Back to School

The best place for children to learn is in a safe and supportive environment surrounded by their teachers and friends.

Nova Scotia’s Back to School Plan is designed to support student learning during COVID-19. The plan is focused on providing in-school learning, full-time, for all students.

The plan is also designed in a way, that should provincial public health direction change, our education system can adapt quickly to continue providing quality education and learning support to students.


The plan makes it possible for children and students from pre-primary to grade 12, to return to school in September.

Although school routines will look differently, students will continue to receive the same quality education, services and supports as before COVID-19.
The plan also has contingencies in place to support learning should a second wave occur, COVID activity in a specific part of the province happens, or if there is an outbreak in a specific school.

A contingency plan is only activated at the direction of public health.


back to the topPlan for September

Here is a high-level overview of the plan for September and response plans.

In-class Instruction - All Students Return to Class:

  • In-class instruction will resume in September.
  • Regional Centres for Education and the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial will have plans for their schools.
  • There will be enhanced cleaning measures in schools and greater emphasis on handwashing/sanitizing and physical distancing.
  • Mask use will be required for some grade levels and staff, for some situations.
  • School bus riders and drivers will are required to wear masks while on the bus.
  • Signs in schools will support physical distancing and health and safety practices.
  • Other services students accessed in school (cafeteria, meal programs) will be delivered to students.
  • No use of lockers.

back to the topCovid-19 Response Plans

Response Plan: Blended Learning Model - Some Students in Class, Some at Home:

  • Pre-primary to grade 8 students will receive in-class instruction in smaller class sizes.
  • Grades 9 to 12 will be supported to learn from home.
  • Students in all grades who need SchoolsPlus services will continue to receive them at school.
  • Regional Centres for Education and the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial will have plans for those children, students, and staff, who need to be at school.
  • School bus riders and drivers are required to wear masks while on the bus.
  • Signs in schools will support physical distancing and health and safety practices.
  • Other services students accessed in school (cafeteria, meal programs) will be delivered to students.
  • Response plan can be applied province-wide, to a specific region, or to a specific school, at the direction of public health.

Response Plan: At-home Learning - All Students Learn at Home:

  • Schools will close.
  • All students will be supported to learn from home.
  • Students at home would continue to have access to services such as SchoolsPlus.
  • A move to at-home Learning would be applied province-wide, at the direction of public health.


back to the topKey Features of the Plan for September

  • Schools are being organized to create as much space as possible in classrooms to physically distance students and minimize contact.
  • Signs will be posted to support physical distancing, promote regular handwashing/sanitizing and other public health safety measures.
  • Masks will be required for all school bus riders, including drivers.
  • There will be enhanced and more frequent cleaning of schools and school buses.
  • Students in grades 4 to 12, and all staff, will be required to wear a mask when they are unable to physically distance by 2 metres. This includes in the classroom and in common areas like hallways. and all staff, will need to wear a mask when in common areas like hallways.
  • Large gatherings, assemblies, sporting events and school social events will not be allowed.
  • Students of any age and grade level who need additional support, and those students without access to Internet or technology at home, will be supported to continue their learning in every situation
  • Supports for students, like SchoolsPlus, will be available regardless of the public health direction. Access may look different, but they will be available.
  • The plan provides Regional Centres for Education and the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial with flexibility to modify their local back to school plans to meet the specific needs of their students and staff.
  • Access to technology is a focus under the plan. More than 13,000 devices have been purchased for students who do not have access.
  • Pre-primary will continue to ensure four-year-olds across the province have an opportunity to access an early learning program the year before they start school.

back to the topDevelopment of the Plan

The plan to support the return of students and staff to class was created with the input of thousands of voices:

  • Direction from provincial public health officials.
  • Advice from physicians at the IWK Health Centre.
  • Feedback from the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, support staff unions and teachers.
  • Survey results from more than 28,000 parents, guardians, and teachers.
  • Recommendations from School Advisory Council members and education partners.
The plan considers the health and safety needs of children, students, and staff, based on lessons learned from at-home learning in the spring and the most up-to-date medical and public health advice.

To learn more: What We Heard: A summary of results from parent and student learning at home surveys

back to the topCOVID-19 Infection in a School

In the event a student or teacher contracts COVID-19, public health will be notified immediately.

Public Health will provide direction to the department, regional centre for education or Conseil scolaire acadien provincial, or school. The Back to School Plan is prepared to address and support students to continue their learning in any of these and other situations.

back to the topResources for Families:

Best practices for hand washing - poster

Proper hand washing (English)
Fa?on appropriée de se laver les main (French)


Cough and sneeze etiquette - poster

Cough and sneeze etiquette (English)
Tousser et éternuer de la bonne fa?on (French)


How to wear a Mask (poster)How to Wear a Mask - poster

How to Wear a Mask (English)
Consignes pour l'utilisation d'un Masque (French)


Be a hand washing hero - colouring

Be a hand washing hero (English)
Sois un héros du lavage des mains (French)


Hand-washing heroes - video

Hand-washing heroes (English)
Super laveurs de mains (French)


Reduce the spread of COVID-19: Hygiene for kids - video

Reduce the spread of COVID-19: Hygiene for kids (English)
Limitez la propagation de la COVID-19 : Hygiène pour les enfants (French)

Health & Safety

First is the obvious one, good hand hygiene. Students and staff will be required to clean their hands as they enter the school and before and after eating and throughout the day. There will be enhanced cleaning procedures and high-touch surfaces will be cleaned throughout the day. In the younger grades, we are asking classes to stay together. There will be staggered recess, and lots of outdoor play and exercise. Non-essential furniture will be removed or moved aside in classrooms to ensure desks are spaced out. Students and staff are asked to self-monitor and stay home if they feel ill. There will be a “no-sharing policy” in place, meaning students will not be able to share school supplies. If tech equipment is used, it will need to be cleaned between uses. There will be few visitors in the school, and only for essential purposes. Parents will need to drop off their children outside the school.

Our plan considers how students will move throughout the school to reduce congestion and that is why we are taking a layered approach to public health measures that will help reduce the spread of COVID-19. A school-by-school ventilation assessment will take place before September 8. Operations staff are making sure that all windows are able to open and that their ventilation systems are in good working order. We will also be encouraging learning in outdoor spaces when possible.

Students may remove their masks during indoor physical activity when a mask cannot be worn, when they are eating and drinking. Masks are not required during outside activities.

Students who are in grades 4 to 12 will need to wear masks in class if they cannot socially distance, even if they are in a bubble or cohort.

All students and staff will be provided with two reusable masks.

We take our direction from public health officials when it comes to mask use. The new direction is that students from grades 4 to 12 must wear masks if they cannot physically distance. Also, students who travel by bus, regardless of grade, will be required to wear a mask while on the bus. These students will be supported to remove their mask in a location where hands can be cleaned, and masks can be stored safely until needed.

In the event of a COVID case in one of our schools, we will always follow the direction of public health. COVID-19 may be new, but public health has established protocols to respond to communicable diseases in our schools and communities. If a case of COVID-19 is identified, public health will act quickly to identify and test anyone who may have come in close contact with that person. Public health will then advise what actions may need to be taken.

If people feel ill, they will need to go home. For younger children, there will be a space at school to isolate until they can be taken home. Staff can remain with younger children if they wear appropriate PPE. The school will document who came into contact with the individual and bubble those individuals to limit potential spread.
No, students and staff and families will be asked to stay home if they are not feeling well. There will be a screening tool for families and children, much like we have for child care. Schools are not required to physically screen children.
There may be a small number of students with sensory or health issues who may not be able to tolerate wearing a mask. Parents of these students are asked to consult with the school to develop a plan for their children.

Parents / Students

There will continue to be school events, they might however look different. Parent-teacher meetings may be by phone or video conference, school assemblies will be on the intercom or through video. As changes are made in public health restrictions we will continue to look at what is feasible for schools.
Currently, playground equipment can be used by children. Public Health will advise us if we need to restrict playground access. Students will be required to clean hands before entering the school.
The Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation is planning sports consistent with Sport Nova Scotia guidelines approved by Public Heath. The NSSAF plan for school sports will be provided to schools and families when it is complete.
We will offer all subject areas, including music and phys ed. They may just look different. We are working with Public Health on a plan that will allow students to safely engage in these subjects.
We recognize that there were challenges with at-home learning in the Spring. We heard from parents that we needed to do better, and we are. We received over 28,000 surveys from parents, guardians and students regarding the at-home learning experience and needs and suggestions for improvement. Using this feedback, and the feedback from teachers, this year there will be enhanced expectations for teachers related to online education. Those expectations are being developed and will be shared in the next few weeks. We are also planning an extensive roll-out of tech equipment for students who do not have a device or have limited access to a device. Over 14,000 new and refurbished devices have been ordered for this Fall. For those without internet, they will be able to access schools if we move to a blended learning model. If students are learning at home, we will utilize the USB delivery system trialled during at-home learning in the spring.
If a student is required to isolate or develops a health condition, supports will be provided to learn from home.
In our consultation with IWK, we know that a very small number of children will not be able to attend school. There are existing processes in place to deal with these rare situations. Students unable to attend school will receive learning materials at home. Those discussions will take place between families and their school.
Instruction and assessment go hand in hand. Teachers will provide feedback to students on their learning and that helps to inform next steps in instruction. It is important for students and parents to understand where a child is at in their learning. Report cards will be issued for all subjects as in previous school years. Parents are encouraged to sign up for the Parent portal in PowerSchool as it is easier for parents to see posted information and receive e-report cards.
We are planning to open schools with students returning. Any change at the school, regional or provincial level will be at the direction from Public Health. Remember, our approach is dependent on the state of COVID-19 in our communities. We are taking a flexible and precise approach. If there are no or few active cases, children will be in classes. If there are cases in a particular community, we may close certain schools at the request of Public Health while keeping most schools open around the province. Our plan is flexible and responsive.
We are taking our direction from Public Health, and advice from pediatricians and psychologists at the IWK. The best place for children is in the classroom, for their emotional, mental, social, and physical development. Younger children are moving as part of one classroom in the school, as part of a cohort or bubble. Older children and staff are required to wear masks in hallways and common areas. Classrooms are being set up so space between desks is maximized.
This September, teachers will work with students to understand what they know and what they don’t know. This type of review happens every September. Teachers who need more support to do this work have access to online professional learning and resources. This year, there will be more emphasis on review. It is built into our Back to School Plan.


We are moving ahead with our commitment to Pre-Primary. We worked extensively with Public Health and IWK on the re-opening of licenced child care. Similar principles and best practices including extensive hand washing and cleaning of high-touch surfaces will apply to pre-primary children.


Providing safe learning environments is a shared responsibility. If we move to blended learning, we will continue to provide a rich education experience, but it may look different. We have existing capacity in the school system. A number of teachers are assigned to other duties in the school system, either working on curriculum at the regional level, or working on projects in the department. Regions and the CSAP have worked on the required space and staffing assignments to ensure that blended learning can be effectively implemented. School principals will communicate the specific plans for their school with the school community in the fall.

There are rules governing workplace health and safety. Public Health is telling us that staff and students can return to school. We have put in place measures to reduce risk. We have worked closely with all of our unions on the Back to School Plan.


We know that wearing a mask may be a new experience for children, and that’s why education and communication will be key in helping kids understand why it’s needed and how to wear it. We need parents and guardians and teachers to work with kids on getting used to it. We know it may take time for some students, and some students will have medical reasons for not wearing a mask. We are asking that families speak to their children, practice as part of usual getting ready for school routine. Our specialists are developing videos and tips for helping parents prepare their children for a different kind of school year.
Yes, students will be bussed as per existing practices but will be required to wear masks on the busses.

Students who need additional supports

That’s up to Public Health. We will defer to the orders and decisions of Public Health regarding closure of regulated businesses for health reasons.
We heard that parents wanted more structure to at-home learning. Some struggled with technology and internet access. There was a wide difference to the amount of learning and supports that people experienced. So we are dealing with these issues, And planning for how to support students who do not have access. The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development has invested $4 million to acquire 14000 more devices that will be distributed to regions to support needs. Clear expectations for at home teaching and learning have been developed with our partners in response to the feedback from parents, students and teachers and will be shared so that everyone knows what to expect and what to do if there are struggles.
These programs will continue to be offered, but, like many other things will be done differently. We recognize the importance of these programs to many of our students and have a team of educators and health professionals working on the logistics to continue to support this in our schools for September.
We are taking steps to ensure that students who need additional supports continue to receive services no matter what stage of learning we are in. Obviously if everyone is back to school, there will be no change in service. In our blended model, all children receiving special services will be able to go to school even if their class or cohort is staying home. If we move to learning at-home, we will continue to provide services through conference calls, video and other online technologies.