To hide or not to hide? Here’s how each province is preparing for the school year at the age of COVID-19


September will come with more than the usual amount of back-to-school stage fright as parents, teachers and students question how to safely return to class amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Each province plans to reopen schools in the fall – with varying requirements to keep children away from each other, and Ontario is the only province to require all students in Grades 4 to 12 to wear a mask. All provinces are asking students and teachers who feel bad to stay home rather than go to school, and require additional cleaning measures and strict hand washing procedures.

SickKids experts released a document last week saying smaller class sizes are essential for limiting children’s contact, and younger students should stay at least three feet apart and teens two. . They also recommended that the masks be used by high school students when physical distance is difficult.

Here’s how each province plans to bring students back to class:

British Columbia

British Columbia was the only province in Canada to open all schools at the end of the previous school year – albeit part-time, with voluntary attendance.

Now, the provincial health worker has announced a plan to get all students back to school full time, with classroom instruction. The distinguishing feature of BC’s back-to-school plan is the creation of “learning groups” – essentially social bubbles within schools that will set limits on the number of students able to socialize with each other. others outside their own classrooms.

For elementary students, learning groups have a maximum of 60 students, while the number is 120 for secondary students.

The BC teachers’ union has spoken out against the back-to-school plan, saying it is too early in the pandemic to safely return a full cohort of students to classrooms.

Masks will not be mandatory in BC classrooms, but will be recommended where social distancing is not possible. The province will make masks available in schools.


Alberta will be returning students to school for full-time classroom instruction in the fall.

The province’s back-to-school plan emphasizes cleaning surfaces and delivering messages to students and parents about physical distancing and hand sanitization.

The plan includes the possibility of staggering break periods so that fewer students socialize together at the same time.

The masks will not be required as part of the Alberta plan, but the Calgary Board of Education recommends them for the start of the school year.


Saskatchewan has announced a phased back-to-school approach, whereby the return of learning to the classroom depends on whether the province keeps the number of COVID-19 cases to a minimum. The plan includes the possibility of a return to home schooling if the province sees a resurgence of COVID-19.

Saskatchewan has yet to announce which phase of its back-to-school strategy will be in effect in September, but intends to do so next week.

Masks will be optional.


All students will return to classroom instruction in the fall in Manitoba – but high school students can still learn with a mix of online and classroom instruction.

High schools will decide on individual plans to bring students back to school, with the requirement that students interact in “cohorts” of up to 75.

One likely outcome is that high school students will learn in class only two days a week.

Students in grade 8 and under will return to school full time.

Masks will not be necessary.


Most Ontario students will return to traditional full-time classrooms in September.

Elementary students and many high school students will be in school five days a week in standard size classrooms, while high school students in two dozen higher risk school boards will attend class only half the time. in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.

These high school students will have a maximum class size of 15 students and will benefit from “independent curriculum-related work” when they are not in school. Some of them will have to be live videoconferences or some other so-called “synchronous” learning.

Students in grades 4 to 12 will be required to wear masks in class, while younger students are encouraged to do so.


Quebec released its back-to-school plan in June. It was one of only two provinces to send students back to school before the end of the 2019-2020 school year, but reneged on plans to send Montreal students back to class as the city grappled with it. to one of the worst coronavirus epidemics in the country.

The plan includes strict physical distancing rules. Students up to grade 9 will need to keep two meters apart, except for small “subgroups” of six students each.

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For older students, schools may decide to set up similar “subgroups” or to stagger school attendance every other day, with half of the teaching being done online.

The Quebec Ministry of Education has confirmed that it has not changed the back-to-school plan announced in June, as neighboring jurisdictions like Ontario released their strategies.

Quebec will not force students and staff to wear masks.

New Brunswick

New Brunswick announced a back-to-school plan with significant physical distancing measures in June.

Students in grade 5 and younger will only interact in groups of 15, with classes likely larger than that. Middle school students will only be asked to interact with other members of their class, and high school students will return on a phased basis, taking about half of their teaching online.

The province quickly reversed its decision to make masks mandatory in public buildings last month, and they will not be needed.

New Scotland

Nova Scotia plans to bring students back to school in the fall with reorganized classrooms for physical distancing and students limited to socializing in their classroom bubbles.

The province will require high school students to wear masks in circumstances where physical distance is not possible, but students will not have to wear masks in classrooms where desks are spaced apart.

School gatherings and assemblies will be canceled and students will have to have lunch at their desks.

The province will require masks for high school students in common areas and for all students on school buses.

Prince Edward Island

Students will return to school in Prince Edward Island full-time in September, with classrooms redesigned for physical distancing, staggered break times, and the promotion of social contact only within schools. “Cohorts”.

The province is also planning to cut bus routes, asking parents to transport their children to school if they can.

Students and staff may be asked to wear masks in common areas.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador will send students back to full-time class in September – unless an increase in coronavirus cases changes the course for the province.

The province released three scenarios in early July: a full return with additional physical distancing, a partial return or cancellation of classes. The province has yet to officially announce which scenario it will use in the fall.

Newfoundland and Labrador does not recommend masks for children, but says students and staff can choose to wear one.

With files from The Canadian Press



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