Ontario Enhancing COVID-19 Winter TestingPublished on November 23, 2021
As the province moves into the winter season, increased contact indoors among staff, parents and children may present an increased risk of COVID-19 transmission in elementary schools.
Building on Ontario’s plan to keep schools safe and open for in-person learning and to protect our progress in the fight against COVID-19, specific testing measures will be implemented for school communities:
-Providing take-home PCR self-collection kits to all publicly funded schools for all eligible students and staff, which can be dropped off at a convenient community location, including participating pharmacies across Ontario, to help reduce absenteeism.
-Providing a rapid antigen screening test kit of five tests will be available to all public school students across Ontario to use over the holidays and throughout the return to in-person learning. All First Nation schools will also have the opportunity to participate.
To enhance the protection of our students over the winter and holiday seasons, especially our youngest students who cannot yet be vaccinated, we have put in place time-limited measures including:
- Virtual-only parent teacher conferences/interviews in elementary and secondary schools;
- Starting in January, virtual-only assemblies in elementary schools unless a local PHU/school board chooses to enforce this measure earlier;
- Restricting lunches/breaks to classroom cohorts when indoors, where distancing between cohorts cannot be maintained in elementary schools and;
- Daily on-site confirmation of screening prior to/upon arrival at school for at least two weeks following winter break for students and staff.
With new guidance and enhanced testing options in place, secondary schools will be permitted to resume a regular timetabling model of four courses a day starting February 2022 in order to provide a more normal in-person learning experience for students.
In preparation for the second half of the school year, the government is also providing school boards with access to the remainder of the $1.6 billion in COVID-19 resources announced in May 2021 to help keep schools safer and open. Additionally, school boards will be permitted to access up to two per cent of their reserve funds to further support safety measures.
By expanding testing options over the winter holiday, putting in place additional safety measures, and returning to normal timetabling, we are taking action to ensure schools reopen safely while supporting a more positive learning environment for students.