Overview

Students across Alberta returned to class for the 2020/21 school year under Scenario 1: In-class learning with enhanced health and safety measures.

School health measures

Mask use is required for Grade 4 to 12 students and all staff when physical distancing cannot be maintained. Some school jurisdictions may have additional mask use policies.

The school re-entry plan (2020-21 school year) allows schools and parents to prepare for learning while putting student and staff safety first.

The plan offers guidance on a wide range of operational issues including:

  • masks
  • hygiene and health requirements
  • student learning
  • transportation
  • diploma exams
  • mental health and psychological supports for students and staff

Schools must consider the following health measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

  • Masks
    • Grade 4 to 12 students and all staff must wear masks where physical distancing cannot be maintained, including on school buses and shared areas such as hallways. Some school jurisdictions may have additional mask use practices that go beyond the government's requirements.
    • Masks are not required while students are seated in the classroom during instruction if following the physical distancing guidance for schools.
    • Masks are required in the classroom when close contact between students, or students and staff, is occurring. Masks should be used for the duration of this activity.
    • Exemptions will be made for students and staff who are unable to wear a mask due to medical or other needs.
    • Mask use for kindergarten to grade 3 students is optional.
    • All students and staff will get 2 reusable masks. Government will distribute more than 1.6 million masks to 740,000 students and 90,000 staff.
    • School staff will get one reusable face shield to use in schools at their discretion. A mask must still be worn while wearing a face shield.
    • COVID-19 orders: Chief Medical Officer of Health Order 33-2020 – Masks requirements in Schools
  • Cleaning
    • Enhance cleaning and disinfecting practices.
    • Clean all areas of the school daily.
    • Clean washrooms and high-touch surfaces multiple times a day.
    • Regularly schedule deep cleaning when students are not present.
  • Hygiene and illness
    • Routinely screen all staff and students
    • Create a strict stay-at-home policy for any students or staff with symptoms of COVID-19
    • Set hand hygiene expectations when entering and exiting the school and classrooms, before and after eating
    • Regularly remind students and staff of respiratory etiquette:
      • cover coughs and sneezes
      • avoid touching your face
      • dispose of used tissues promptly
      • practice hand hygiene
  • Physical distancing and grouping
    • Practice physical distancing when possible.
    • Emphasize other hygiene practices in classrooms, buses and during activities when physical distancing may not be possible.
    • Reorganize rooms to allow for more physical space.
    • Create cohorts of students by class where possible.
    • Guide foot traffic flow through entrances and hallways by using markers on the floor or pylons/barriers.
    • Avoid large gatherings like assemblies.
  • Shared items
    • Create a “no sharing policy” - all students should have their own supplies.
    • Clean equipment between uses if students or staff share anything.
  • School buses
    • Mandatory masks for grade 4 to 12 students, and drivers.
    • Increase cleaning and disinfection of high touch surfaces.
    • Maintain a protective zone for the driver.
    • Assign students to seats that are grouped with other household members.
    • Use loading and unloading procedures that support physical distancing of 2 metres between students when possible.
  • Additional supports
    • 466,000 litres of hand sanitizer that is safe for children will be distributed to all school authorities based on student population.
    • 2 contactless thermometers will be given to each school.
    • Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services are working to expand testing capacity and reduce turnaround times for testing school staff, teachers and students.

Screening measures

Self-screening questionnaire

Parents, students and school staff must review the self-screening questionnaire each day before going to a school building. Visitors must also use this questionnaire to determine if they may enter a school.

  • Self-screening questionnaire (PDF)

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Teachers and school staff

Teachers and educational staff are encouraged to get tested for COVID-19, even if they do not have symptoms. Learn how to get tested.

People with medical conditions

For students with pre-existing or underlying medical conditions or risk factors, parents should:

  • consult your child’s physician to consider the health risks and make a decision about returning to school that will best support the child
  • contact your child’s school to discuss available options and support

Staff should also consult a physician and discuss options with their school board.

In addition to consulting with a physician, Albertans can assess the risk of experiencing severe health outcomes from COVID-19.

If a student shows symptoms at school

  • The student will be asked to wear a non-medical mask and be isolated in a separate room or kept at least 2 metres away from others.
  • Parents will be contacted to pick up the child immediately (ensure your school has up-to-date contact information).
  • Resource guide for COVID-19 outbreaks in schools.

A student showing COVID-19 symptoms who has allergies or other pre-existing medical conditions that cause similar symptoms should get at least one negative COVID-19 test result before returning to school.

These symptoms would be their baseline health status. The student can attend school as long as they stay the same. Talk to your school about your child’s pre-existing medical conditions so the school may keep a confidential record of these conditions.

If there is a case of COVID-19 at school

All parents will be notified when:

  • one confirmed COVID-19 case is identified as having been infectious while at school
  • an outbreak is declared

The COVID-19 school status map shows the current status of COVID-19 in K-12 schools across Alberta. Schools with 2 or more confirmed cases (within a 14 day period and where disease could have been acquired or transmitted in the school) will be identified on the map.

If a school has a confirmed positive case:

  • the zone medical officer of health will work with school authorities to quickly:
    • identify when symptoms developed
    • identify and contact people who had close contact with the person who tested positive, offer testing, and set the isolation measures:
      • people are legally required to isolate for 14 days if they live with or are a close contact of a person who tested positive for COVID-19
      • only people in direct contact with a confirmed case need to isolate
  • each school authority will:
    • notify staff and parents if a case is confirmed at school
    • support students and staff to learn or work at home if they are required to self-isolate

If a school has 2 or more cases:

  • the school would be considered to have an outbreak
  • medical officers will assess the spread and exposure risk to determine if it affects multiple grades and areas, or is confined within close contacts of a confirmed case, and provide specific recommendations – an outbreak will not automatically lead to school closure
  • Resource guide for COVID-19 outbreaks in schools

Tool kit and resources

Parents, students and schools can use the following resources to support safe in-class learning.

Parent guide

The 2020-21 Parent Guide contains steps parents and students should follow to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in schools.

Posters

Schools can use the following posters to promote important safety practices.

Videos - Returning to school safely

Learning at home

There may be situations in which students learn from home. Alberta offers several education options to support this.

Assessment and student supports

Diploma exams

  • Diploma exams will be offered in every subject in the November, January, April, June and August exam sessions.

Provincial achievement tests (PATs)

  • Schools can offer PATs in the following subjects:
    • Language Arts
    • Mathematics
    • French Language Arts/Français
  • PATs for grades 6 and 9 can be held if in-school classes are available. School authorities can choose to participate.

Student supports

  • School authorities can, as deemed appropriate at the local level, reduce time spent teaching non-core subjects to allow for additional instruction time on core subjects.
  • Schools should have mental health supports in place for students and staff.

How we got here

School authorities planned for 3 scenarios to begin the 2020/21 school year. Alberta schools will welcome students in the fall under scenario 1.

Health officials will work with school authorities to make the decision to transition to partial in-class learning or at-home learning based on multiple factors including the number of COVID-19 cases in a community or a school and the risk of ongoing transmission.

Government of Canada safe return to class fund

On August 26, 2020, the federal government announced that it would provide funding to the provinces for COVID-related school re-entry measures.

Alberta’s total share will be approximately $262 million, made in 2 equal installments.

School authorities will be eligible to access this additional funding for COVID-19-related expenses, including:

  • staffing
  • adapting learning spaces and personal protective equipment
  • cleaning and safety considerations for schools and buses
  • supports for special needs students, and online learning and teacher training

$250 million will be distributed on a per-student basis, with the additional $12 million dedicated to support school authorities who are seeing a large influx in enrolment due to increased demand for their online learning programs.