My child is home because they’re sick. When can they go back to school?

Your child may have been sent home from school because they started showing symptoms of COVID-19 or you may have kept your child home because you noticed symptoms. The amount of time you must wait until your child can go back to school depends on:

  • your child's symptoms
  • the results of your child's COVID-19 test, if they get one
  • what your child's principal decides

The Ontario government has a new Screening Tool to help you decide if you should keep your child home from school. The tool also suggests the steps you should take if your child has certain symptoms.

Principal’s powers and responsibilities

A school principal always has the power to stop a person from coming into the school if they think the person would put other students' health at risk. This means your child's principal can stop your child from coming to school if they think your child might have COVID-19. Principals must do what they can to make sure other students don't get infected with COVID-19 or any other infectious disease.

Your child can only go back to school when the principal agrees that your child is not a health risk to other students.

Take care of your child’s health

You should contact your doctor or health care provider. They may advise you to get your child tested for COVID-19. You can also call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000.

While you're waiting for your child's symptoms to end or for the results of a COVID-19 test, your school should work with you to make sure your child can keep up with their school work. You can ask the school to allow your child to switch to remote learning, but it may take some time to do that.

Returning to school

If your child tests positive for COVID-19 they cannot return to in-person school until the public health officials give them permission. If your child's feeling well enough to join online classes, you can ask for your child to attend school remotely.

If your child tests negative for COVID-19, they may still not be allowed to return to school right away. It's up to the principal to decide when they can return. The Ministry of Education recommends that school principals should only allow the student to return to school when the student hasn't had any symptoms for at least 24 hours. For example, if your child is at home because of a sore throat or runny nose, they should only return to school when they're fully healthy and had no symptoms for at least 24 hours.

If your child does not get tested for COVID-19, it's up to the principal to decide when your child can return to school. The principal may want proof that your child is not a health risk. The law is still not clear about whether a principal can demand a negative COVID-19 test before your child is allowed back to school.

Each school board in Ontario has its own policies about how to deal with COVID-19. Contact your local school board for any specific questions about its COVID-19 policies.

Medical Officers of Health

But principals must also follow the orders of the Medical Officer of Health in their area. Each public health unit in Ontario has its own Medical Officer of Health. The Medical Officer of Health can make orders about how to deal with very infectious diseases like COVID-19. These orders are called Section 22 orders. The orders are like temporary laws.

Some Section 22 orders apply to everyone in the municipality. For example, the order may say where you must wear masks. School principals must follow these orders.

Contact your local public health unit for any specific questions about COVID-19 Section 22 orders that affect schools.

Student Privacy

Medical information and student information are normally private. But the law is different when it comes to COVID-19. School principals must tell the Medical Officer of Health in their area about any students who they believe have COVID-19. Schools must also share information with public health units to help them identify other students who may have been exposed to COVID-19. Information might include things like attendance records, class lists, seating charts, school bus lists, and contact information for parents.

The principal should tell staff, students, and parents if there's a confirmed case of COVID-19 at the school. But the principal should not give you the name of the person who tested positive. If you believe your privacy's been violated, you can complain to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario.

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