearing one can take some practice. Before school starts, make sure your child knows how to properly put the mask on, wear it, remove it, and store it as well as when to discard or replace it.
Learn how to properly wear a mask:
- Watch our video on how to safely wear and remove a non-medical mask.
- Learn more about how to properly wear, clean and dispose of face coverings.
- Use of Non-Medical (Cloth) Masks Infographic
Tips for making masks a habit 5 6 7
- For younger, school-aged children, use play to normalize wearing masks.
- Practice putting masks on toys
- Put a mask on yourself or get siblings and relatives to wear them
- Do fun activities with masks on
- Show pictures or videos of other kids wearing masks
- Look in the mirror together when putting masks on
- Consider getting masks in fun fabrics your child will enjoy
- Start with wearing a mask for a few minutes then increase the amount of time each day.
- Try to mimic what they will need to do in school for snacks and lunch. Practice removing the mask, placing it in a container or paper bag, have a snack or drink, and then put the mask back on. Pick it up by the ear loops without touching the fabric of the mask.
- Talk with your child about how they feel wearing a mask and look for ways to make them feel more comfortable.
- Emphasize that the child should never share their mask with others or put on another child’s mask. Encourage them to touch their mask while it is on as little as possible and to wash their hands when they do.
Minimize Physical Contact
An important practice for reducing the spread of COVID-19 is to maintain physical distance as much as possible. Talk to your child about what it means to keep physical distance from others.
Provide them with examples they will understand for what 2 metres apart looks like:
- A couch with three cushions
- The length of a bed
- A pool noodle
- An adult hockey stick
For younger school-aged children, help them reduce the amount of physical assistance they may require from their teacher.
- Make sure your child can open their own food containers, packages and drinks. Practice with lunches and snacks before school starts.
- Make sure your child can take off and put on their outerwear such as coats and boots.
Talk About It
Talk with your child about the new health measures they can expect at school and explain why they are important to follow. Encourage your child to ask questions.8 New health measures and changes at school may include:
- Wearing a mask/face covering
- Washing or sanitizing hands at certain times throughout the day
- Keeping physically distant from others
- Following signs (e.g. where to stand to maintain 2 metres, direction of flow in the hallways, which doors to use)
- Not sharing personal items with other students
- Telling their teacher or another staff member if they are not feeling well
Talk with your child about their cohort (the group of students and staff who remain together each day), the changes it will cause, and why it is important for them to stay with their cohort
- It may mean your child won’t see all of their friends as much as they used to
- Lunch/nutrition breaks and recess may be different than last school year
- It is important for your child to stay in their cohort to make it easier and quicker for public health to track and trace contacts when there is a suspected case of COVID-19
Here are some additional resources to use when talking to your child about the pandemic:
- “My name is Coronavirus” a book to support and reassure children
- Talking to Children About the Pandemic
If your child is getting a COVID-19 test, you may find it helpful to view this video together on supporting your child during COVID-19 nasal swab testing.
Daily Checklist for Going to School In-Person
Mental Health Support
Children’s Mental Health Ontario - Back-to-School Mental Health Kit
School Mental Health Ontario - COVID-19
Mental Health Support during COVID-19 - Canadian Mental Health Association
List of local mental health services
Signage and Resources
- Physical Distancing Poster
- Hand Sanitizer How-To Poster
1Children’s Mental Health Ontario. (2020). Six tips to support your child’s mental wellness and prepare for the start of the school year. Retrieved from
2CHEO. (2020). Back to school during COVID-19: Tips for parents and caregivers. Retrieved from
3Teens and sleep: Why you need it and how to get enough. Retrieved from
4School Mental Health Ontario. (2020). Supporting mental health and wellness during the return to school. Retrieved from
5Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health. (2020). Back-to-school 2020-21: Mask guidance for parents. Retrieved from
6Cavanaugh, B., Aponte, C., & Shamlian, K. (2020). A toolkit for helping your child wear a mask during COVID-19. University of Rochester Medical Center. Retrieved from
7American Academy of Pediatrics. (2020). Cloth face coverings for children during COVID-19. Retrieved from
8Children’s Mental Health Ontario. (2020). Six tips to support your child’s mental wellness and prepare for the start of the school year. Retrieved from