School Reopening Plans, Province By Province: What You Need To Know

When classes resume across Canada in September, back-to-school is going to look a lot different than what students, teachers and parents are used to, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Provinces have revealed reopening plans in recent weeks and they’re chock-full of details on mask-wearing, class sizes and cleaning protocols. But they’re different for every province. 

“As we see the plans rolling out in different provinces, certainly some of them have taken a slightly different approach than Alberta,” that province’s chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Thursday. 

Each province has crafted its plan to suit specific needs. B.C.’s chief medical officer Dr. Bonnie Henry called her province’s plan “robust. 

Parents and students meet teachers outside on May 11, 2020  at the Primerose school in Quebec City.

“This is a robust plan that puts the health and safety of our children, teachers and staff at the top of our list,” she said earlier this week.

And Henry acknowledged that despite reassurances, parents are likely still anxious about sending kids back to school in the current environment. 

“We’re all anxious about this, none of us have been through a pandemic like this before,” she said. 

So whether you’re an anxious parent, a student, a teacher or anyone else, you need to know what’s allowed and what’s not in your province’s classrooms this year. 

Here’s what you need to know about the September school reopening plans across Canada. 

Do students need to wear masks?

Of the major provinces, Ontario is the only one that will mandate mask-wearing in schools. All students and teachers from Grade 4-12 will be required to wear masks in schools, while it will be encouraged for younger students. 

Mask-wearing will not be mandated in Alberta, and schools will actually be the exception to mandatory indoor mask policies in Calgary and Edmonton. Hinshaw said the government is still assessing the viability of mask mandates in schools and could shift course. 

Most provinces will not mandate mask-wearing in schools.

“That question (on masks) is something we want to evaluate carefully, and we are always looking at emerging evidence because we want to make sure that our guidance is based on the most up-to-date evidence that is available,” she said. 

Following similar attitudes in B.C. municipalities, masks will not be mandated in B.C. schools but students and staff are being encouraged to wear them if they want. 

Are class sizes changing?

Ontario’s regular class sizes will be maintained for students in Grades K-8 and students will attend five days a week. High school students in certain school districts, including Toronto, will be in classrooms 50 per cent of the normal time, and attend in “cohort” groups to prevent transmission. Those students will receive “curriculum-linked independent work” on days when they are not in class.

In Alberta, regular class sizes will be maintained for all students with no changes. When announcing the plan, Hinshaw touted the idea of cohorts, but said Thursday that specific guidance would come in the coming weeks.

In B.C., regular class sizes will be maintained for all students but they will be grouped into learning cohorts of 60 people for lower grade and 120 people for upper grades. These cohorts will share things such as breaks between classes, recess and lunch in order to limit interaction with other students.

WATCH: Learning groups part of B.C. return to schools. Story continues below.


On Thursday, Henry said this doesn’t mean physical distancing doesn’t apply. 

“It doesn’t negate the physical distancing, What it says is that we know that we cannot always maintain physical distance at all times in schools, so we’re going to make sure the risk group is small,” she said. “You want to have your potential exposure group be much smaller than the entire school.”

In Quebec, students up to Grade 9 will return full-time to classrooms that will include “bubbles,”  groups of six students within a class that won’t require any distancing at all. Other students will be required to maintain a one-metre distance, while students and staff will have to keep a two-metre distance. 

Can I keep my child home? 

In most provinces, officials have said parents will have the option to engage their children in remote learning. However, that will be sorted out at the school board level.

“There are options, we’re not saying that every child has to be in there,” Henry said of B.C.’s plan.  “We know that there will be hybrid situations needed in some situations.”

What cleaning protocols are coming?

All provinces that have released school reopening plans thus far have touted robust cleaning and sanitization protocols, with some investing large sums of money into hand-washing stations and extra janitorial staff. 

Many schools will have hand-sanitizer dispensers installed, and regular surface sanitization. 

How much money is going into this?

Ontario has allocated $309 million in new funding for personal protective equipment and hiring teachers and school-based nurses. 

On Wednesday, B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming announced $45.6 million in funding for school districts to boost things like cleaning in schools and provide reusable masks upon request. 

There are options, we’re not saying that every child has to be in there,B.C. chief medical officer Dr. Bonnie Henry

Alberta will move funds around to accommodate extra cleaning expenses, but is not injecting any new money into the plan. Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said there is money available, through capital maintenance and reserve funding, to install school upgrades to prevent the spread of the virus, but that allocation of money is up to school boards. 

Around $15 million is specifically allocated for COVID-related items like hand sanitizing stations. 

Alberta premier Jason Kenney faced criticism last week for not putting more money into the plan, suggesting students and staff can help “tidy up” to maintain sanitization.

“We expect all the staff in any workplace to help tidy up,” he said during debate earlier this week. 

Kenney just said kids can help “tidy up” to keep their schools covid-free. Are they adding a class on how to sterilize against a pandemic to the new curriculum? #abed#ableg

— Leah Ward (@leahanneward) July 27, 2020What happens if a student tests positive? 

Most provinces have some sort of protocol in place. 

On Thursday, Hinshaw said that there is a possibility in Alberta that all students in a class would have to self-isolate for 14-days if a classmate tests positive. Class sizes also could be limited to 20 and other measures tightened if there’s an outbreak. 

In Ontario’s guidelines released Thursday, the province outlined protocols for what schools must do when a student or staff member tests positive or shows symptoms. 

RELATED Most International Students Barred From Canada Right Now: Government Syrian Refugee's Education Was First Derailed By War, Then The Pandemic Women's Participation In Work Force Hits Lowest Level In 3 Decades: RBC

Persons who test positive may not return to school until they are cleared by public health, while persons who test negative can return once they are symptom-free for 24 hours. Schools will also be responsible for maintaining logs of all student, staff and visitor movement to aid in contact tracing.  

In B.C., Henry said that her province has learned from June’s “trial run” reopening schools, as well as reopening businesses, how to manage people returning to work and the prospect of the virus.

“We’ve found ways to work safely, and I’m sure that will apply in schools as well,” Henry said. 

Where can I read my province’s full school reopening plan?

Here are links to every province and territory’s school reopening plans. Be sure to check with your school board for the most up-to-date information in your area. 


British Columbia





New Brunswick

Nova Scotia

Prince Edward Island

Newfoundland and Labrador


Northwest Territories


Load more
Read full article on:
Coronavirus: Emergency department at Devon hospital to reopen in phases beginning this month
Alberta Health Services says the emergency department at Devon General Hospital will reopen in phases beginning later this month.
Global News | Latest & Current News -...
Stage 3 couldn’t come fast enough for my family
The reopening of city playgrounds like a ‘homecoming,’ a grateful mother of two young boys writes
1 h | Toronto Star | Canada's...
Worried about your kids returning to school? Look abroad to countries that got it right
Planning and preparation is key — Thailand’s example might be one to follow
1 h | Toronto Star | Canada's...
Ottawa must acknowledge its role in atomic bombings of Japan and sign ban
The Trudeau government says it supports disarmament, but its policy and actions say otherwise, Biana Mugyenyi writes
1 h | Toronto Star | Canada's...
Let reason guide our actions in Atomic Age
It is folly to believe today’s nuclear stand-off can endure for the rest of time, U of T Nobel laureate John C. Polanyi writes.
1 h | Toronto Star | Canada's...
No need to rush back to the classroom
Ontario should put the health and safety of kids, parents and teachers first and not hurry to embrace back-to-schools plans made up on the fly, a child psychologist writes
1 h | Toronto Star | Canada's...
Man in life-threatening condition after stabbing in Toronto
Emergency crews were called to Bloor Street West, just west of Dovercourt Road, before 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
1 h
Global News | Latest & Current News -...
U.S. health chief to visit Taiwan amid the coronavirus pandemic, likely angering China
The United States, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, having ditched Taipei in favor of Beijing in 1979, but is its main arms supplier and strongest backer on the international stage.
1 h
Global News | Latest & Current News -...
City of Toronto staff member stabbed while on shift at interim housing apartment site
A Toronto Paramedics spokesperson said the woman suffered serious, but non-life-threatening injuries.
1 h
Global News | Latest & Current News -...
Hurricanes sweep Rangers with James Reimer between the pipes
The former Maple Leafs netminder made 37 saves at Scotiabank Arena.
2 h | Toronto Star | Canada's...
Body of Alberta man recovered in Okanagan Lake after extensive search
The 33-year-old man failed to resurface while cliff jumping near Rattlesnake Island on Saturday afternoon, RCMP said in a news release.
2 h
Global News | Latest & Current News -...
Flames thump Jets 6-2 to take 2-1 series lead
The Winnipeg Jets are one loss away from elimination after a 6-2 loss to the Calgary Flames Tuesday night.
2 h
Global News | Latest & Current News -...
Beirut explosion: Toronto-area community leaders react to devastating blast
"People are scared for their lives ... being here and not being able to help, it makes one feel useless."
2 h
Global News | Latest & Current News -...
Riley’s three-run homer helps Fried, Braves beat Blue Jays
The Blue Jays played their first game since Thursday. Their weekend series against Philadelphia was postponed in this virus-interrupted season.
2 h | Toronto Star | Canada's...
Canadian living near Beirut says explosion ‘felt like an earthquake’
The massive explosion rocked Beirut Tuesday, flattening much of the city's port, damaging buildings across the capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky.
3 h
Global News | Latest & Current News -...
‘Felt like an earthquake’: Resident describes blast that shook Lebanon
The massive explosion rocked Beirut Tuesday, flattening much of the city’s port, damaging buildings across the capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky.
3 h | Toronto Star | Canada's...
COVID-19: Hinshaw says Albertans should know government supported her back-to-school recommendations
Alberta's chief medical officer of health says she feels her school re-entry recommendations have been supported by the provincial government.
3 h
Global News | Latest & Current News -...
Calgary Flames take 2-1 series lead with win over Winnipeg Jets
Game 4 is Thursday night at Rogers Place. Calgary won the series opener 4-1 and Winnipeg took the second game 3-2.
3 h | Toronto Star | Canada's...
Mask petition sent to Chatham-Kent’s council; mayor stands behind Colby
A two-thirds vote would be needed to put a motion on the table without notice, and a majority vote would be needed to pass.
3 h | Toronto Star | Canada's...
#ICYMI: COVID cases plateau, heavy rains hit city, Beirut explosion
Catch up on stories from today that you might have missed.
3 h
Montreal Latest News, Breaking Headlines...
Students to return to class, if parents want, in Chatham-Kent
John Howitt, director of education for the Lambton-Kent District School Board (LKDSB), said final plans will be shared the week of Aug. 10 for the school boards in Chatham-Kent.
3 h | Toronto Star | Canada's...
Rosie DiManno: The Korpisalo spell is broken, and the Maple Leafs can breathe again
After four-plus periods of frustration, Auston Matthews solved Columbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo. John Tavares and Morgan Rielly added to the tally. A few adjustments and just like that, we’ve got ourselves a ball game heading into Game 3 Thursday, Rosie DiManno writes.
3 h | Toronto Star | Canada's...
Trump claims Beirut explosion caused by ‘bomb of some kind’ but investigation ongoing
"The United States stands ready to assist Lebanon," Trump said at a White House briefing of Tuesday's explosion, which killed at least 78 people and injured thousands.
3 h
Global News | Latest & Current News -...
Australia’s Queensland closes state border in attempt to stave off 2nd coronavirus wave
A surge in coronavirus cases in Melbourne has forced the state of Victoria to impose a night curfew, tighten restrictions on people's movements and order most businesses to stop trading from Wednesday night.
3 h
Global News | Latest & Current News -...
Migrant farm workers allege pressure to sign away movement rights amid COVID-19
Some temporary foreign workers on Canadian farms are being asked to sign away their right to leave the properties where they’re employed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to multiple workers and advocates.
3 h
CTV News | Top Stories - Breaking News -...
Police release video of ‘person of interest’ in attack on Whitby jogger
The information was released Tuesday, the same day Durham police set up a command post as they continue their investigation into the vicious assault.
3 h | Toronto Star | Canada's...
Native Quebecer Farah Alibay stands out as a NASA systems engineer
Born in Montreal, Alibay moved to Joliette when she was two and to England when she was 13. She says she was inspired by Julie Payette.
3 h
Montreal Latest News, Breaking Headlines...
COVID Alert app helpful even if it only works on newer smartphones, Tam says
Answering criticism that the federal ``COVID Alert'' app only works on newer smartphones, Dr. Theresa Tam says it's one of many tools in fighting the novel coronavirus.
3 h
Global News | Latest & Current News -...
Rick Zamperin: Jake Muzzin injury overshadows Maple Leafs’ Game 2 win
The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-0 to tie their NHL playoff qualifier at 1-all, but lost defenceman Jake Muzzin following a scary incident in the 3rd period.
4 h
Global News | Latest & Current News -...
Four terminally ill Canadians get special exemption to use psychedelic therapy
In a landmark decision, four Canadians suffering from terminal illnesses have been approved to receive psilocybin therapy to treat their anxiety -- marking the first time that a legal exemption has been given in Canada for patients to access psychedelic substances for treatment.
4 h
CTV News | Top Stories - Breaking News -...
COVID Alert app a help even if it works only on newer phones, Tam says
Critics say that will leave out poorer and older Canadians, who are more likely to use older devices and suffer worse effects from the virus.
4 h | Toronto Star | Canada's...
North Korea openly disregarding sanctions on nukes, missiles: UN report
U.N. experts said in key sections of the report that North Korea has also evaded sanctions through "targeted" cyber attacks against officials of countries on the U.N. Security Council and on members of its expert panel.
4 h
Global News | Latest & Current News -...
Saskatchewan plans for ‘normal’ return to school, masks not mandatory
Schools are to have dedicated quarantine areas, where symptomatic students can go before they are picked up by parents. Recesses, lunch breaks and classes are to be staggered.
4 h | Toronto Star | Canada's...
Toronto may finally be embracing masks, one expert says: 4 charts that show where we are now in COVID-19 battle
For more than two weeks, Toronto has trended behind the rest of the GTA in daily new cases, something that is more likely linked to the city’s high compliance on mask use than to a delayed move to Stage 3, said Colin Furness, an epidemiologist with the University of Toronto.
4 h | Toronto Star | Canada's...