What school will look like this fall as Canada struggles to bring COVID-19 under control

Students face a patchwork of back-to-school plans across the country

It’s the start of a third pandemic-disrupted school year, but what Canadian students will face during this fourth wave of COVID-19 (new window) will look strikingly different depending on where they live.
While some are disheartened at the easing of safety measures — It feels as if we’re kind of waltzing back to school, said public education advocate Annie Kidder of People for Education — others are more optimistic, given our vaccination rates and experiences drawn from last year.
We can’t just look at case numbers…. We also have to look at what our hospitalization rates are, ICU rates and death rates — and those numbers have thankfully remained much lower as a proportion to the total cases, said Dr. Jacqueline Wong, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton.
Here’s a quick comparison of back-to-school plans across the country.


Yukon schools aim to be at “near normal” operations  with some health and safety measures remaining, including mandatory masking on buses and in indoor school common areas (they can be taken off in class). Physical distancing is still encouraged. Field trips that follow public health guidelines are permitted, with outdoor education and on the land programming encouraged.

Schools in the Northwest Territories will similarly have mandatory masking on buses and indoor common areas in schools , but they will ease some measures, such as physical distancing in classrooms for Grade 7 and up (but It’s still recommended for K-6). Visitors will be limited in schools. Still on hold: indoor classes for drama, singing, music, band; assemblies, high-contact sports and tournaments. Remote learning is available for students with medical concerns.

The Nunavut plan includes daily symptom screening and detailed isolation plans in case of exposure. Masking is at the discretion of public health officials depending on COVID-19 in the community, but it is mandatory for essential visitors not fully vaccinated (no non-essential visitors are permitted). No school assemblies or concerts will be held, but enhanced cleaning, disinfection and physical-distancing requirements are in place for limited gatherings, such as sessions with elders. Schools must prepare for a shift to emergency remote instruction, if needed.

British Columbia and Alberta

British Columbia‘s measures include daily COVID-19 screening, mandatory masks indoors and on buses for all staff and students in Grade 4 and up (encouraged for Grade 3 and under) and some ventilation upgrades. Music classes resume, but with masks for singing. School meal programs, assemblies and extracurricular activities are back, but with no inter-school competitions or tournaments. Regional public health units may also introduce additional measures for individual schools or districts, depending on community transmission.