Students across the province headed back into the classroom this month, after close to six months of socially distancing themselves from other children.

Typically the start of the school year and cold and flu season go hand in hand, that's not something new. The weather is changing and kids are mixing again after months of separation, increasing their likelihood of catching a 'common cold.'

So, what exactly is the protocol when it comes to sending kids to school if they have the sniffles or a cough? It's a grey area to navigate in the midst of an ongoing pandemic and many parents are looking for clarification.

Superintendent of Rocky View Schools Greg Luterbach says that this isn`t a typical school year and that it's up to families as well as teaching staff to take extra precautions.

"It isn't a typical school start-up year. We've been out there saying that it is a collective effort. Its going to take the efforts of not only staff but our families and our students to be diligent about checking their health."

Luterbach says that all students are expected to conduct a daily health check before heading to school each day. 

"Students are required each and every day before they head out to school or the bus to go through the screening questionnaire that is provided by government. So really it's about going through there and looking at your health and saying you know what, do I have any new onset or worsening? A cough or runny nose?"

If a teacher or student answers 'YES' to any of the questions on the provincial self-assessment tool they are expected to  stay home until their symptoms resolve. You can access the provincial self -screening questionnaire here. 

So what about kids with allergies or ongoing health issues that align with COVID-like symptoms? Well, Luterbach says that those students must be tested at least once in order to establish a baseline for that individual.

"Those families have been asked to get a test already to show that the student is negative, and if that's the case inform the school and the school will document that," says Luterbach."Then it becomes trickier, its not as simple as black and white. If you're a child unfortunately that suffers with allergies you might have the sniffles for months at a time. If that's the case than again, is this the typical situation?" 

For those students, these documented symptoms would be considered their baseline health status, meaning that the student can attend school as long as symptoms stay the same.

All schools under the RVS division will track those typical symptoms that could be confused for COVID-19 in PowerSchool, just as they would track any other medical condition that a student may have.

Luterbach says that if any of the baseline symptoms worsen, those students must stay home and use the COVID-19 self- assessment tool to determine if they need to be tested for COVID-19.

You can find the online assessment  here.

Luterbach says that the school division is following the guidance of the province based on Alberta Health Services guidelines.

Health officials continue to reiterate the same message that applies to everyone - "Stay home if you are sick."