What options do students have for learning in 2021-2022?New

This information is written for elementary and high school students and their parents.

The law says that every child in Ontario must attend school from when they're 6 to 18 years old. The COVID-19 pandemic does not change this law.

During the 2021-2022 school year, students have 3 options:

  • in-person learning, which means learning at school
  • remote learning, which means learning at home that's organized by their school
  • homeschooling, which means learning at home that's organized by their parent

You must let the school know which option you want.

Below, you'll find more information about in-person learning and remote learning.

For information on homeschooling, see What are the laws about homeschooling my child?

Rules for in-person learning in elementary school

Elementary school goes from kindergarten to Grade 8.

In-person learning means going to the school building to attend classes 5 days a week.

A full day of school includes 5 hours of learning with a teacher.

In most school boards, the school will encourage kindergarten students to wear a mask. But they don't have to.

Some school boards will say that kindergarten students must wear a mask. The school has to follow the directions of the Medical Officer of Health in the area. And the Medical Officer may say that all students must wear masks, including kindergarten students.

Students in Grades 1 to 8 must wear a medical or cloth mask when they're inside the school building and on school buses.

When they're outside, the school will encourage them to wear a mask. But they don't have to.

Being in a cohort

The school should place all students into a cohort. A cohort is a small group of students that stays together for the whole school day. Usually, this will be students who are in the same regular class.

Each cohort should have only one teacher. But another teacher may join the cohort for special classes, such as French classes, art classes, and physical education.

A student may spend some time in a class with students from other cohorts. This could happen if they need special help.

When inside the school, students should interact with students from other cohorts only if they're:

  • wearing a mask, and
  • not getting too close to each other.

When they're outside, students can interact closely with students from other cohorts without wearing a mask.

Rules for in-person learning in secondary school

Secondary or high school includes Grades 9 to 12.

In-person learning means going to the school building to attend classes 5 days a week.

A full day of school includes 5 hours of learning with a teacher.

Students do not need a vaccination to attend school in person.

But they must wear a medical or cloth mask inside the school building and on school buses.

The school will encourage students to wear a mask outside. But they don't have to. The school will also encourage students to not get too close to each other when they're inside or outside.

Rules for remote learning

Remote learning means students attend classes online using a computer or tablet. A full day of remote learning is 5 hours of learning time.

In some special situations, remote learning can happen using the telephone or using printed materials at home. For example, a student who has a disability might find it difficult to use a computer screen.

The school board must give students all the learning materials they need. This includes laptops and tablets, and internet access.

To find out about getting a laptop, tablet, or internet access, contact your school board.

Learning time

Not all learning time is with a teacher. Of the 5 hours of learning time each day, the teacher must be live on the screen for a certain amount of time. For elementary students, this is at least:

  • 3 hours for kindergarten
  • 3 hours and 45 minutes for Grades 1 to 8

For high school students, the teacher must be live on the screen for:

  • 3 hours and 45 minutes for a full course schedule
  • 60 minutes for each 75-minute class when there's less than a full course schedule

For the rest of the 5 hours, the teacher can ask students to complete learning tasks on their own. But there has to be a way for students to contact the teacher for help.

The school must give students and parents a daily schedule or timetable.

If a student cannot stay live on the screen for the minimum time, contact the school about making other arrangements.

Special education

The law says that schools must provide appropriate programs and services for students who have “exceptionalities”.

Exceptionalities are conditions that may affect a student's ability to learn. They're sometimes called “special needs”.

Read more in My child has learning difficulties. Does the school have to help?

Justice for Children and Youth also has many resources about the special education system.

Schools must continue to provide special education accommodations for students who choose remote learning. Parents and students need to work with teachers and school administrators to figure out the best way to do this.

In Ontario's Human Rights Code, most exceptionalities or special needs are also disabilities. This means that if a school is not properly accommodating a student's needs, you can make a complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal.

The Human Rights Legal Support Centre can help you do this.

Switching between remote and in-person learning

The school board must allow students to switch between remote learning and in-person classes. But each school board can do this differently.

Some school boards may only allow students to switch at certain times during the school year.

For more information, contact your local school board.

Getting help

For help with education issues, contact Justice for Children and Youth (JFCY).

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