COVID-19 safe schools
For the 2021/2022 school year, students and staff are in the classroom full time.
Last updated: April 16, 2022
On this page:
- Prevention measures
- COVID-19 protocols
- In and outside the classroom
- Added supports for students and staff
- Education programs
- I need help
Prevention measures are in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19. These include effective personal practices like health awareness, staying home when sick and regular hand cleaning. All students and staff should:
- Get vaccinated
- Practice health awareness
- Stay home when sick
Health awareness reduces the likelihood of a person coming to school when they are sick. This includes checking regularly for symptoms of illness to make sure you or your child don't come to school while sick.
Students, staff and other adults should follow public health guidance and the recommendations of their health care provider when they are sick.
The decision to wear a mask or face covering is a personal choice for everyone. This choice should be supported and treated with respect.
Communicable disease guidelines
Updated guidelines include input from the Ministry of Education and Child Care, the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), Indigenous rightsholders and education partners, including teachers, parents and school administrators.
- Provincial COVID-19 Communicable Disease Guidelines for K to 12 Settings (PDF, 355KB)
- Provincial COVID-19 Communicable Disease Guidelines for K to 12 Settings - French (PDF, 300KB)
- BCCDC COVID-19 Public Health Communicable Disease Guidance for K to 12 School Settings (PDF, 1.3MB)
- COVID-19 Protocols for School & District Administrators and Staff: Management of School-Associated Activity (PDF, 272KB)
- B.C.'s K to 12 Education Recovery Plan (PDF, 948KB)
School districts must ensure heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are designed, operated and maintained to Occupational Health and Safety and WorkSafeBC standards.
Expert guidance is being applied to improve indoor air quality and reduce the risk of virus transmission.
The province is investing $77.5 million to upgrade or replace school HVAC systems through 2021/2022. For more information on ventilation in schools, read the HVAC Survey Report (PDF, 90KB).
Cleaning and disinfecting schools
General cleaning of schools, including cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces, will be conducted at will be conducted at least once in every 24-hour period and when visibly dirty.
Students and staff who become sick at school
If a student or staff member develops symptoms at school:
- They will be separated from their classmates or colleagues
- Separated children will be supervised and cared for
- The student's parent or guardian will be contacted, and asked to have their child picked up as soon as possible
- Staff will be asked to go home as soon as possible
- Custodial staff will clean and disinfect the areas the person used
Schools will notify public health and their school community if they observe lower attendance than normal, based on thresholds set by public health. Public health will then investigate to determine if additional action should be taken.
- For more information, review COVID-19 Protocols for School & District Administrators and Staff: Management of School-Associated Activity (PDF, 272KB)
Local public health orders
Local public health orders may be put in place for entire regions or communities, including schools, or for specific settings or activities within a health authority region.
A local Medical Health Officer may issue a recommendation for an individual school, a group of schools, a school district or all schools within the health authority region, to implement specific additional health and safety measures during times of increased risk.
Rapid response teams
Six rapid response teams are in place to support K to 12 schools across the province. The teams work with school districts, independent schools and health authorities to respond to COVID-19 exposures in schools.
Rapid response teams have representatives from school and public health staff. The teams:
- Work with schools, school districts and health authority staff to support the development and implementation of communicable disease prevention plans
- Support schools with communications to students, staff and families regarding communicable disease prevention
- Provide guidance and support if a school experiences school-associated COVID-19 activity
- Support schools with implementing pandemic recovery plans, including a focus on mental health and well-being and addressing impacts on learning
Visitors must follow the school's communicable disease prevention plan, including staying home when sick. After-hours use of school facilities is determined by school districts, independent school authorities or schools.
Music, physical education, sports, clubs and extracurricular activities
All music and physical education programs, sports, clubs and extracurricular activities are allowed:
- Shared equipment will be cleaned and disinfected before and after use
- Ensure students clean their hands
- Before and after using shared equipment
- Before and after outdoor play
- Students will be asked not to share equipment that touches the mouth, like an instrument mouth piece or mouthguard, unless cleaned and disinfected in between uses
- Students will be encouraged to cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing
Assemblies, gatherings and events
There are no capacity limits on school assemblies, gatherings or events.
School meal programs
Food services (meal programs, cafeterias and fundraisers) are operating normally in the 2021/2022 school year.
School districts with existing meal programs are continuing to work with community partners to provide meal support to families in need, in line with current public health guidelines.
As a result of the pandemic, we know students, educators, staff and administrators are living with anxiety, stress and other mental health needs.
Government has provided a one-time $5 million investment to support mental health services for students and staff, in addition to existing funding. These funds will allow schools to expand existing programs and introduce new supports to address the mental health needs of students and staff.
In spring 2021, a mental health working group was established with representatives from the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (BCCPAC), primary care, government, Indigenous educators and rights holders, administrative and union groups and other stakeholders in education. The working group is outlining key principles and developing resources to ensure the mental health needs of students and staff are being met.
The ministry fully respects the jurisdiction of First Nations and their right to make their own decisions about First Nations schools. Visit the First Nations Schools Association website for the latest updates.
International students arriving in or returning to B.C. are required to follow federal COVID-19 travel guidance.
- Current federal travel guidance and requirements for entering Canada
- Federal checklists and exemptions for international students
There is no substitute for in-class instruction. It provides students with face-to-face teacher-led learning, peer engagement, supports social and emotional development and decreases feelings of isolation.
School also provides many students access to supports they can't get at home and is integral to their overall health.
Both public and independent online learning schools offer online classes. Students in kindergarten to Grade 7 must take a full course load at one school, while students in Grades 8 to 12 may learn from home entirely, or learn at school and take some courses online.
There are 48 school districts with 53 public schools offering online learning courses. Independent online learning schools also offer courses and programs.
Homeschooling is typically led by a family member who delivers an educational program to a child at home.
Note: Homeschoolers are not eligible to receive a British Columbia Dogwood Graduation Certificate.
If you have a child who is immunocompromised or has a serious medical condition, you may be able to access the homebound program. Contact your local school district for more information.