Coronavirus: Here’s how each province, territory is handling back-to-school

Click to play video: 'Patchwork of re-opening plans for Canadian schools amid pandemic' Patchwork of re-opening plans for Canadian schools amid pandemic
WATCH: Patchwork of re-opening plans for Canadian schools amid pandemic – Jul 29, 2020

As Canada continues to grapple with the novel coronavirus pandemic, students, teachers and parents are beginning to prepare for the upcoming school year, but a lot of uncertainty remains.

What will the new school year look like? What safety measures will be put in place in classrooms?

Here’s a look at each province and territory’s back-to-school plan.


In Quebec, preschoolers and students from grades 1 to 9 will attend class full-time.

Students from preschool through Grade 9 will be divided into subgroups of six or fewer where physical distancing won’t be required. However, they will be asked to stay two metres away from teachers and one metre from other students.

Read more: Canada sees 478 new coronavirus infections as world case count nears 17 million

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High school students in the final two years of their studies will be able to alternate between learning in the classroom and from home.

Universities and CEGEPs will be permitted to reopen with a hybrid option of online and in-class learning with 1.5-metre physical-distancing rules in place in lecture halls.


In June, Ontario’s provincial government asked school boards to prepare three separate plans for the upcoming school year — a plan if school was to be delivered online only, a full-time in-classroom model and a hybrid plan that would see children alternate between time at school and at home.

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Coronavirus: Toronto, Peel Region move to Stage 3 of Ontario’s reopening plan as of Friday – Jul 29, 2020

The reopening plan the province announced Thursday is a mix of the latter two options. While classrooms will be open five days a week for those in grades eight and below, high school students in some areas will be in school half of the time with a class of about 15. Secondary schools in 24 districts are operating that way. Others will hold classes five days a week.

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Parents, however, get a choice as to whether they want to send their kids to class.

Those in Grade 4 and up will be required to wear a mask at all times while on indoor school property. For younger students, masks are encouraged but not mandatory. The government has earmarked $309 million for things like personal protective equipment, public health nurses, testing, janitorial staff and cleaning, additional teachers and mental health supports.

Nova Scotia

Last week, Nova Scotia officials announced public school students across the province will return to class on Sept 8.

Provincial health authorities released a set of health guidelines and enhanced safety measures for students and staff. The plan also includes measures to “enhance student learning.”

According to the plan, classrooms will be reorganized to increase spacing between students, and each classroom will be considered a “bubble” in order to minimize contact with other children.

Regular handwashing by both students and staff will be required before they enter the school for classes, and throughout the day.

Read more: COVID cases in Canada tracker: How many new cases of COVID-19 today?

There will also be “enhanced cleaning” on school buses, and all riders and drivers will be required to wear a face mask.What’s more, all staff and students at secondary schools will also be required to wear a mask in spaces where social distancing is not possible. But they will not have to wear a mask in classrooms.School cafeterias and school food programs will deliver food to the students, who will eat at their desks.Meanwhile, assemblies and other large gatherings will not be permitted.
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Health experts, SickKids hospital release guidelines for returning to Ontario schools – Jul 29, 2020

Prince Edward Island

Earlier this month, health authorities in Prince Edward Island released the province’s back-to-school plan.

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Students on the island will be returning to school for full-time classes on Sept. 8.

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According to the plan, students will work in cohorts as much as possible. These cohorts will distance themselves from other groups to “limit exposure to other students.”

Read more: Nova Scotia releases plan for students to return to school in September

Health officials say classrooms will also be configured to support physical distancing, and class sizes will be reduced when necessary.

The plan says lunches, recess breaks and drop-off and pick-up times will be staggered, and that “enhanced cleaning protocols” will be followed in schools and on buses.

Anyone entering the schools will be screened, and any staff member or student who feels unwell will be required to stay home.

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In order to reduce the number of students on school busses, routes will be added and parents will be asked to transport their children whenever possible.

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According to the plan, students will also be “educated on the importance of physical distancing and hand washing.”

New Brunswick

In New Brunswick, students in kindergarten to Grade 8 will be in class full-time with a teacher.

However, according to the plan, students will be separated into smaller groups “whenever possible.”

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Children within these groups may interact with one another, but they must distance from other cohorts.

Students in Grades 9 to 12 will attend school on rotation and the number of children per class will be reduced.

According to the plan, students in Grades 9 to 12 must physically distance at least one metre, though two metres is suggested.

Click to play video: 'B.C. minister of education announces back to school plan' B.C. minister of education announces back to school plan
B.C. minister of education announces back to school plan – Jul 29, 2020

Newfoundland and Labrador

In Newfoundland and Labrador, provincial officials have devised a plan that would see students return to school full-time.

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However, they have also planned a remote-hybrid model in case the province sees an increase in COVID-19 cases.

The plan includes routine screening for all staff and enhanced “environment cleaning” of all areas of the schools.

It also includes a number of physical distancing measures including reorganizing classrooms and cohorting students.

The plan says students and staff will be expected to practice hand hygiene when entering and exiting the school and classrooms and before eating. A “no sharing policy” will also be implemented.

According to the plan, there will be no large gatherings or assemblies.

Read more: Coronavirus: 30-year-old Toronto man who spent 8 weeks on ventilator, lost 130 pounds warns others


Manitoba’s plan will see all students return to the classroom — with partial online instruction possible for some high schoolers.

Classroom learning will be full-time for students in kindergarten through Grade 8 and for special-needs students in all grades, with five days of instruction per week.

The province says remote learning may be required for students in Grades 9 to 12, depending on whether or not their high schools are able to implement necessary public health measures including physical distancing.

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Otherwise, high schools will be allowed to offer as few as two days of in-class instruction in each six-day school cycle.

Read more: B.C. reports 41 new COVID-19 cases, fewest patients in hospital since mid-March


Last month the Saskatchewan provincial government announced in-classroom learning would resume in the fall.

Schools have been asked to increase sanitation measures and continue to promote proper hygiene practices.

The safety measures include increasing the availability of hand sanitizer and planning ways to minimize contact among students and staff as much as possible.

The province is also asking parents and guardians to monitor their children for signs of the virus.

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B.C. teachers still concerned about back to school – Jul 28, 2020

“If any symptoms are present, both students and school staff remain home,” a press release reads.

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Provincial officials say the guidelines may be “updated and adjusted” before the beginning of the school year depending on the impact of COVID-19 and feedback from educational partners.


Last week, Alberta’s provincial government announced students would be heading back to the classroom for in-school learning this fall under the province’s “Scenario 1” plan.

According to the Scenario 1 re-entry plan, schools will implement a number of public health measures including frequent cleaning of surfaces and adding hand sanitizers at entrances and in classrooms.

Students will also be grouped into smaller cohorts, and the school day will be planned to allow for physical distancing.

Read more: Saskatchewan NDP releases plan to address teachers’, parents’ back-to-school woes

This includes staggering class start-times, recess breaks and lunches.

What’s more, students, staff, parents and school visitors will be expected to use a self-screening questionnaire each day to determine whether they can enter the school.

Students and staff may choose to wear masks to school if they want, but it will not be mandatory.

According to the plan, additional measures may be implemented in September at the discretion of provincial health authorities.

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The province has also detailed what actions will be taken if a case of the virus is detected in a school.

Click to play video: 'B.C. government respond to BCTF’s lack of support for return to school plan' B.C. government respond to BCTF’s lack of support for return to school plan
B.C. government respond to BCTF’s lack of support for return to school plan – Jul 29, 2020

British Columbia

British Columbia’s Education Minister Rob Fleming announced on Wednesday that most students from kindergarten to Grade 12 will return to class full-time in September.

But Fleming said students will be divided into smaller “learning groups.”

Elementary and middle school ‘”learning groups” will see a maximum of 60 students, while secondary school groups are permitted to have up to 120.

The provincial government also announced it would spend $45.6 million to help implement additional safety measures including increasing the sanitation of high-contact surfaces, increasing the number of hand hygiene stations and making face masks available.

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Schools in Yukon have until September to detail individual plans in accordance with physical guidelines.

These guidelines outline specific public health measures including enforcing physical distancing in classrooms, and reducing class sizes.

Read more: Manitoba parents anxiously awaiting province’s back-to-school plan

Northwest Territories

Meanwhile, in the Northwest Territories, classrooms will be reconfigured to allow for physical distancing.

Recess and lunch breaks will also be staggered and all staff and students will undergo screening each day for the virus.


Schools in Nunavut are expected to open in September with a few additional public health measures. The territory has not yet seen a confirmed case of the virus.

The territory has developed four stages to help direct school operations depending on the impacts of the pandemic in each community.

According to the territory’s website, physical distancing will be determined based on what stage the community is in come September.

However, the plan says school assemblies will be avoided so classroom cohorts are not mixed.

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— With files from Global News’ Shane Gibson, Brittany Henriques and Caley Ramsey and Kerri Breen

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