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Administrators and Districts

Sector leaders can find K-12 guidance and tools to support safe in-person learning in schools and resources for working with parents and communities.
Students and staff can attend school safely during the COVID-19 pandemic when we work together to follow public health guidelines. 

  1. Schools follow safety plans to prevent COVID-19 in schools.

  2. Parents and students understand and follow the guidelines for attending school. 

  3. Public health conducts contact tracing for every case of COVID-19 and assesses if additional measures are needed.
Together, these measures help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools. We all have a role to play in making our schools safer.  

Guidance for Prevention
Attending school in person is important for a student’s education and well-being. Every school in B.C. has an approved COVID-19 health and safety plan. This plan details what a school must do to operate safely. Since no public health measure is perfect, the plan has multiple layers of protection to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Public health guidance informs the Provincial COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines for K-12 School Settings, developed by the Ministry of Education with Indigenous rightsholders, K-12 education and health partners. Schools and school districts must follow these guidelines. 

The resources below provide school administrators with the information they need to implement safety measures. 

Updated Masking Guidance for K-12 Schools 

Masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. They act as a barrier and help stop the spread of droplets from a person’s mouth and nose when talking, laughing, yelling, singing, coughing, or sneezing. Wearing a mask should be combined with other important protective measures such as frequent hand washing and physical distancing. 

A mask is not enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on its own. They should not be used in place of physical distancing or any other measures noted in this guidance. Masks can be safely worn by school-aged children.

Elementary students’ mask use should be based on their personal or family/caregiver’s choice.

K-12 staff and middle/secondary students should wear a mask indoors at school except when:
  • Sitting or standing at their seat or workstation in a classroom or learning space; or
  • There is a barrier in place; or
  • Eating or drinking.
K-12 staff and middle/secondary students should wear a mask on buses. 

When do you need to wear a mask?
Refer to your employer’s COVID-19 Safety Plan for when masks are required. Further guidance for staff use of masks in office settings (both within school buildings, as well as in other office settings) is available from WorkSafe BC.

Things to know
  • Even if you are wearing a mask it is important to practice physical distancing.
  • Learn more about masks on the BCCDC website.
  • Further guidance is available from WorkSafeBC.
  • Learn how to properly wear a mask

 Content Editor ‭[3]‬

Why has mask guidance changed?
Mask recommendations have been updated to reflect what we have learned here in BC, as well as evidence from Canada and internationally. We now know that masks provide some protection to both the wearer and those around them, and they can be safely worn by children. The use of masks in schools now better reflects their use in other community and workplace settings across the province.

Frequently Asked Questions

Students can sit at the same table together. 

It is best if they are not seated directly face-to-face and are spaced out as much as possible. This is especially important for older students in middle and secondary schools. 

Minimizing close, prolonged, face-to-face interactions is a recommended measure to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in schools. 

Schools can use the COVID-19 Health & Safety Checklist to assess their school safety plan. This outlines key health and safety measures that should be in place to help keep schools low-risk settings. 

Resources for School Community
School administrators and School District staff play an important role in keeping schools safe. By helping staff, students and their families understand the safety measures and encouraging compliance, school administrators can reduce the risk of COVID-19 in schools.

School Health and Safety Measures

Frequently Asked Questions

The risk of exposure within a school reflects the risk of exposure within the community. However, even in communities with higher levels of community transmission, the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in schools is low when health and safety measures are in place and adhered to. 

School medical officers have monitored cases of COVID-19 in schools since school started in September. They have seen that B.C. schools carry a low risk of transmission of COVID-19 due to the comprehensive health and safety plans in place. 

Most cases of COVID-19 in B.C. are the result of exposures outside of schools.  

Public health guidance is based on a number of factors, like:

  • What measures are effective at lowering risk of transmission, 
  • What measures are suitable for the setting (considering what types of activities and interactions typically take place), and
  • Who is in the setting.
The health and safety measures for schools were determined recognizing that schools are controlled settings. Controlled settings are those that can implement multiple health and safety measures routinely and consistently. Schools are controlled settings because:

  • There is a consistent group of people who attend,
  • There are robust illness policies for sick students and staff,
  • Changes can be made to the activities in the setting through policy and practices that reduce risk factors, and
  • Personal preventive practices (like hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette) are followed by most people most of the time.

As of February 2021, masks should be worn by K-12 staff and middle/secondary students indoors at school, except when:
  • Sitting or standing at their seat or workstation in a classroom or learning space; or
  • There is a barrier in place; or
  • Eating or drinking. 

They should also wear a mask on buses.

Elementary students’ mask use is based on their personal or family/caregiver’s choice. 

This change was made because masks were a common element in a growing body of evidence outlining health and safety measures that lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools, as well as increased confidence that masks can be worn safely by children. Local experience also suggested that they may be useful to reduce risk of transmission between adult staff members. 

COVID-19 Cases in Schools
When COVID-19 is in a community, there is a risk that COVID-19 can be in the schools within the community. Sometimes people have COVID-19 and don’t know it. Nobody means to bring COVID-19 into a school.  

Public health follows up on every person who tests positive for COVID-19 at school. This process is called contact tracing. 

Contact Tracing in Schools

Open Contact Tracing in Schools (PDF)

What happens when someone who attends or works at school tests positive for COVID-19

If a staff member or student tests positive for COVID-19:

  1. Public health officials ask when their symptoms started and where they’ve been. This helps public health know if they were able to spread COVID-19 at school.

    • If they were able to spread COVID-19 at school,  this is called an exposure. Public health notifies the school district and begins contact tracing.  

    • If they were not able to spread COVID-19 at school, public health still makes sure anyone who may be a close contact outside of school is notified.

  2. Contact tracing helps determine close contacts of the person who tested positive. These are usually staff or students who spent a lot of time around the person who tested positive. 

    • Public health tells staff or students they are close contacts through a phone call or letter. They will need to self-isolate. The name of the person who tested positive is not shared.

  3. Staff and students who are not close contacts don’t have an increased chance of catching COVID-19. They are not contacted by public health. 

    • After contacting tracing, they are told about exposures through exposure notifications. These are letters sent from the school or posted on the regional health authority’s website. 

Some health authorities send additional notifications

Public health follows up on every person who tests positive for COVID-19 at school.  Some school districts tell the school community when contact tracing is starting. These are early exposure letters. 

Public health may sometimes send letters to additional contacts at lower risk of exposure asking them to monitor for symptoms.

Clusters and outbreaks are different

Health and safety plans help prevent COVID-19 from spreading at school. Most people who have COVID-19 don’t spread it to another person at school. But, sometimes COVID-19 does spread.

A cluster is when there are several cases in a school within a two-week period. Public health thinks people may have been infected at school. 


An outbreak is the same as a cluster, except that significant actions are needed to stop COVID-19 from spreading in the school. Public health may close the school for a period of time or take other extraordinary measures.

COVID-19 Safety and B.C. Schools

What we know so far (as of February 2021):

  1. Fewer school-aged children (5 to 18 years olds) have tested positive for COVID-19 compared to adults. Younger children make up a small proportion of cases than older children.

  2. Serious COVID-19 outcomes are less common in school-aged children.

  3. COIVD-19 virus has a relatively low case rate among school-aged children.

Open the infographic on COVID-19 and children and schools

COVID-19 is still a new virus, new evidence and research is constantly being reported. In BC, we rely on a number of sources of high quality evidence to support public health decisions. For schools this includes:

  1. The knowledge and expertise of school medical health officers
  2. BC public health data and reports
  3. National and international research (For example: NCCMT Evidence Review, ECDC Technical Report)

Frequently Asked Questions

Contact tracing continues to be an integral part of B.C.’s approach to managing the COVID-19 pandemic. It is working to help identify people who may have COVID-19 and support them to self-isolate to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in the community.

In B.C., contact tracing is completed as quickly as possible once public health is notified of a person testing positive for COVID-19.  

Public health ensures every close contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19 is notified. For close contacts at school, this will either be a phone call or letter. 

If a staff or student tests positive for COVID-19 and public health determines they may have been infectious when they attended school, a representative from public health will contact the school district. This may be the school medical officer, a public health nurse or another representative from the regional health authority.

Depending on the specific circumstances, public health will provide detailed direction on what actions the school should take, including what communications should be issued. 

Additional information on the role of school administrators in contact tracing is detailed in the Ministry of Education’s COVID-19 Protocols for School and District Administrators: Management of Illness and Confirmed Cases.
School administrators should follow the processes outlined in the Ministry of Education’s COVID-19 Protocols for School and District Administrators: Management of Illness and Confirmed Cases. This includes what communications can be issued, prior to being contacted by public health. 

Public health will contact the school district or school if they determine that the person who tested positive was potentially infectious at school. This is typically a few days after the person received their test result, as public health needs to gather information to inform their investigation. Learn more about the contact tracing process

If they determine the person who tested positive was not potentially infectious at school, they will not contact the school district or school.

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