On Wednesday, March 9, the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health announced the lifting of a number of COVID-19 restrictions. As of March 21, certain COVID-19 protocols such as masking, cohorting and confirmation of daily COVID-19 screening will no longer be required.

On this page, we answer some of the most commonly asked questions about changes to COVID-19 safety measures in our schools.

Masking Requirements

Will the WRDSB be lifting the masking requirement for students and staff?

Yes. As of March 21, and at the direction of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and the Ministry of Education, masks will no longer be required for students, staff and visitors in WRDSB schools, school board offices and on student transportation. Eye protection for staff will also no longer be required.

May I continue to wear a mask/PPE?

Yes. You are welcome to continue wearing a mask and/or PPE. We know that many students and staff may choose to continue to wear masks. We respect and welcome each staff and student’s individual choice.

Will masks continue to be provided to staff and students who prefer to continue wearing them?

Yes. After March 21, the WRDSB will continue to provide free masks and eye protection provided by the Ontario Government to staff and students who choose to wear them. School boards can continue to order PPE for students and staff through the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services.

Are there any special circumstances where staff and students are still required to wear a mask?

Yes. Under current federal travel requirements, if you travel internationally, when you return to Canada you must wear a mask at all times when in public spaces (including schools and child care) for your first 14 days in Canada. You must also maintain a list of all close contacts, and monitor yourself for signs and symptoms of COVID-19.

In addition, as of March 21, if you have been a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case or a symptomatic individual in the community, you must wear a well-fitted mask in all public settings and avoid activities where they need to take off their mask (for example, playing a wind instrument in music class or playing high-contact sports) for 10 days from your last exposure.

If a student or staff becomes symptomatic at school, our protocols have the individual and those providing support wearing appropriate PPE.

COVID-19 Testing Requirements

Will the WRDSB still be required to report the usage of rapid tests to the Ministry of Health?

No. As of March 10, the Ministry of Health will no longer require school boards to report weekly rapid antigen test (RAT) usage. The Ministry of Health will continue to monitor uptake in the Provincial Antigen Screening Program using internal deployment data, which aligns with Health Canada’s recent shift in reporting requirements.

Will unvaccinated staff still be required to do rapid tests three times a week?

No. As of March 14, unvaccinated individuals covered under school board vaccination policies will no longer be required to undertake rapid antigen screening three times per week.

COVID-19 Symptom Screening & Illness Protocols

Will staff and students still be required to complete the school screener each morning?

Yes. staff and students should continue to self-screen every day before attending school using the COVID-19 school and child care screening tool and you should stay home if you are feeling sick.

As of March 21, students will no longer be required to complete the WRDSB Student Screening Confirmation Form, or use the Secondary Student Verification Portal to verify that they have completed the school screening each day.

What will happen if a staff member or student becomes ill while at school?

As we did before the pandemic and throughout, the WRDSB will continue to follow health and safety protocols when staff and students become ill at school.

The Government of Ontario will continue to provide schools with free rapid tests for symptomatic staff and students. You are not required to take a test.

As a reminder, staff and students can also obtain free rapid test kits via participating community locations. Please see https://covid-19.ontario.ca/rapid-test-locator to find a location near you.

Cohorting Requirements

Will students be allowed to interact with their friends outside of their cohort?

Yes. As of March 21, the Ontario Government will no longer require cohorting and distancing in schools. Assigned seats and cohorting will no longer be required on student transportation. Elementary students can play and learn together across cohorts, classes and grades, both indoors and outdoors and during lunch and recess. Shared spaces, such as libraries, tech labs, theatre and music rooms can be fully utilized without distancing. Programs across grades, such as reading buddies, can return.

Will the WRDSB be hosting in-person assemblies, graduation ceremonies and other events such as prom this year?

Yes. After March 21, limitations on in-person gatherings and assemblies will also be removed; therefore, schools can plan and host in-person events (e.g., proms, graduation ceremonies, year end celebrations and assemblies).

Vaccination Requirements

Will the WRDSB continue to gather information on the vaccination status of staff?

No. As of March 14, the Government of Ontario will no longer require COVID-19 vaccination disclosure policies in any sector, including schools. As of this date, school boards are no longer required to:

  • Collect proof of COVID-19 vaccinations, medical exemptions, or completion of an education program.
  • Conduct asymptomatic screening for individuals who do not provide proof of full vaccination.
  • Report vaccination coverage to the Ministry of Education.
  • Report test usage as part of the Provincial Antigen Screening Program to the Ministry of Health.
Will the WRDSB ask for proof of vaccination from community organizations that use school space after school hours?

No. As of March 1, all provincial proof of vaccination requirements were lifted for the Community Use of Schools, consistent with the direction for broader community and recreational settings.

Remote Learning Options

I don’t feel comfortable sending my child to school with these changes. Can we switch to remote learning?

Families who are not comfortable with their child(ren) returning immediately to In-Person Learning after March break are asked to connect with their school principal.

Ventilation Measures

Will schools still use HEPA filters where possible and other measures to improve ventilation?

Yes. The Ontario Government will continue to provide schools across Ontario with up to 49,000 additional standalone HEPA filter units. Currently, all 303 full-day Kindergarten classrooms and all 93 Alternative Continuum of Education (ACE) classrooms have been equipped with a portable HEPA filtration unit in addition to another 668 units deployed to other classrooms/school spaces based on requirements.

WRDSB heating ventilation and air conditioning units use MERV 11 of greater rated filters and many have been upgraded to MERV 13 rated filters. For schools or parts of schools without mechanical ventilation, standalone high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter units are being used.

COVID-19 Absence Reporting

Will the WRDSB continue to report its absenteeism rates to Public Health and the Government of Ontario?

Yes. The WRDSB will continue to report school absenteeism rates to Region of Waterloo Public Health should they reach a defined level (approximately 30% above their baseline).

The WRDSB will also continue reporting school absenteeism rates and closures each day to the Ontario Government. You can find the absenteeism rate for each school on the Ontario Government website. We are required to report this information until April 14, 2022; at that time, the government will decide whether or not to continue.

We will continue to report any school closures due to COVID-19 on our website.