December 1, 2023

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COVID-19 safe schools – Province of British Columbia

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Last updated: August 25, 2022

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Prevention measures

Prevention measures are in place to reduce the spread of communicable diseases including COVID-19. These include effective personal practices like health awareness, staying home when sick and regular hand cleaning. All students and staff should:

Online and homeschooling programs remain available to students.

Health awareness

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. Health information is also available from Healthlink BC or by calling 8-1-1.


The decision to wear a mask or face covering is a personal choice for everyone. People can choose to continue to wear a mask throughout the day or during specific activities. This choice will be supported and treated with respect. 

Communicable disease guidelines

The Provincial Communicable Disease Guidelines for K-12 School Settings are developed by the Ministry of Education and Child Care, in collaboration with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), Indigenous rightsholders and education partners, including teachers, parents and school leaders.

These guidelines build on public health guidance, and are used by boards of education, independent school authorities and schools to support communicable disease prevention planning.


School districts will 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.

Cleaning and disinfecting schools

Regular cleaning and disinfection can help prevent the spread of communicable diseases. General cleaning of schools will occur regularly, with frequently touched surfaces cleaned more often (for example, once in a 24-hour period) and when visibly dirty.

Communicable disease protocols 

Students and staff who become sick at school

If a student or staff member develops symptoms at school:

  • Schools will have masks available for those who are sick and the people assisting them
  • Schools will have an area where people are separated from their classmates or colleagues and can wait comfortably
  • Younger children will be supervised when separated
  • 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
  • The person should stay home and follow public health advice on when to return to activities. Most people can return to school when their symptoms have improved and they feel well enough to participate in regular activities.   

Communicable disease activity at school

Communicable diseases, including COVID-19, will continue to circulate. As long as cases occur within our communities, K to12 students and staff members will continue to be affected. Schools will contact public health if they have concerns about communicable disease transmission within schools and require additional support.

Public health orders

Public health orders may be put in place for the province, entire regions or certain communities. This can include for schools, or specific settings or activities.

Public health orders are implemented at the discretion of the local Medical Health Officer or the Provincial Health Officer in response to the broader risk of communicable disease transmission in the community.

In and outside the classroom

School visitors

All visitors to school grounds, including community groups, must follow the school’s communicable disease prevention measures, 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.

Students should be encouraged to:

  • Clean their hands before and after using shared equipment
  • Not to share equipment that touches the mouth, like an instrument mouth piece or water bottle, unless cleaned and disinfected in between uses
  • Cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing

Assemblies, gatherings and events

School assemblies, gatherings and events can occur.

Added supports for students

Indigenous students

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

International students arriving in or returning to B.C. are required to follow federal COVID-19 travel guidance.

Mental health

As a result of the pandemic, we know students, educators, staff and administrators are living with anxiety, stress and other mental health needs. The K to 12 sector continues to use an inclusive and trauma-informed lens, with a focus on mental health and wellness.

The Province of BC provided an additional $5 million investment in 2021/22 to support mental health services for students and staff. These funds allowed 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 outlined key principles and developed resources to ensure the mental health needs of students and staff are being met.

Resources for students and staff

Education programs

In-class instruction

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.

Online learning

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.

Homebound education

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.

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