Skip to content

Back-to-school FAQ: What if my kid has cold symptoms?

Answer: They can’t go to school that day, and may need to get a COVID test

The kids heading back to school amid COVID-19 this month has brought a lot of uncertainty for students and their families. reached out to our readers for their back-to-school questions, and we’ve endeavoured to find some answers.

Today’s question:

What’s the protocol for school if my child shows symptoms of a minor illness such as a cold? 


According to the province’s Guide to Reopening Schools, all staff and students must self-screen for possible symptoms of COVID-19 every day before attending school. 

(For example, you can check out the Rainbow District School Board’s checklist online here).

If a student or staff member is experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, they must stay home from school and should seek testing and appropriate medical attention, says the province in its school reopening guide.

Should staff observe that a child is ill while they’re at school, parents will be called to pick up their child from school property, said Sudbury Catholic District School Board spokesperson Carlee Vendramin, in an email to

The province has outlined a number of protocols in this instance, including staff caring for the ill child wearing PPE and maintaining physical distance, and preparing a list of the student’s close contacts in the event they eventually test positive for COVID-19.

The parents of children who have become ill are advised to follow the guidance of their health-care provider. 

Parents or guardians will be asked to have their child’s symptoms assessed by a health-care provider and determine if testing is needed. If testing is not needed, the student can return to school after being symptom-free for at least 24 hours. 

If an individual is suspected to have COVID-19 and is waiting on test results, they must be in isolation and cannot attend school in person. 

The individual can attend school virtually if they feel well enough to participate, said the Ontario back-to-school guide.

However, Conseil scolaire catholique du Nouvel-Ontario spokesperson Paul de la Riva said students who are forced to isolate will receive school work and instructions from their regular teacher, as would be the case with any regular absence in normal times.

Individuals who have had a COVID-19 test because of symptoms, but who test negative, should not return to school until at least 24 hours after their symptoms have resolved.

According to Public Health Sudbury and Districts, if a case of COVID-19 is reported in a school, each specific situation will be handled based on the findings of public health’s investigation. Public health will work very closely with school principals in these instances. 

Anyone who was in close contact with the case (person infected) will be advised to go home and self-isolate for 14 days and get tested for COVID-19. 

This could include other students or teacher(s) from the person’s class, school transportation, extracurricular activities, and before- and after-school programs. 

If two or more confirmed COVID-19 cases in students or staff in a school are linked to each other, an outbreak will be declared by public health. 

In these situations, the medical officer of health will determine who must stay away from school and self-isolate and be tested.

Do you have a back-to-school question you think we should tackle? Email